Let’s get this out of the way: I’m not one for the older, classical style; those black and white visuals blended with a heaping handful of camp alongside exaggerated performances. It simply doesn’t click for me.
So, going into Werewolf by Night (Marvel Studios' first-ever Special Presentation), I was keenly aware of my personal preferences—which very much clashed with what Marvel Studios was doing with the special. As expected, personally, a lot of the style and its charm were lost on me.
That’s something many other fans may identify with, and it’s okay to feel that way. The special isn’t necessarily for everyone.
However, while some may not appreciate what Werewolf does, there are just as many people that are going to see what this special pulled off and wholeheartedly adore it.
Marvel does truly commit to the stylistic choices they set out for, and it shows. For fans of early monster films and some of the camp that comes with them, they’ll absolutely love this approach.
Despite it personally not being quite my cup of tea, there’s no denying that the special’s handling of its distinct feel and look was done extremely well. It stands on its own amongst the wider MCU as a completely unique project.
Now, with all those biases having been discussed, let us push those away to the side. It’s time to talk about the Werewolf.
The Werewolf of the MCU
So how is the first Werewolf to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
For one, his design isn’t great, as Marvel Studios opted to create the Werewolf practically. Sure, it definitely fits with the intended style, but it’s hard not to think they could have done a far better job with it. That doesn’t necessarily mean a CGI overhaul was needed, but just some more tweaks could have elevated their practical approach.
The real issue is with how he moves. He does not look good in action, plain and simple. Marvel unfortunately wasn't able to make his move set and fighting style play on screen well.
Sure, some may say, “He’s supposed to look bad, it’s part of the style.” However, that thinking is flawed—the goal should be to look authentic, not amateur. Yes, they’re committing to this older style, but everything about the Werewolf has the ability to look fantastic, even within those parameters.
The creature also needed far more screen time than what was given. With the special being named after him, one would think he’d be in a lot more of it. Yet, he ends up only being in a small handful of scenes.
As for Jack Russell, Gael Garcia Bernal is simply fine in the role. Not super exemplary, and nothing to write home about—though he isn’t bad by any means either… so there’s that.
However, there’s another new character who does make a bigger impression.
Elsa Bloodstone Arrives
Jack isn’t the only new MCU mainstay that is introduced to audiences; Laura Donnelly’s new monster hunter, Elsa Bloodstone, is also on the prowl during the events of Werewolf By Night.
The actress is great in the role, and it doesn’t take long for one to start thinking about how great she’d be bouncing off of other big MCU characters. She’s easily one of the best aspects of the special, and her chemistry is contagious.
While she is great, her character could have used a little further development, as her motivations aren’t quite fleshed out fully. Hopefully, she’ll be back sooner rather than later.
Seeing her and Blade hunting down monsters just seems like the perfect team-up.
Man-Thing By Night
Despite the show being titled Werewolf By Night, the titular beast isn’t the best monster in town. Joining him is none other than Man-Thing.
He’s fantastically done. Not only does he look perfect, but they did a commendable job bringing him to life on screen in what seems like a combination of practical and digital effects. It’s a joy to watch the beast on camera, and he steals every scene he’s in.
It’s hard not to want to see Man-Thing come back ASAP. After all, in the comics, the character has some pretty important ties to the Multiverse. That sure seems like something the MCU could play into during the ongoing Multiverse Saga.
Werewolf By Night Mostly Succeeds, But It’s Not For Everyone
What Werewolf By Night is able to do is extremely commendable. It’s a small, low-stakes adventure that sets up an entirely new corner of the MCU while also managing to stay true to its unique stylistic approach and vision, which sets it apart from the dozens of other Marvel Studios affairs.
Sadly, that flare can be lost on some. The older campy vibe, sometimes cheap-looking effects, and exaggerated performances across the board may hit the wrong buttons for some. However, it is undeniably still done well, with a purposeful vision clearly being at work thanks to first-time director Michael Giacchino.
His direction and personal touch were fantastic, and hopefully, Giacchino’s directorial work here will lead to more projects for him in the future. After all, Blade is still looking for a director.
So while some will love this special, others will be lukewarm on it, and a handful may actively dislike it, it’s still a fantastic direction for Marvel Studios to go in fleshing out the Marvel Cinematic Universe in new ways.
Fingers crossed that this is just the beginning of the “Special Presentation” label, and Marvel Studios has plenty of ideas in the pipeline for unique stories told to audiences with distinct styles and quirks.
Werewolf By Night hits Disney+ on October 7.