CINEMA

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (2022)

MPAA: TV-14
Release Date: 10/07/22 (Disney+)

Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy

Studio: Marvel Studios

"Follows a lycanthrope superhero who fights evil using the abilities given to him by a curse brought on by his bloodline."

OUR MOVIE REVIEW:

To set up the Halloween season, Marvel Studios handed out an early trick-or-treat with their TV special Werewolf by Night. The Marvel graphics team even sent over some extra sugar with a snazzy “Special” intro that was sizzling with prime-time, network TV nostalgia. The real treat was the introduction of Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, into the MCU – along with a (re)introduction of the Man-Thing. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Jack with a distinct weirdness and a whisper of a threat that you wouldn’t like him when he got angry. Or under a full moon. Yet every treat seemingly has its trick. And this one? For all its gooey sweetness, there wasn’t a satisfying crunch once you got to the center. 

Marvel Studios had fan-favorite composer Michael Giacchino helm the TV Special. The hour-long event paid homage to those groovy monster movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Everything works and everything looks pretty. The black-and-white photography and practical f/x and the Werewolf’s retro costume all make for a super-fun show set in the mighty Marvel manner. The story is a simple one, too. Following the death of Ulysses X Bloodstone, a gathering of hunters vie for his namesake, the mystical Bloodstone, and chase the macabre Man-Thing. The event goes awry once Jack’s furry alter ego comes to play. Giacchino succeeds in breaking apart the Marvel Studios template only to fit it all back together in time for that second bag of microwave popcorn. 

Yet for a one-and-done special, too many deliberately open questions were raised, mostly regarding the title character, who is noticeably absent for lengthy stretches. If anything, the special feels like an unsatisfying backdoor pilot for Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), a Buffy the Vampire Slayer type with Jessica Jones looks. There is too much set up around the Bloodstone – a z-class Marvel McGuffin that is mostly known for a rocking Indiana Jones-type adventure in Captain America’s “The Bloodstone Hunt” (from 1993 – and worth the read!). Hasn’t the MCU already had its share of mystical stones? And instead of another band of cliché warrior types, would this not have made a perfect introduction of the long-ago promised Mahershala Ali Blade? 
 

The show does provide fast glimpses of the friendship between Jack and Ted, the Man-Thing - who makes his MCU debut following an unwatchable, non-canon movie from 2005. There needed to be more of that uniqueness. More emphasis on Jack and his distinct beginnings rather than Elsa’s tired dysfunctionality. 

When the action starts, Werewolf by Night is all sugar-rush violent and Halloween grisly; perfect of the season. Most importantly, Giacchino proves he can play more than one note.

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OUR VERDICT: