'Werewolf by Night' movie review: A much-needed departure from Marvel's multiversal madness

What sets the latest special apart is how it feels like a fitting homage to yesteryear black and white monster films.
A still from the film
A still from the film

The offerings from the Marvel franchise have come a long way since their humble beginnings with Hulk and Iron Man films. Anyone wanting to catch up on the superhero phenomenon under this studio’s belt now has to watch more than two dozen films and from the latest phase, the series too will have to be followed if you have to be on top of your Marvel game. Throw in the concept of the multiverse and the mix gets murkier, and this is exactly why the studio’s latest special, Werewolf by Night, feels like a breath of fresh air for those stuck in the quicksand called superhero films.

What sets the latest special apart is how it feels like a fitting homage to yesteryear black and white monster films. Second of all, it also introduces us to classic Marvel comic characters like Werewolf by Night, the Bloodstones and Man-Thing. Thirdly, it distinguishes itself from other Marvel products with its style, tone, and setting while still retaining the essence of the franchise that includes the triumph of goodness, action sequences, and humour that’s unique to Marvel. The gothic-ness of classic monster films starts right from the Marvel credits that are cut to a grayscale version with claw marks slashing the screen.

Veteran composer Michael Giacchino, who directed this special, seems to have paid tribute to yesteryear cult classics like Dracula and Frankenstein titles by infusing this film with minimal yet effective dialogues, dramatic set pieces, over-the-top performances, action sequences that end with blood splashing over the camera and a brilliant music score. The nods are difficult to miss and my favourite one is the transformation of Jack Rusell (a terrific Gael García Bernal) into the titular character that’s shown by flashes of reflections that fall on Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) along with the ripping noise of clothes to denote his change. And boy, the action, despite minimal, is satisfying to watch given how the werewolf goes through the meagre human guards like Hulk who is in dire need of a manicure.

Unlike previous Marvel content, Werewolf by Night is a story that unfolds in a single night and involves ‘death dealers’ who are on a mission to win the competition held by Ulysses Bloodstone’s widow Verussa, to determine their new leader, who will wield the powerful Bloodstone. Just like how the weapons used in the shadow realm alone had their colour in an otherwise monochromatic sequence in Thor: Love and Thunder, the Bloodstone shines red, piercing the black and white screen with its redness. A bit of digging might even make us wonder if it’s chaos magic that’s lending power to the gem, but Werewolf by Night sticks to its simplistic approach of keeping the plot within the walls of the Bloodstone Manor.

With a runtime of a little more than 50 minutes, the film suffers from a lack of character development for almost all the characters except the lead ones and fans of Man-Thing would certainly wish for a lot more screen time for the gentle giant. Some true-blue Marvel fans might also find this to be a huge detour from what the route the franchise seems to have taken in recent years. But given how the special is Marvel’s first hit with the horror genre—something which Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness should have been—and how the titular character has ties with Moon Knight and Blade, there is hope that it won’t be the last time we have seen this werewolf howl.

Director: Michael Giacchino

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Rating- 3.5 / 5

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The New Indian Express