“Werewolf by Night”: An MCU Hit a Long Time Coming


Source: Marvel Studios

Will Teare

Director: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Gael García Bernal with Laura Donnelly and Harriet Sansom Harris

Release Date: Oct. 8, 2022

Rating: 4/5 

The Marvel movies haven’t really been comic book movies. With the exception of very few entries in the MCU, they’re constantly focused on making self-aware humor to make fun of the inherent craziness of the situations found in a comic book story. To comic book fans, it’s a little disrespectful to see all their favorite characters treated like that. To a mainstream audience, it’s insincere and those jokes get old very fast. As a man of both sides, I just want a comic book movie that revels in how ludicrous the situation is. I love movies like “The Batman” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” for understanding this. All I want is a comic book movie to laugh with us (a lá Colin Farrell’s Penguin) but not at us. This is exactly why Michael Giacchino’s “Werewolf by Night is possibly the best thing Marvel has put out in a while.

When a legendary monster slayer dies, a group of elite monster hunters are assembled at his funeral. But they’re really in for a deadly game to compete for an ancient, powerful relic. Little do they know, there is a monster among their ranks.

Michael Giacchino’s name may be familiar to you. If it isn’t, you’ve definitely heard his music. He’s the composer for “The Incredibles,” “Up,” “Inside Out,” “Coco,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Dr. Strange,” “Ratatouille,” “MCU Spiderman” and “The Batman”… just to name a few. This is a directorial debut and an impressive one at that.

“Werewolf by Night” is a weird and fun 50-minute-romp, especially for Marvel. Flaming tubas and werewolves and Harriet Sansom Harris (oh my!) are just the tips of the iceberg. No references to a larger MCU story, no after-credit scene, and all characters we’ve never seen before. When someone’s neck is slashed by claws, blood is sprayed on the lens. When someone is having a little expository monologue, no jokes are made. Arms are cut off, people are burned to death, and goons are eaten alive. At the end of the day, this is still a Disney+ Marvel Studios release so it does seem to be holding back in some way in the horror department, but it’s all still entertaining. 

As for Giacchino’s direction with this, it’s a solid debut. Don’t get me wrong, putting this all in black and white with film grain riddling the frame is such a fun choice for this. I also adored the way he put cue dots in the corner of the frame. In the old days, a projectionist would see this as a signal to change reels of film. He’s also an impressive image maker for his first time. There are some ways he plays with shadow and light that are clear signs of someone who knows what they’re doing. Sure, this feels like a debut, but it’s someone that has all the basics down pat.

Source: Marvel Studios

As for the larger, extratextual aspect of “Werewolf by Night”, this particular movie has an interesting place in the MCU. See, this isn’t a movie or show, it’s labeled as a “Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation.” After a little research, I found that this is a new series of Disney+ specials which seems a lot like the “made for TV movies” of yesteryear. The next and only scheduled one on their slate is James Gunn’s “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” slated for an undisclosed time in December of this year. 

As for me? I welcome these specials with very open arms. This is a great chance to showcase stories for which they couldn’t make a full movie or a godforsaken mediocre TV show. We can see faithfully adapted comics without getting Disney executives worried about how marketable they are. It reminds me of the DC Animated films in that aspect. 

After all this, Michael Giacchino has himself a lovely debut on his hands and Marvel has a surefire win. I mean, this movie isn’t the greatest thing ever, but I genuinely have no glaring issues with it. For those reading who haven’t seen it, don’t watch the trailer. It doesn’t spoil much at all, but this is a breezy 50 min movie so even a trailer does some damage. However, if my most glaring problem with a movie is that I didn’t have enough of it and it should’ve been filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio? That is most certainly a good thing.