night werewolf is an outlier from the mainline Marvel Cinematic Universe in several ways. It’s the company’s first Halloween special, it’s one of the few open acknowledgments of Marvel’s horror comics, and it represents several exciting new directions in the franchise’s look.
Marvel gets a ton of flak for feeling too similar from entry to entry. While one movie might cover the exploits of mythological gods and the next might cover a hard-nosed spy, they still feel too similar in tone and presentation. A unique talent entering the fold might finally find a way out of the pack.
More and more, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to look like one long-running TV show. Disney chose to take this criticism to heart and begin giving the franchise’s entire set of holiday events. The first example of this concept is the upcoming Halloween special, which will bring a classic 70s comic book character to the screen. night werewolf is set to be directed by Michael Giacchino, who is best known for his work as a composer, including his score for previous Marvel projects like Thor: Love and Thunder. His previous directing experience is limited. He has his name on a 2018 short, and he topped a 2019 episode of Star Trek: Short Hikes. Despite its relative newcomer status, first looks at the feature make it look like something special.
The concept of the MCU making horror movies has been a hot topic in recent memory. It’s perhaps the only genre of cinema to garner fan response on a level comparable to superhero media. Marvel has a long history of horror comics, occasionally creating some of their popular superhero characters in these series. However, the two close contacts the franchise has had with scary stories have been messy at best. The Marvel Horror Series Hellstrom was released on Hulu to scathing reviews, abysmal reception, and instant fan amnesia. On the other hand, Sam Raimi Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was considered a controversial moment for the MCU. Some have seen the evil Dead the director’s eccentricities as a strong direction for the character and a unique statement in the franchise while others considered them cheesy and wrong for tone.
Marvel hasn’t toyed with the genre as much as one might think, given its growing franchise. He usually makes every new idea like a new costume that the standard superhero action formula can dress up. Romantic comedy exists alongside action in Thor: Love and Thunder, but the two don’t really interact, and it’s still a solid superhero movie. All the spy shenanigans give frame and context to Black Widowbut that does not make the procedure materially different. Shang Chi’Hong Kong’s martial arts pastiche is probably Marvel’s finest genre experience, but it too often descends into old CGI stuff. At first glance, night werewolf goes straight for and engages with the heart of Universal’s classic monster movies.
The film looks set to come to Disney Plus in classic black and white, which can be seen as a bit of a gimmick. In this case, however, it turns the Halloween special into something of a throwback. Marvel is going nowhere for R-Rated here, it’s firmly in the world of family horror. The eponymous werewolf look also leans heavily on retro appeal. His features are reminiscent of comic book source material, but only to his early days in the 70s and 80s. Modern incarnations in the comics have a much more beastly appearance. When the werewolf appears in the comics today, he is huge and only semi-bipedal. The special seems to be going for a more classic design in the vein of classic werewolf. While it might be less comedic, it all serves the same commitment to genre conventions.
It could be a symptom of a bigger problem. As the big names grow, Disney will become more and more risk averse, forcing the aspects people love about the franchise to become stale. With newer names, weirder projects, and new talent in the director’s chair, Disney might occasionally lend its name to something interesting. night werewolf is one of the weirdest ideas on paper, it may even seem like a cash grab with a bad explanation, but it seems to be done by passionate people. Universal monster movies are a distant shore for the franchise that has previously only handled superhero movies with fresh coats of paint. Fans will have to hope that the franchise can continue to expand its horizons to avoid becoming stale. New blood and new genres will be one of the most important parts of Marvel’s strategy if the company hopes to stay as strong as it is.
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