Man-Thing, Elsa, and Werewolves! Oh My!

by Nina Miscioscia '24 on November 4, 2022
A&E Staff

Arts & Entertainment

A Review of Marvel’s First “Special Presentation,” Werewolf by Night

’Tis the season to be spooky (even if this is published after Halloween). Marvel has truly put out a visual masterpiece with Werewolf by Night, which eloquently meets the demands of monster movie mayhem. Werewolf by Night is a black and white special presentation film that presents some of the characters of Marvel’s Dark Universe with Man-Thing, Elsa Bloodstone, and the very loveable cursed soul, Jack Russell. The film pays homage to the ominous suspense of 20th century monster films with an elegant touch of modern PG-13 gore. The beauty of the special presentation is perfected by Michael Giacchino, a well-seasoned composer, but Werewolf by Night is his directorial debut—a monumental success for the first-time director of a well-known feature film. Giacchino is an optical artist when displaying the thriller and highly anticipated creatures of the film. It took until the third cut for the long-time composer to finally convince Marvel to put the film in black and white, with subtle hints of red. However, Giacchino was not the only artist on the special presentation to make Werewolf by Night one of my favorite works Marvel has put out so far in the MCU. 

This Monsterverse is brought to life by Ellen Arden, makeup department head, who worked to create the subtle Day of the Dead makeup with Jack Russell’s daytime makeup and Verusa’s grieving widow look with a hint of madness. Despite this, the credit for the creation of Man-Thing and the timeless werewolf makeup goes to the artists at KNB EFX Group. When Marvel says they “spared no expense,” it finally shows. Man-Thing was a life-size practical effect, thrusted into existence by Giacchino, for the actors to work with on set (of course most shots were still CGI, but still a Jurassic Park approach). Fans have reiterated countless times that Marvel relies too heavily on CGI, and Giacchino clearly felt the same. Not only is Man-Thing a fully functioning practical element with animatronic movement, but also the makeup done for the werewolf look for Jack Russell. I feel like a kid at the candy store, once again critiquing artists on the SyFy show FaceOff for their makeup looks (none of which I could do myself), yet I find no fault with Russell’s character design. The look is nothing less than spectacular with its ability to take an old school monster makeup and transform it to realistic standards, making it feel hypnotically daunting. I have seen so many werewolf looks from the lycans of Underworld, Van Helsing, and of course to the Twilight saga, but Werewolf by Night stands out completely with its capacity to connect generations of monsters through the character’s makeup while still emulating a unique design. 

Maybe I am biased as a lover of monster films, but I cannot recommend this special presentation enough; the directing, the make-up design, and the acting brings it to my top five MCU releases of all time. Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly bring their characters to life in an art form that I hope will carry into future works in the MCU. Until then, I will be rewatching the film for a third time and asking people if they’ve seen it yet, so beware of not just the Werewolf by Night, but the annoying Marvel Fan by Day! 

Are You Green With Envy?

by Nina Miscioscia '24 on October 9, 2022
A&E Staff

Arts & Entertainment

Reviewing She-Hulk Without the Review-Bombing

Extreme battle lines have been drawn between those who love the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 releases and those who, to put it lightly, don’t. However controversial this may be, Phase 4 has some of the best projects the MCU has released to date and one of them is 100 percent She-Hulk. She-Hulk follows Jennifer Walters as she figures out the “highs and lows of high school football”—wait, wrong show. The show offers a new perspective on She-Hulk’s origin story and has Jennifer come to terms with the new change being green, mean, and unfortunately, a bit leaner than fans were expecting. 

She-Hulk has been controversial since its first teaser trailer release revealed pretty underdeveloped CGI, but the biggest issue: a super petite version of the newest Hulk family member to the MCU. You would think that after the endearing success of Luisa Madrigal in Encanto, that Disney would have taken the hint that visibly strong women were well-liked by viewers and a great representation for girls and women everywhere. But no. According to visual effects artists working on the show, orders came directly from the top to make her less muscular and less “Hulk-like” overall. If you have seen the comic issues before the 2022 release, you will understand fans’ anger. Still, I would not be as inclined to add to the 36 percent of one-star reviews released on IMDb leaving the show with a 4.9 out of 10 rating on the site. In recent episodes, many fans are baffled on the site about the fact that She-Hulk “also apparently twerks?” Because Thor decapitating Thanos is totally fine, but She-Hulk twerking with a major celebrity is just too much to handle.

I digress—despite my initial negative reaction towards her appearance on the show, particularly after realizing I had bigger calves and thighs than an actual Hulk, I have to say, I am loving the show. Each episode is packed full of great female representation and the perfect balance between being an “attorney at law” and a positively entertaining comedy. And WONG! And, of course, the long-awaited cameo and possible love interest coming in the next few episodes. 

Overall, She-Hulk is a show written primarily by women, for women. The episodes more than accurately depict the struggles women go through while simply living their lives, from the shame of attending a family member’s wedding alone to having your success measured only by your relationship status. Even a future Avenger is subjected to bad dates and not getting a text back from a weekly crush—we are not alone! Moreover, it is incredibly refreshing to have supportive (and alive) parents in the MCU for essentially the first time with She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel, especially after the soul-wrenching family dynamic in Moon Knight. Finally having relatable content in the MCU after growing up with the male-dominated Avengers sphere and overly sexualized Black Widow is interesting to see. I guarantee you will find yourself hitting “Next Episode.”

The Staying Power of Superpowers

by John Downey '23 on May 6, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

The Staying Power of Superpowers

Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels

Madison Palmieri ’22

For those uninitiated into the world of Marvel, it may seem rather daunting. With over 27,000 comics, 60 films, and 100 television shows—which feature multiple versions of the same characters, often in seemingly contradictory situations—it can be hard for a prospective reader or viewer to know where to begin.

In his 2021 book All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, Douglas Wolk provides a roadmap to the Marvel universe. As Wolk explains in the book’s introduction, a lifelong love of Marvel coupled with a realization that no one had yet attempted to trace a larger “Marvel story” that encapsulated Marvel’s decades of comics inspired him to read all 27,000-plus of these comics in their entirety. Since no one else had told the “Marvel story,” he figured, why not him?

All of the Marvels is the result of Wolk’s efforts. Although the book’s fairly modest length of 354 pages may seem insufficient to capture six decades of storytelling across multiple mediums, Wolk is deliberately economic and efficient in his writing to keep readers engaged. Rather than trying to create a “Marvel encyclopedia” that catalogues every single character and plot point in the Marvel universe, he offers sweeping summaries of the world’s major players and most important moments, events, and sagas. For instance, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Thor—along with their respective villains and major storylines—each have their own chapters.

Each chapter describes these characters’ inceptions and evolutions. Each also provides readers with a handful of titles and plot summaries of comics featuring said characters for suggested reading. Cognizant that much of his audience has likely not read more than a handful of Marvel comics and may have even only previously encountered the Marvel universe through television or film, Wolk makes frequent, helpful references to small- and big-screen adaptations of the comics’ world.

Interspersed between these chapters are “interludes” devoted to exploring the history of Marvel outside of its comics. For instance, Wolk takes up the proliferation of monster stories in 20th century popular culture as well as conflicts such as the Vietnam War that likewise shaped 20th century life. Another notable “interlude” details how the relationships between Marvel creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko evolved over time.

One of the most notable aspects of All of the Marvels is Wolk’s attention to how women—although long sidelined in Marvel comics and screen adaptations alike—have been central to the Marvel story from its genesis. He explains how Marvel’s very first comics centered not on aliens or mutants, or even super-powered human beings, but rather an ordinary group of young women—mostly 20-something professionals—going about their daily lives. Wolk notes that although these figures have long faded from prominence, one of them, Linda Carter, has made an appearance as recently as 2006 in a Doctor Strange comic.

Wolk ends the book with a discussion of how Marvel has made a difference in his life, primarily by bringing him closer to his son. If there is a larger point for readers to take away from All of the Marvels—aside from the sheer magnitude of the “Marvel story”—it is this: these stories, in all of their forms, remain beloved hallmarks of Western culture not because of their characters’ powers, but rather because of the power of the stories, themselves. The Marvel universe helps us make sense of our lives and bring us closer together, and this is the staying power of all of the Marvels and their superpowers.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Magic and Madness in Marvel’s Multiverse

by John Downey '23 on May 6, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Magic and Madness in Marvel’s Multiverse

Film Preview: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Olivia Riportella ’25

After a long six years of waiting for a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, to Marvel fans’ excitement, Benedict Cumberbatch will finally return to the big screen as the titular character in a second standalone film. Brought to life with director Sam Raimi’s imaginative visuals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Although potential spoilers about the movie are being kept very carefully under wraps, some information about it has been revealed ahead of its May 6 release date.  

As is the case with any other MCU movie, there are many preceding films and plotlines that are necessary to fully understand the film. In order to have a complete understanding of the movie’s depth and the stakes of its storyline, it is best to watch all of the MCU movies. However, for those short on time, the projects that will likely have the most direct bearings on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are Doctor Strange (2016), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), Loki (2021), WandaVision (2021), and the animated short What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? (2021).

No Way Home sees Dr. Strange perform a forbidden spell to help Peter Parker (Tom Holland) that spirals out of control and opens the multiverse. Strange’s actions bring Spider-Men from non-NCU projects, namely, those played by Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, into the MCU. Similarly, Loki introduces the idea of multiple timelines and “variants,” or different versions of the same character from different timelines. As Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ title suggests, the arrival of the multiverse and “variants” in the MCU will lead to unlimited possibilities and overall madness. 

Indeed, Doctor Strange is set to go on a thrilling ride through the multiverse as he tries to fix his mess from No Way Home with the help of his trusted friend and fellow sorcerer, Wong (Benedict Wong) and sorceress Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). The latter character is the center of WandaVision, in which she embraces her powers as the Scarlet Witch and taps into abilities that seem to be far beyond the domain of any other character that has been introduced in the MCU so far. The show sees Wanda toe the line between hero and villain, an interesting development that makes her return in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness all the more exciting.

Notably, one of the new film’s main villains seems to be a Dr. Strange “variant” from What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? In this alternate universe, Strange cannot accept the death of his beloved Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Despite making infinite attempts to travel back in time and prevent it, he cannot prevent her from dying. His refusal to accept her death drives him into insanity and leads him to absorb dark powers from interdimensional beings that make him a dangerous threat. 

The endless possibilities that come with opening the multiverse will undoubtedly lead to numerous cameos from fan-favorite MCU characters—and Marvel characters not yet introduced into the MCU—in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. As of right now, it is all but confirmed that X-Men’s iconic Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart) and a live-action version of the animated What If…?’s Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) will be appearing in the film. There is even speculation that other stars such as Chris Evans, the MCU’s Steve Rogers, will be making a cameo appearance as his Fantastic Four character, Johnny Storm. 

Truly, almost anyone from the MCU and beyond could arrive in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Undoubtedly, then, this new Marvel film will not be one to miss.

A Look at Marvel’s Latest Original Series 

by John Downey '23 on April 22, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

A Look at Marvel’s Latest Original Series 

Moon Knight Offers Action, Adventure, and Egyptology

By Abigail Levasseur ’24

To the delight of Marvel fans everywhere, the creative geniuses behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe have released a new comic-inspired series, Moon Knight. The Disney+ exclusive’s first episode, “The Goldfish Problem,” premiered on March 30, followed by “Summon the Suit” on April 6, and “Moving Heaven & Earth” on April 13. The remaining episodes of the series will be released each Wednesday leading up to a May 4 finale.

The role of the titular Moon Knight is played by Oscar Isaac, who is best known for his roles in Star Wars, Addams Family, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. Other featured actors include the late Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart, Ethan Hawke as the villainous Arthur Harrow, and May Calamawy as Moon Knight’s love interest, Layla El-Faouly. 

Moon Knight’s series premiere raked in 1.8 million views, tying The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, surpassing Hawkeye’s 1.5 million views, and falling short of Loki’s 1.9 million views. 

What, exactly, is the premise of this buzzworthy show? Before this reporter answers that question, it is only fair to warn that there are spoilers ahead.

The premiere episode of Moon Knight, “The Goldfish Problem,” depicts the average day in the life of gawky social outcast Steven Grant (Isaac), a lonely man who is constantly tardy to his job as a gift shop salesman at the British Museum. From the first few minutes of the episode alone, it is clear that Grant is no superhero, especially in comparison to his fellow MCU Stevens—Steve Rogers, otherwise known as Captain America, and Doctor Stephen Strange. (Seriously, when will Marvel come up with names for its characters other than “Steven” and its miscellaneous variants?) 

Just as quickly as viewers realize that Grant is not their average MCU Steven, however, they also realize that he is not an average Joe, either: his bed sits before a sand pit and contains foot shackles. These oddities owe to the fact Grant has an alternative identity, Marc Spector, who is a mercenary working under the name Moon Knight with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. Spector’s role is unclear in the first episode, as his violent actions appear offscreen, left open to the audience’s imagination—likely to keep the Disney+ show family-friendly. 

Nonetheless, by the end of “The Goldfish Problem,” viewers realize three major plot points: Grant and Spector occupy the same body, Harrow is the show’s “big bad,” and the episode’s violence, chase scenes, and overall action are centered around an instrument called the golden scarab. It remains to be seen, however, why this macguffin is significant. Although certainly enthralling, “The Goldfish Problem’s” dealings with multiple identities, invisible Egyptian jackals, and an alternate universe leave viewers wondering whether they are seeing the show’s reality, or if Grant is just dreaming.

The second episode, “Summon the Suit,” begins to offer clarity. It does an especially good job of advancing viewers’ understanding of the complicated relationship between Grant and Spector by introducing Spector’s wife, Layla El-Faouly. Yet this plot advancement raises another question: how real are Grant and his life? 

El-Faouly and Grant begin working together to protect the golden scarab. She instructs him to “summon the suit,” which he royally messes up, refusing to allow Spector to take control over their shared body. The subtleties of El-Faouly and Grant’s relationship, including his refusal to finalize her and Spector’s divorce and their shared interest in Ancient Egypt, leads viewers to wonder: is a complicated love story brewing? 

Overall, lovers of ancient Egypt, in addition to fans of the MCU, will certainly take an interest in Moon Knight and its action-packed adventure story. For those who have not seen its first few episodes—and for those who are already itching to rewatch them—Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Series Asks “What If?”

by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Marvel Cinematic Universe Series Asks “What If?”

Features Alternate Versions of Characters, Events From the Mega-Franchise

Madison Palmieri ’22

Die-hard fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are no strangers to discussions of “what if” an event in the franchise had turned out a different way. From those who question why Tony Stark had to die and Steve Rogers had to return to the 1940s in Avengers: Endgame to those who wish they saw an onscreen romance between Captain America and Black Widow, these fans have long expressed their desired alternative MCU plotlines through means like fanart and fanfiction.

The executives and creatives at Marvel Studios seem to have gotten wind of the intense fan fervor surrounding that question, “what if?” Indeed, in April 2019, the studio announced a forthcoming animated series with that exact title.

Although the details of the series, like those of all MCU projects, were kept tightly under wraps, the studio shared that What If? would revisit some of the most iconic characters and moments from the franchise and explore what would have happened if a single moment was different.

Marvel Studios also announced that the series would be animated as well as that many of the MCU’s actors would be providing the voices for their animated counterparts. Among the most notable returns were Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and, in one of his final projects, the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa.

Other characters, however, were recast. Among the most-missed actors who did not return were Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. as Captain America/Steve Rogers and Iron Man/Tony Stark, respectively.

While it was certainly jarring for fans to see these and other characters with slightly different voices, from the moment the first trailer for the series dropped in the summer of 2021, they knew that it would not be one to miss. Indeed, in a year that had already seen three original series and a film from the studio after a year of pandemic-induced inactivity in 2020, fans were growing used to a near-constant stream of content from Marvel Studios.

The first episode premiered on Wednesday, Aug. 18 and follows the question of “what if” Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, creating Captain Carter instead of Captain America. Episode two jumps from World War II to outer space in an alternate universe where T’Challa, rather than Peter Quill, was abducted from earth as a boy and became Starlord. 

Episodes three and five both center on the original Avengers, with the former examining “what if” they were all targeted and killed before the events of 2012’s The Avengers and the latter placing them in the chaos of a zombie apocalypse.

Episodes four and six explore two of the series’ more depressing timelines. Episode four follows Dr. Strange as he continuously goes back in time in an attempt to save his love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer, but ultimately fails and nearly loses his sanity in the process. Episode six places Killmonger in the plot of Iron Man, with the Black Panther villain killing Tony Stark and those around him before the billionaire philanthropist could become an Avenger.

The seventh episode in the series, however, provides a light-hearted contrast. It explores the question of “what if” Thor and Loki weren’t raised as brothers. Without their sibling rivalry, Thor becomes a “party prince” who travels to different planets and creates well-intentioned chaos—until Captain Marvel steps in.

The final two episodes of the series examine “what if” Ultron defeated the Avengers, with episode eight detailing the universe in which the defeat occurred and the latter showing the Watcher, a mysterious character who presides over all the different universes in the series, bringing together different versions of characters from various universes as the “Guardians of the Multiverse” to finally defeat the villain.

With the return of fan-favorite characters in new situations and too many callbacks to earlier MCU projects to count, What If? is a must-watch for anyone who claims to love Marvel.