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