Last night Austin’s famous Fantastic Fest hosted a secret screening of Marvel’s upcoming films Werewolf at night something special – and it was an odd pairing, to say the least.
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Known for showcasing emerging talent in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres for films from around the world, the festival usually stays off television, although they sometimes make exceptions when a project is particularly special.
But what was even more surprising was my discovery that the show’s advertising seemed at odds with the events seen during its 60-minute run.
Despite being teased as a series around the Werewolf by Night title, after about an hour the special revolves around a female character who – you guessed it – ends up saving the day.
Rather than relying on Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal, Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle) and his time as a lycanthrope, the special is actually about the delivery of a magical jewel, the bloodstone, to a worthy bearer who will continue the legacy of his family of the same name in fighting monsters.
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As the special begins, a group of supernatural hunters gather around a coffin when the deceased’s estranged daughter, Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly, Tolkien)He’s late for the celebrations.
Upon entering, those assembled are confronted with an eerie scene as the lifeless corpse of Ulysses Bloodstone opens the lid of its coffin and begins waving its doll-like arms around in a series of sickeningly jerky movements.
At the same time, a voice suddenly comes to life and begins playing a recorded message inviting the various guests to enter a competition for the aforementioned family jewel.
Shortly thereafter, Elsa’s mother and Ulysse’s wife, Verusa, catch Bloodstone (Harriet Sansom Harris, Desperate Housewives), comes in and starts highlighting the skills and talents of the fighters and killers in attendance and listing their numerous achievements to lure the competition.
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Verusa then stops at a certain character, a man with a strange set of makeup lines on his face, and explains that he has killed more than 100 monsters – far more than anyone else present.
Everyone looks impressed, especially as he doesn’t seem to meet the criteria for an invite as he’s wearing a trendy suit while everyone else looks like they’re ready for battle.
Eventually, Elsa allies with the suit wearer to battle her opponents, discovering in the process that he is none other than Russell, who reveals that he doesn’t care about the jewel but is actually there to save his friend Ted .
who is ted He’s the Man-Thing – the monster everyone has to hunt down and kill in order to win the Bloodstone. Presented as the most sinister interpretation of The Pirates of the Caribbean Davy Jones franchise, Ted has the ability to cremate his victims, which he does in a series of electrifying scenes that might shock younger children.
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In terms of production, WBN is visually stylized, has an extensive musical score (no doubt thanks to director Michael Giacchino’s main career as a well-known and established film composer), and boasts extensive use of sound effects to intensify and heighten the plot
While there are moments that could certainly use less of those sound effects, there’s definitely a more-is-more philosophy when it comes to it WBN‘s sound that should play well on a nice home surround sound system.
Other than that, there’s not much substance here, because despite the stylized photography, WBN is fairly simple in terms of plot.
However, this is probably what it needs to be considering it’s for kids.
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As a project touting itself as a Halloween special to be enjoyed by the family, WBN absolutely achieves its goal. It’s just scary enough to scare kids and funny enough to be easily entertained for parents who are having to put up with their kids.
The throwback 1960s television directing of the special – heavy thinking and over-the-top acting ala William Shatner in the original star trek series – also goes well with your holiday theme.
In total, WBN evokes in the best way the Sundays when families would gather around the TV to watch Disney gifts (For all my Gen X’ers out there, I almost expected to see a Mutual of Ohama commercial).
And if you look at it through this lens of someone looking for family entertainment, WBN is working. Your average ten year old will no doubt love it.
But viewed through the lens of an adult more familiar with the behind-the-scenes movements of Disney and Marvel, the film raises the typical question of whether or not its content was influenced by Awakening.
For example, the Hunters mentioned above come from a range of different demographics and tropes, with their wide range of members including an Asian male (Leonardo Nam, swamp thing), a black man whose outfit resembles that of A-Train from The Boys (Daniel J. Watts, The last OG), a non-binary character who looks like a complete copy of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust personality (Eugenie Bondurant, The incantation: The devil made me do this), an axe-wielding Scot who can’t help but call women Lassies (Kirk Thatcher, Star Trek IV: The Journey Home) and of course – in a trope Disney just can’t escape – the Mary Sue protagonist, the one and only indeed Heir to the Bloodstone, Elsa (who, by the way, looks a lot like Krystin Ritter’s Jessica Jones).
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With this lineup, you’re probably wondering if this team came together out of genuine enthusiasm for the source material, lazy writing, or a desire to check off a list of viable identities.
The ranks of the Hunters become all the more suspicious as Disney doesn’t bother to honor the beloved and cherished series now under their care.
The little mermaid is a perfect example of this.
Though the live-action remake has yet to premiere, its teaser trailer reveals that the film dyes her hair red outside (or gives her a wig, if that counts) little attempt to make its Ariel actress Halle Bailey resemble the original to let animated film version.
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Same goes for Star Wars as last seen on the last ones Obi Wan Kenobi Series.
There, Disney once again pounced on all the source material of the popular sci-fi series by revealing that Princess Leia spent her tenth year outrunning trained assassins and fending off stormtroopers (in ridiculously choreographed scenes that audiences wished stayed in Cutting Room Floor) and hop through the galaxy with Obi-Wan himself.
Even Marvel suffers from Disney’s indifference.
Many tried to see the new She-Hulk: Lawyer series on Disney Plus, but after its main character struggled with being called out and objectified before later twerking for a post-credits scene, even the most devoted fans couldn’t tolerate the studios’ hypocrisy.
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Of course, there are far more examples of this than just these three, but let’s get back to what we talked about: whether or not WBN has woken up.
The show’s portrayal of Elsa in “Mary Sue, a patently kick-ass woman” is an immediate departure, especially given the overuse of this character type on mainstream shows and the fact that the story has been marketed as about Russell’s werewolf. not her.
If writers Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron had given their characters a few weaknesses or allowed them to express a wider range of emotions, they might have been more than representatives of their respective tropes.
Instead, they wrote only the bare essentials and mixed brief moments of character development into the special’s fight scenes.
Because of this, the characters just don’t have enough room to breathe on their own, and as a result seem pretty empty by the end of the special.
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The parameters for judging something like this vary and are controversial, which is probably why Disney and Marvel haven’t released much information about it WBN.
That is, if WBN actually turns out to be a proof of concept for a full-fledged series rather than just a one-off feature, it will be interesting to see how the story develops and how much of the source material is twisted to fit into the prerequisite boxes.
From now on, WBN stands as a special made almost seemingly by ticking boxes on the theme of “Smart Heroine Saves The Day By Rectifying Mistake Made By Dumb Man”.
Of course, if you follow this storyline, you’ll get the green light for almost anything from any studio.
When will that change? That remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Werewolf at night premieres on October 7th on Disney’s signature streaming service.
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