How a werewolf spoils the classic movie lycanthrope legend by night

A delightful Marvel detail werewolf at night The 2022 “Special Show” was a homage to monster films of the past. Not only did she not saturate with grayscale in order to mimic the black and white medium of early film and television, her deliberate choices in script, set, and acting were fun hat tips for classic thrillers that scare audiences back to the era of silent films at the beginning of the 20th century. but while werewolf at night Delightfully wears the skin of the first monster films, its spirit is quite different from the classic films it honors.

Today’s movie

History of the werewolf in the movie

wolf man 1941
Universal Pictures

Although the film industry is more than a century old, cinema is not where the idea of ​​stories about monsters originated. For the most part, the first monster movies were modeled after the famous Victorian era novels. Written by Mary Shelley Frankenstein In 1816, it was first shown in 1910 by the Edison Studios, and then produced by Universal Pictures in 1931 with Boris Karloff starring in The Beast. Bram Stoker books Dracula In 1897, which inspired the German silent film Nosferatu in 1922, and eventually also produced by Universal Pictures in 1931 as Dracula With Bela Lugosi as the titular vampire.

Stories of werewolves, or wolf men, dated back well beyond the Victorian era. In the first century, the Roman poet Ovid captured the Greek myth of Lycaon in his poem entitled transformations. The narrative describes King Lycaon’s attempt to test Zeus by trying to feed him human flesh, and Zeus punishes his strange impulse, which destroys the king’s palace and drives him into the wilderness, where his strange lust for slaughter and appetite for blood transforms him. To a creature that is a wolf more than a human. This old story where the word lycanthrope comes from.

Werewolf movie London 1935
Universal Pictures

But the Victorian era also had a lot of werewolf stories. In 1839, Frederic Mariat’s novel phantom ship He ends up meeting a woman who turns into a white wolf to kill and devour people. In 1864, famous Scottish author George MacDonald wrote a short story about a young woman in the swamps who would turn into the gray wolf To attack animals and men. In 1891, Rudyard Kipling wrote mark of the beast A short story about a man who was cursed to become like a wolf in order to be cured. In 1896 Clemens Hausmann wrote werewolf, Where the enchanted twin goes on a killing spree as a wolf before he gets killed.

Perhaps inspired by these accounts, or in combination with the Navajo legend about the Skinwalkers, the first known werewolf story to be shown in film came in 1913, titled, werewolf, A silent short film in which an Aboriginal woman charms her daughter into becoming a wolf for revenge. This short film was lost in a fire at Universal Studios in 1924, but in 1935 Universal Pictures added a werewolf to its growing catalog of world monsters, titled Werewolf London. Six years after that, they released them too wolf man, And since those first black-and-white classics, there have been dozens of films that carry on the wonderful tradition of telling stories about people destined to transform into horrifying and inhuman wolf creatures.

The problem of being a werewolf

American Werewolf in London
Universal Pictures

One thing that traditional werewolf stories have in common is that they were universally tragic. The idea of ​​people turning into wolf-like beasts that would slaughter and eat even those they loved was indescribably terrifying and sinful. In a few uncontrollable moments of moonlight, everything that makes a man or woman human is taken away and replaced by an insatiable desire for bloodshed, a brute force that is almost unstoppable. Whether explained naturally or supernaturally, lycanthropy was a kind of curse that defies all morals and humanity.

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The heroic part of the traditional werewolf story was the sacrifice that had to be made by a werewolf, or someone who loved (and loved) a werewolf: the curse had to be ended at all costs. He might not have saved the entire world, but he was saving lives, maybe even the soul of a wolf. When wolf man He was beaten to death with a silver-headed stick by his father, everyone in the audience is shocked and sad, but at the same time understands – it had to happen. This traditional outcome was inevitable in film, even in more contemporary werewolf films like the 1981 classic John Landis, An American werewolf in London.

Rewrite the rules of being a werewolf

Underworld Lycans
gems screen

But things have changed for the lycanthrope myth over the past few decades. In traditional monster movies, being a werewolf was not only an extremely tragic curse, but also an extremely rare disaster that was impossible to control or conceal. In 1981, An American werewolf in London He upheld that tradition in a surprising fashion, but that same year, another big werewolf movie broke the traditional mold. in the movie howl, Based on the 1977 novel by Gary Brandner, we find not only werewolves that can change shape at will, but dozens who live together undetected in their own pesky wolves community. Being a werewolf is still a mistake, but now it’s more cunning, elusive, and powerful.

Another movie from the 1980s that offered a major change in the werewolf premise was not a horror movie at all, but a tongue-in-cheek comedy. in 1985 Teen Wolf Starring Michael J. Fox (in the same year he starred in the classic Robert Zemeckis Back to the future), lycanthropia is not a curse that a person gets – it turns out to be a genetic trait. And it is not only an inherent and understandable condition, and there is nothing particularly sinister in it. If the bullies are stopped in high school and you win basketball games using the power of werewolves, it’s not just a flaw to hide, it’s a good and inspiring thing to be proud of.

Michael J Fox in the movie Teen Wolf 1985
Atlantic release

These subtle changes in the 1980s opened the door to a new breed of werewolves. Lycanthropia is no longer seen by the public as a simple and tragic curse. Spot new horror franchises like interview with vampire, Hell And the twilight He gave the masses a new class of monsters that were the equivalent of real-world races, with their own politics, heroes, and villains. The age-old idea that monsters are themselves evil, or are under an evil curse, has soared in smoke like a traditional vampire in the sunlight.

Even when these same new monstrous characters refer to this conventional thinking, as vampire Edward Cullen did briefly in twilight Epic, no one in the audience believed Hell was its inevitable destination. They’re already convinced: Not only is there nothing wrong with being a vampire, they admire monsters more than humans, and like Bella, they’ll jump at the chance of becoming one.

Parallel evolution of the werewolf at night

werewolf comic night
Marvel Comics

This same development can be seen in the story of the original Jack Russell character from Marvel Comics werewolf at night. When the sitcom was launched in 1972, it, like all werewolf stories, upheld the traditional view that lycanthropy was a tragic curse. Thus, Jack’s story during the early years was often a complex struggle for survival against good and evil, with the secondary goal of finding a cure. Along the way he battles enemies like Dracula and the HYDRA organization, forging alliances with characters like Iron Man, Ghost Rider, and The Man-Thing.

RELATED: Thing Man: Where This Loveable Monster Should Appear Next in the MCU

But by 1990, the character’s story had changed as Jack dominated his recall. With the ability to make his own decisions, even when in beast form, he could now use the Inhuman Power to practice his Inhuman Forever. Although there are times when he later struggles with his newfound control, from that point on, Jack Russell of Marvel Comics is no longer a lost and doomed soul whose curse is used by others. In the comics, he became a superhero.

What’s wrong with being a werewolf at night?

Jack and Ted in a werewolf at night
Disney platform distribution

Ironically, the newest generation of viewers who fell in love with werewolf Jack Russell and the Thing Man, Ted, in Marvel’s movie werewolf at night The TV movie may be confused by the apparent danger that Jack poses to the Bloodstone Elsa. Why would Jack hurt Elsa with his superpowers? It would be as ridiculous as Pepper Potts really would fear Tony Stark whenever he wore Iron Man armor. The lack of control caused by turning into a werewolf no longer made sense, and no one, not even older generations who understand and appreciate the traditional werewolf view, believed Elsa was in danger in 2022.

One of the things that made Gael García Bernal an inspiring choice to play Jack Russell in werewolf at night She is the charisma of a nice guy off the charts. But again, the irony may have been lost. Rather than monsters, culture is mostly concerned with entertaining stories about people lucky enough to be able to fly, to heal instantly, to lift mountains, or to tear the limbs of villains from limb. What makes them superhero, or how they become superhero, is often developed incoherently, or simply unimportant. The only thing that matters is that they use their superpowers for good (whatever that is).

Werewolf at night on Disney+ in the MCU
Disney platform distribution

Although the Marvel TV movie werewolf at night She wears the cloak of the classic monster movies, underneath is a completely different creature. The fun of its black and white appearance, dramatic scenes with open coffins, flashing lights and passionate monster hunters can’t hide the fact that it’s not really a horror movie. It does contain suspense, some jump scares, and horrific deaths in good measure, but deep down, it’s a retelling the structure, Not wolf man.

But this does not make werewolf at night Any less exciting and fun. Being an old superhero movie doesn’t hurt her in any way; The masses want more. Much more. We hope Marvel takes these amazing, unforgiving characters even further, and it should be a great ride.

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