"Werewolf By Night" is one of the first horror stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
...But what is this thing?
My answer is a little more complicated than you might expect.
Put simply: media is getting weirder, and I'm all for it.
But first, a history lesson...
It wasn't that long ago, when there were essentially two things you could watch: a movie or a show.
- Movies were in theaters. Most were around an hour and a half. Done.
- Shows were on tv. Either a half hour or an hour long. Easy.
Things sure were sweet.
Now, I don't mean to oversimplify... Of course, sometimes you'd hear about a "TV movie," which was usually kinda mediocre, and there was "straight to video," stuff...But the product categories were fundamentally the same:
Oh, and sometimes shows would become movies: The Addams Family, Mission Impossible, Beavis and Butthead Do America.
Along those lines, sometimes movies would become shows: The Real Ghostbusters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scream the TV Series.
You know what everything above has in common? Continuity was completely disregarded. "The Real Ghostbusters" might be the craziest example. (Note to self: do a deep dive someday)
Whenever a story made the leap from movie to show or vice versa, the story was restarted, rebooted, or retconned. And for good reason:
TV used to be pretty bad.
By necessity, budgets were lighter and productions were smaller. Honestly, that stigma has only recently disappeared.
Shows like The Sopranos, The Office, and Breaking Bad are often pointed to as a pivot point for television. Add in the subscription model of Netflix, and shows started to change.
An entire season released in a single day.
Movie-level production in a show structure.
One episode is 20 minutes, the next is 40 minutes. C'est la vie.
And now, we have the incredible logistical accomplishment that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe bridging the movie/show divide and maintaining continuity. It's practically unheard of (though obviously they tried it once previously with Agents of Shield on ABC...which seems to have been erased from the multiverse.) And in recent years they've only added more, bringing Star Wars to "TV" successfully. All in a single, continuous world of storytelling.
I've been a part of all the chatter around series like WandaVision and The Mandalorian. I've seen people praise film-making techniques and story risks, and I've heard complaints about visual effects.
All I see is a gigantic fabric of storytelling, where everything feels authentically quilted together. I cannot begin to imagine how daunting (and how much FUN) it must be to work in those writer's rooms, or strategize the creative future projects, balancing how they all connect.
SO: Movies and shows are slowly becoming the same thing, right?
In terms of quality, sure! But the format differences still apply. A movie is long and a show is short, right?
Well the BBC Sherlock series is a show with episodes that are 90-minutes each. You could genuinely call each "season" a trilogy of movies, and be just as correct.
So now that we're blurring the line between movie and show, lets get back to what kicked off this entire line of thought: Marvel's "Werewolf By Night."
To remind you: Werewolf By Night is a recent entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of their first HORROR stories, released just in time for Halloween! (note to self: write about how this compares to Universal's attempts to create a "Dark Universe.")
Werewolf By Night plays like a low-stakes experiment for Marvel. It's a modern production in black and white, it's deliberately evoking the 1930's Unviersal films, and...
...It's 53 minutes long.
So wait... It's not as long as a movie, but it's also not serialized like a show.
I've already talked about how the episode lengths of TV shows have become irrelevant, but how many TV shows do you know that are ONE episode long?
Disney and Marvel have called this a "special," and everyone seems comfortable saying Werewolf By Night is a "one-off..."
TV specials are far from new, but in my opinion this particular one is something much more exciting.
Werewolf By Night is...a story. It's own thing.
Throw "movie" and "show" away.
Werewolf By Night is as long as it needs to be.
It's a singular tale... Though let's be honest, it's undoubtedly also test run for a more traditional film/series followup (count me in).
Why is this significant? I think the blurring of historical entertainment formats blows the creative doors wide open.
Got a story to tell? I'll bet you can find a way to produce it at exactly the length and production level that the story requires! (note to self: write about how to create from nothing)
Nothing more, nothing less. Forget about padding out the run time, forget about feeling like what you're creating is too simple or too short....or too long!
Media is only getting stranger, which is FANTASTICALLY freeing in an era where YOU can create something of your own without there being anyone to tell you it doesn't fit the pre-existing mold!
As the technology to tell stories continues to evolve at a rapid place (hello, artificial intelligence), the craft of writing is also growing. Look no further than the announcement of Jordan Peele's horror podcast for further proof. (Note to self: write about podcasting as the gateway to more). Creative people are creating regardless of medium.
The stigmas are gone.
Write your stories without the box of traditional media expectations. (Here's a tool to get started)
Let your own ambition be the limit!
GO GO GO!