I know what you might be thinking: “Wow, Mr. Audio Guy, are you really starting off your first article by grandstanding about how great this audio drama is?” Why yes. Yes I am.
Because for those of you familiar with Wolverine: The Long Night, you might already understand where I’m coming from. For those of you that haven’t listened to it yet, let’s recap!
Wolverine: The Long Night is an audio drama that was produced in partnership between big mac daddy powerhouse Marvel and podcast all-star Stitcher. It’s a new tale in the library of stories surrounding our favorite half-pint, hairy brick shithouse that was played by Hugh Jackman. Except this time Wolverine is played by Richard Armitage from the Hobbit series, and let me tell ya – he’s good.
For the sake of covering all bases before we get into exactly why I believe this show is a full on game changer in the medium, here’s the sales pitch for the show:
“Following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye. The first scripted podcast from Marvel, starring Celia Keenan-Bolger and Ato Essandoh as Agents Pierce and Marshall, with Richard Armitage as Wolverine. Also featuring Scott Adsit, Bob Balaban, Zoe Chao, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Learn more at wolverinepodcast.com.”
Still with us and haven’t run off to listen to it yet? Weird, but okay. So here are the five reasons why Wolverine: The Long Night has completely destroyed the audio drama status quo.
Warning: This post may contain spoilers for Wolverine: The Long Night.
I know. What does the writing have to do with an audio perspective, Cass? I thought this was an audio analysis. Well, it plays a major factor, actually.
WTLN was written like a Comic Book. So, listening while hitting the treadmill, or working in excel all day (withing you could burn your office down to change the dreaded monotony that has become your life), or doing things around the house, you feel immersed in the scenes. There are clear panels of action (POW!) or sections of character development, or even just atmospheric bar sounds right before a fight starts.
Another bit about the writing, it has some really solid re-listen value. After finding out the twist at the end, you can find all of the references that point to it – tiny throw away lines or the way a scene moves to the next. You even gain a little perspective that spins the show into a completely different light.
Am I still on the first point? This one is enough to make me want to listen to it again right now. But as promised…
If you’ve ever wanted to fool someone into believing that your characters are in the woods, don’t just say “Ahh! We’re in the Woods now.” You need to build the world and environment surrounding your actors. That’s where Sound Designers come into play. They take a listen to the world around us and pick out the things that have blended into the background of our every day lives.
Hearing those sounds, or rather not hearing them, makes you recognize and believe the characters that you’re listening to are actually in the woods. WTLN did such an incredible job of this. Every environment, be it a car, a bar, or wherever, they went into excruciating detail with. The only thing they could have done to make it more realistic, was to actually record in those areas for real … and in some scenes they did just that. Keep reading to get there.
I say score, because I really wouldn’t say music. It’s very atmospheric and it sets the mood pretty spot on. It’s a mystery, so if your music doesn’t sound mysterious, then what the f&$@ are you doing?
Here, WTLN does it right yet again. It’s very noninvasive and you don’t even notice it unless you really listen for it, but at the same time, it’s ethereal and suspenseful. What’s even more impressive about the score, in my opinion, is that it’s not always there. It’s woven in and out, audible where it’s needed and silent when the scene is focusing on something more important than just mood setting.
Some of these actors need an Emmy. Or a Golden Globe … Kid’s Choice Award? Whatever. They’re really good. Okay?
Agent Marshall seems like the typical nice guy in the good-cop-bad-cop thing, while Agent Pierce has an adamantium stick up her butt. Major spoiler: We learn they’re programmed that way. Programmed…
Not to mention, Armitage does our clawed hero justice with his grit and reluctant heroism. I felt connected to these characters through their voices. The way they cut each other off or talk over one another, it doesn’t feel like it’s being read off a script like some other AD’s that I’ve sat through… Good on you cast – you did good.
The production of these shows is one of my favorite parts. If you haven’t learned this about me yet, are you even reading the article?
So needless to say, I watched the behind-the-scenes videos, and something in them absolutely surprised me: They built whole sets for their scenes. They made an entire movie without a camera.
The actors acted the scenes out as they went through their lines, microphones ever present to pick up their movements and interactions with the environment. Talk about saving time on foley.
That’s right. Remember the “woods” example I used? They apparently took some equipment out into the trees to get the woods scenes done. Not to mention, putting together desks and interiors to match the scene so that the actors could, well, act. This also had to have helped out tremendously for the sound design team! Not having to worry about some of the little audio bits, and being able to focus on everything else that breathed live into this AD.
I will continue to fan boy about this show until I’m blue in the face. And with Season 2 on the way sometime this year, I’m going to have this in my rotation pretty frequently. Could this be the start of an audio Marvel Universe? Hey Marvel! I’m available!
Anyway, what are your thoughts? Are you with me? Are we Legion, or am I just overly impressed and excited about a superhero that I loved as a kid coming to my favorite format? Let me know with a comment below. Also, check out some other reviews by the rest of our team about shows they hate to love, and sometimes love to hate.