100 Days of Superheroes- Day 9: Swamp Thing (1982)
Batman had it wrong. Nothing is more scary than a man-tree.
“You find me this…Swamp Thing, and bring it too me alive.”
Even as one of DC’s lesser known properties, The Swamp Thing still manages to strengthen the companies standing as the main corner of comic filmmaking through the 50’s all the way up through the 90’s.
The story opens with Alice Cable, played by Adrianne Barbeau, being flown into a thick swamp by helicopter to replace a man who died while conducting research there. She claims to hate every thing about the swamp until she meets Alec Holland (Ray Wise), a genius scientist who tries to make her see the beauty in it.
Holland is there busy working on an experimental formula to speed up the growth and evolution of plant life. But when the villainous Anton Arcane tries to get a hold of it, Alec is accidentally transformed into a plant like monster. But Arcane misses the connection between the scientist and the monster and assumes that Holland is dead, choosing instead to pursue Cable for his research notes.
Barbeau does a great job as Alice Cable. She really sets herself off from other lead Superheroes ladies in two ways. First, the story is more about her than it is about The Swamp Thing. I guess the makers decided the audience would find it easier relate to the story if it centered around a human character rather than a deformed man-tree. Secondly she almost comes off as more of a Ripley/Sigourney Weaver type heroin. Sure there are times when she gets herself into tight spots and needs the Swamp Thing to help get her out. But she still can weald a gun and isn’t scared to knock some men around herself.
She is followed by an irritating little kid who seems to almost have the ability to teleport. He just pops out of nowhere even when the character have just sprinted for miles or traversed by car and boat. He contributes absolutely nothing to the actual film and seems just sort of crow barred into it in order to spit out crappy one liners. He neither helps the plot or its central character, working as more of a nuisance. I couldn't figure out why he was even there or what he was doing before Cable came along.
On the surface it may seem like simply a Hulk-Frankenstein hybrid but the film surprisingly has a lot of humanity to it. Cable attempts to flee the swamp and the people hunting her while The Swamp thing has to deal with his loss of humanity. Cable isn’t even sure how to approach him anymore and it adds a lot to their relationship.
The villain of Arcane is fairly bland character whose exact motive is never quite made clear. He wants the secret plant formula in order to...what exactly. Grow a fantastic garden? I’ve never touched the Swamp Thing comics so I cannot really say how he holds up to the original character. He pretty much embodies every stereotype possible and then some.
While the story is engaging, the greatest weakness of the film is the special effects, especially the costumes that look stolen off of the Star Trek TV set. The Swamp Thing kind of just looks like a guy who wore a green wetsuit through a seaweed patch. This makes the final climatic battle even clumsier and silly as two ridiculously costumed creatures battle it out. It’s no where near as exciting as watching the Swamp Thing stalk a bunch of armed gunmen. But the action was never the reason to watch this film in the first place, as it is completely overshadowed by the story.
In the end The Swamp Thing is one of those film that looks a lot worse on the surface than it is in reality. The effects are mediocre to horrible but the acting, scripting and central story remains solid, keeping this film from sinking into the muck.
FINAL RATING: 6/10 (60%)
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