Man Thing (2005)

Man-Thing (2005)

When nature fights back!

A new sheriff arrives in a small town on the edges of the Louisiana Bayou and is caught in a dispute between the oil company that is draining the swamp and the environmental protesters who want it preserved. More pressing is the number of people who are going missing in the swamp. According to Native American legend, the “spirit guardian” of the swamp has been awakened and will protect it at any cost.

 

Man-Thing was a comic book written for Marvel in the 70s and is one of their more obscure characters at least to the mainstream audience. If the thought of an avenging swamp monster seems familiar, then it’s no surprise to find out that DC comics introduced Swamp Thing around the same time. If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the comic then you’ve probably come to the wrong place. However if you’re looking for a half-decent monster movie then Man-Thing will provide you with everything you need.

Originally slated for a cinematic release back in 2004, it was wisely dropped onto television when Marvel considered it not bankable enough. It’s a rather random and most curious choice of comic to turn into a film given the popularity of the big superhero films of late and also that some of Marvel’s more famous characters still hadn’t received film versions at time of writing. But the writers here drop any ‘superhero’ element and turn this into a straight-out horror film where the only loose connections to the comic itself are a few names of characters and the creature itself is more of a Jason Vorhees-in-the-swamp monster.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t really do that much either. There’s this big, angry swamp monster that suddenly appears and starts killing trespassers in the swamp. He kills a few people during the course of the film and once the oil company is taken care of, he disappears again. The end. The plot bears little resemblance to what I’ve come to read about the comic. So basically what the writers have done here is simply pick a Marvel superhero, shred the character of everything about him bar name and then throw him into a horror flick! So much so that those not in the know would think it as another Sci-Fi Channel original. The film should have been able to break free of its B-movie shackles but instead the writers have managed to keep them as tightly-locked as possible. It’s your run-of-the-mill monster movie which runs like clockwork – gore, breasts, monsters wreaking havoc, etc. Sit back, watch and tell me that you didn’t see the next scene coming a mile away?

One of the film’s clear highlights is the cinematography. The swamp settings look great and the film is saturated in a deep green hue at night to give it an extra freakish atmosphere. It’s almost as if the swamp itself is alive and breathing. It looks beautiful but deadly at the same time. You’ll be hard pressed to tell which scenes were shot on location and which were in the studio as the integration of the two is almost seamless. The camera really gives you a long, lingering look at the density of this swamp so that Man-Thing can blend into the background without you realising.

The creature is little known in the Marvel canon so I can’t really comment on it too much. But as far as movie monsters go, it doesn’t look too bad in all honesty. The CGI stands out for a mile but with the screen being dark and full of undergrowth it does its job well. As per tradition, it’s a while before you see the monster in all of its glory and most of the time you just see the remains of its handy work with some reasonably made-up corpses. However the big reveal towards the end when you finally see the towering mass of plant-life is pretty good.

The cast isn’t great but their characters are so caricature that they almost border on insulting. There are the Native Americans who are portrayed as elderly and wise medicine men who live in wooden shacks in the middle of the swamp. You’ve got the redneck populace with their racist and bigoted views on life which have led them to hunting alligators to earn a living. Don’t forget the slimy boss of the oil company. And of course the token hero and token love interest who get it together simply because it’s the natural flow of the film. You watch these films for the monsters, not the actors so it’s a good job that no one knows who any of them. Nor will this film’s release do anything to change that.

 

Man-Thing is an average monster flick which sets out to do what a generic monster flick would do – but this shouldn’t be just another monster movie given the obvious history and pedigree of the title character. To me it looks like Marvel needed a quick buck and slapped the Man-Thing name onto the first swamp monster flick it could find. Wasted effort but watchable anyway.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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