A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Swamp Thing

March 3, 2011

Swamp Thing

I have bought a lot of comic book based movies over the years. Some of them are spectacular, and some of them are less so. At one point I had made it my mission to buy every movie based on a comic book property that I could find. This is why we have in our collection such jems as Daredevil and Cat Woman. Compared to those I’d say this movie is far more watchable. It’s not a great film, but it doesn’t really have such ambitions. It’s a pleasantly cheesy movie with some rubber monsters that reminds me most of the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie.

I’ll admit that I’m not too familiar with the books this movie is based on. I didn’t start following Swamp Thing until the Alan Moore reboot. Moore gave the Swamp Thing a mythical feel – building him up to be an elemental force and defender of the forgotten outskirts of the world. He also tried to create a darker horror themed comic which led to some interesting supernatural stories (and the introduction of a certain John Constantine.) It seems that the earlier Swamp Thing (if this movie is anything to go by) was more of an Incredible Hulk rip off.

Strangely Wes Craven (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame) chose when he adapted the comic for the screen to not really make the Swamp Thing the star of the movie. Maybe it’s that he knew with the make-up available to him at the time (1982) that his creature was going to have almost no ability to emote. Indeed it appears that the actor portraying the beast could barely deliver his lines, much less give a moving performance. So this movie is mostly about a young woman named Alice Cable, and how she was present during the genesis of the Swamp Thing.

I won’t argue with the casting of Adrienne Barbeau (and her cleavage) as the lead character. As a character Cable is actually fairly capable and able to defend herself. As an actress Adrienne manages to make her more than just a damsel in distress with a series of outfits that seem intended to accentuate her bust and disturbingly large eighties hair. I mean that, yes, that is the character she is given to play but it feels like she’s able to make her character more than just eye candy. Cable is some sort of government agent (it’s never quite clear what branch of the government) who is attached to a top secret and high security research project out in the middle of a swamp somewhere. The reclusive scientist heading the project is Alec Holland and he is working on a formula that will allow plants to grow in hostile environments by melding them with animal tissue to give them survival instincts.

No sooner has Alice been introduced to Dr. Holland (and abruptly fallen in love with him apparently) than a group of paramilitary hoodlums under the command of a nefarious mad genius named Arcane show up and sack the lab. They want this plant formula for its obvious applications as a weapon of mass destruction. (You just kind of have to accept some of this. There are a lot of government agents with guns defending these botanical experiments, so I suppose they must have some military applications. Somehow.) During the chaos of the invasion Alec’s sister is killed and he is doused in his formula and left for dead. But he does not die. He becomes a towering muscular plant-man with regenerative abilities and super strength.

The whole rest of the movie is about Arcane and his goons trying to capture Alice (who has the crucial last notebook that will allow them to re-create Alec’s formula) and the Swamp Thing showing up suddenly to toss them around like rag dolls and scream incoherently. Alice flees to a little middle-of-nowhere convenience store and befriends an extremely laid back young clerk by the name of Jude (one of my favorite characters in the movie because of the bizarre and hilarious line deliveries by young Reggie Batts who portrays him.) Then she runs away from the convenience store and back to Alec’s lab. Then from there deeper into the swamp where she takes off all her clothes for a while. And at every turn she and Alec are hounded by doofuses with guns and grenades who have no hope whatsoever of overcoming the unstoppable creature that Alec has become. Until ultimately she and the Swamp Thing are captured and taken back to Arcane’s lair for a completely predictable final showdown.

It’s not a movie that relies on plot twists or clever writing. It’s a movie that relies on rubber monsters, Adrienne’s skimpy (or absent) costumes, and some shootouts and explosions. It’s a care-free eighties monster cheesefest that feels like it could well be a feature length episode of the Incredible Hulk TV show of that era except that the guy in the rubber monster suit of the Swamp Thing isn’t as buff or as expressive as Lou Ferrigno.

You know what? I don’t hate this movie. It’s a silly little diversion that mostly accomplishes everything it sets out to do. It doesn’t have any of the sense of awe or power or larger purpose that I got from the Alan Moore Swamp Thing books, but it’s not supposed to. It’s just supposed to be an eighties adventure movie that keeps you mildly amused for about an hour and a half.

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March 3, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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