Did you all know that horror maestro Wes Craven made a comic book movie? This was at a time that funny book adaptations had only just started to form thanks to the success of the first two Superman movies. Hollywood decided that the next big superhero to follow the Man of Steel would be... Swamp Thing. Yeah, rather than go with more iconic DC characters like Wonder Woman or Batman, the monstrous ‘Protector of the Green’ would be the next hero to follow suit, and the results are interesting to say the least.
The film roughly follows the same comics origin story for Swamp Thing, which involves a scientist that researches and cares for plant life until a fatal incident with enemy forces results in him getting transformed into a plant/human hybrid monster, and what we have in this film version is an admirable attempt by Craven to make Swamp Thing a compelling character even if the film as a whole suffers from some wobbles along the way. In a way, this sees a bold, fresh departure for the director after being so heavily tied down to his horror roots. Instead he opts for a fantasy story that delves into the dramatic themes of love, beauty, tragedy and revenge. The film's mise-en-scène is wonderfully vibrant and atmospheric thanks to its bold uses of colour, lighting, and sound that captures the world perfectly. The realisation of Swamp Thing was a solid attempt that looks faithful to the character's iconic design, but there's no disguising the fact that the hero constructed out of plant matter just looks like a big dude that's covered in rubber, and it doesn't get any better later on when other creatures enter the fray.
Later in the third act, the super-duper secret formula transforms some of the baddies in this flick into very absurd monsters, including a big strongman that randomly gets turned into a pig-headed midget, but the worst has to be what happens to the principal villain of the piece. He could've been transformed into something that's scary or imaginative, but instead, is turned into a cross between a baboon and a werewolf that wields a sword, which only makes it look like Goldar's scruffy-looking cousin. Also, the juxtaposition between the swampy wilderness and the luxury mansion in the film's last act is noticeably jarring, especially considering that the place looks like a mixture of a high-class restaurant and some trashy strip-club, even with the added addition of unnecessary nudity. Oh, and Jude, the kid sidekick, is totally pointless and serves no function to the narrative whatsoever.
Despite its faults, you can't knock Wes Craven for trying to do something that was different from his usual horror milieu, and the result is not bad, but it could've been better. The swampy locations are great, the cast game (including Adrienne Barbeau in a DC role before voicing Catwoman in Batman: The Animated Series), and it’s an admirable attempt to capture the basics of the character. Plus, if this film didn't exist, the character might not have found life beyond this, thus Alan Moore's acclaimed run in the comics probably wouldn't have happened, as would the character's involvement with the Justice league Dark, nor would we have the forthcoming TV series. What we have here is pretty decent overall, and if you are curious to delve more into Craven's filmography, then this is worth a look.
SWAMP THING (1982) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: WES CRAVEN / STARRING: LOUIS JOURDAN, ADRIENNE BARBEAU, RAY WISE, DAVID HESS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 25TH