Man-Thing (2005) / Horror-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: R for violence, gore, language and sexuality
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Matthew Le Nevez, Rachel Taylor, Jack Thompson, Rawiri Paratene, Steve Bastoni, Eric O'Lachlan, Imogen Bailey, Robert Mammone
Director: Brett Leonard
Screenplay: Hans Rodionoff (based on the Marvel comic book character created by Steve Gerber)
Review published April 18, 2005
Scraping pretty close to the bottom of the comic book adaptation barrel is Man-Thing, the Marvel comic book character that has never really been wildly popular to begin with, and most people who aren't fans will probably confuse it with DC Comics more well-known character, and the subject of two movies of his own, Swamp Thing.
I suppose there must be someone out there that enjoys the Man-Thing comics, or it wouldn't keep coming back, but based on the final product, I'm going to guess that the bigger a fan you are, the more you will probably come away hating the adaptation. The main reason why comes from the fact that there is absolutely no correlation between comic and movie save for the creature itself, which is large, ugly, and lives in a swamp. This in-name-only travesty also changes the sympathetic character into a horrific killing machine, killing nearly everyone he can get his filth-constructed hands on in the most grisly of ways. This is a comic inspired turkey so awful that it may only be rivaled by another terrible Steve Gerber adapted comic book movie, Howard the Duck.
The story centers around a new sheriff near the Southeast US swamplands, Kyle Williams, who was selected due to his youth and perceived inexperience, which will make the oil development by a greedy magnate named Schist (Jack Thompson, The Assassination of Richard Nixon) much easier. Schist is in the process of draining the swamp area for his own greedy purposes, and the only thing he sees standing in the way of him and untold millions are the local natives, namely, the Native Americans and environmentalists trying to protect the lands. who see the land as sacred and in need of protection. However, there is one more "Thing" that could ruin the deal, coming in the form of a deadly humanoid creature inhabiting the swamp lands, which is responsible for dismembering cruelly those who dare enter his murky domain.
The first indication that this film would be taken completely out of its original creative context comes from the fact that it is almost wholly an Australian production. The last time Marvel went to Australia for a comic book adaptation things didn't fare so well, with the poorly produced 1989 version of The Punisher. The all-American Southern accents are iffy to begin with, but Man-Thing goes a step further by making almost every supporting character a complete stereotype of Southerners, where everyone is a beer-swilling racist redneck.
Director Brett Leonard keeps his filmography consistent by making another cheap looking horror thriller coated with ugliness from the repugnant special effects and moronic characterizations. His other films, Virtuosity, The Lawnmower Man, and Hideaway, all have the equal distinction of being so abhorrent that I feel nauseous just having to relive the memory of viewing them. Incredibly poor casting all around doesn't help, with the tendency to go based on looks than on talent, as if anyone would actually rent Man-Thing because they think they might see a cute sheriff or another nameless topless starlet.
The story development is poor, with a leaden, nonsensical script by Hans Rodionoff, whose previous efforts include crap like The Skulls II and The Hollow. After seeing just how awful Man-Thing is, I can't fathom why he has been allowed to ruin another Marvel franchise, as he is listed as one of the screenwriters helping to craft another similarly obscure horrific comic book tie-in, Werewolf by Night, rumored to be released later this year. Doesn't Marvel even care anymore what happens to their characters??
Man-Thing is nothing but poor acting, sloppy storytelling, and repulsive images from beginning to end, and a real kick in the groin for those fans who have been patiently waiting for someone to "redeem" their favorite comic book character out of obscurity. This is a movie so bad, the stigma of its ineptitude will probably keep any future Man-Thing projects dormant for perpetuity, but after suffering through the equally atrocious Swamp Thing movies, I honestly can't say I find this displeasing.
Sure, there is an homage to the comic book by having characters named after the main creators of the comic, such as writer Steve Gerber and artist Mike Ploog (misspelled as Ploug in the credits), but after seeing what Lions Gate Films has done with their creation, you'd thing Steve and Mike would have insisted that their names be changed "to protect the innocent".
©2005 Vince Leo