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  • 15
  • Action, Horror
  • 2005
  • 93 mins




Nature gets its revenge in this B-grade monster movie, adapted from Marvel Comics' answer to 'Swamp Thing'


In 1971, at about the same time as 'Swamp Thing' emerged in DC Comics, Marvel Comics published its first stories featuring the Man-Thing. By 1974, this terrifying creature from the Florida Everglades had his own series, even if he made for an unusual entrant in the Marvel pantheon, being essentially a mindless force of nature far less interesting in his own right than the motley crew of villains, demons and aliens (including one Howard The Duck) whose muddy paths he crossed with such destructive implacability.

Anyone expecting the sort of psychological development and inner conflict displayed by other Marvel movie heroes, from Spider-Man to Hulk, from X-Men to Blade, is going to be sorely disappointed with the title 'character' of Man-Thing, whose human side is long dead, and who is, in personality as much as in appearance, far closer to vegetable than animal. But then Man-Thing is not really a superhero movie at all, but a horror film straight out of the 'nature's revenge' subgenre, pitting a vindictive tree-monster against wicked petroleum miners who have violated its sacred ground.

City-boy Kyle Williams (Le Nevez) is the new sheriff in backwoods Bywater, where, ever since the Schist Petroleum Company started drilling in the nearby swamp, several people (including Kyle's predecessor) have gone missing. Oil magnate Frederic Schist (Jack Thompson) and his son Jake (Pat Thompson) point the finger at a part-Indian troublemaker named Rene LaRoque (Bastoni), but local schoolteacher and environmental activist Teri (Taylor) insists on Rene's innocence, while the shaman Pete (Paratene) suggests that something altogether less human is haunting the marshlands. With the body count rising, and an illegal posse of rednecks after Rene's scalp, Kyle and Teri head for the root of Bywater's troubles deep within the swamp.

It might have been so very different. Featuring a father-and-son team of Southern oilmen who casually refer to their opponents as "terrorists" and who are happy to ride roughshod over any laws that are not strictly American, Man-Thing endeavours to exploit Bush-era anxieties about the links between fossil fuels, the degradation of the environment, and US foreign policy. Yet far from being horror's answer to Syriana, it features a plot as lumbering as the creature it portrays, dialogue that meanders from clumsy cliche to excessive exposition, and a lead actor who seems unable to decide from one scene to the next whether to use his own (Australian) accent or that of his Yankee character, so that any sense of subtlety quickly sinks in the mud.

Though the Man-Thing proves handy at body-raping victims Evil Dead-style with its branch-like arms - thus affording some enjoyably gruesome morgue scenes - the creature is finally revealed to be a rather underwhelming specimen of plant life with glowing red CGI eyes, although it is only a little more wooden than the film's human characters. Director Leonard, best known for The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity, does his best to create atmosphere by using some unusual colour filters and jarring flashback montages, but the pedestrian script and low budget ultimately swamp him.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Alex O'Loughlin, Robert Mammone, Rawiri Paratene, Matthew Le Nevez, Jack Thompson, Patrick Thompson, Steve Bastoni, Rachael Taylor
  • Director: Brett Leonard
  • Screen Writer: Hans Rodionoff
  • Writer (Comic book): Steve Gerber
  • Producer: Christopher Petzel, Scott Karol, Avi Arad
  • Photographer: Steve Arnold
  • Composer: Roger Mason

In a nutshell

Nature's revenge may be the subgenre of choice for discerning horror fans, but nothing can prevent this straight-to-video schlock from becoming stuck in its own mire.

by Anton Bitel

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