Rated: not rated :: Released: 2005
Director: Brett Leonard :: Starring: Matthew Le Nevez, Rachel Taylor, and Jack Thompson
By Doran Murphy
Man-Thing is so unloved by its progenitors at Marvel that it isn't even listed on their official website. Indeed, they were so keen to slip this one by the average viewer that they marketed directly to TV (it aired on the Sci-Fi Network on April 30th) and plan to release it straight to video on June 14th. Marvel blames the failure of the movie on its distance from Marvel studio; the film was made in Australia, and the studio, which is in California, was not able to keep the creators of the film on a tight leash and veto shitty ideas. Then again, Marvel studios okayed:
— Blade II (2002)
— Blade III (2004)
— Captain America (1991)
— Daredevil (2003)
— Elektra (2004)
— Fantastic Four (1994)
— The Hulk (2003)
— The Punisher (1989)
So really, Marvel's track record isn't so good when it comes to producing great movies, especially when you consider that they only have three other franchises out at the moment, with five movies between them. But how bad does a movie have to be before Marvel actually disowns it? Because those movies I just listed are all pretty terrible. (Although I'll admit to considering the last two guilty pleasures.) So really, how bad does a movie have to be before Avi Arad (Marvel CEO) slams it in international media?
The problem with Man-Thing is it's set in the wrong genre. They tried to turn the franchise from super-hero into a horror movie. But because the source material (which oh yes, they deviated from) wasn't really conducive to the horror genre in general, the whole thing came out as a flop. The creators of Man-Thing saw something in the franchise that was never there; they saw a super-powered eco terrorist. In essence, they saw a Captain Planet who killed people, which (of course) is a gross debasement of the long and storied history of the Man-Thing character.
The movie fits into almost all of the typical clichés of horror movies. It kicks off with one of the best; a pair of teens hook-up at a party and go off into the swamp in order to get a little closer to each other. Boom, they die. The problem here is that Man-Thing is many things, but he's never really been a senseless killer. The reason the Man-Thing is killing people is explained in the movie, but Man-Thing is at least intelligent enough to know that killing two horny kids isn't going to stop the problem.
The main driving force behind Man-Thing's killing spree is the oil drill set up in the deep swamp by Schist Enterprises. More or less, the Schists are the typical white corporate owners who buy up Indian land and ravage it like imperialist pigs. They're the collective "Looten Plunder" of Man-Thing. They've set up their resource mining operation smack-dab in the middle of a Native American magical place, and this pissed off the Man-Thing, who decided to kill anyone who went in or near his swamp. Naturally, the duty of stopping the Man-Thing falls to the Sheriff, who just recently came to town. Of course, it stands to reason that without the help of a pretty blonde lady and a Native American, he'll die miserably alone.
I'd say the movie is relatively well-acted. Horror movies are relatively notorious for their poor acting, and I think that the entire genre of horror films may just be a little too unreal to be acted in as the same manner of a normal film. As it is, the acting is pretty good, especially when you look at the cast and find that the most renowned of the Man-Thing thespians was an extra in the recent Kojak movie and was in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. So it's not exactly the strongest of résumés, acting wise, but they all did fairly well, considering their relative mainstream inexperience.
When it comes to the special effects, however, Man-Thing differs from most horror films. Most horror films don't have the budget Man-Thing did, and because of that, Man-Thing looks comparatively awesome. The creature (who is actually Ted Sallis, in what is one of the few things true to the comic) looks pretty fucking real, and his brutal murders of various people throughout the film are equally real-looking. Special effects are definitely not one of the movie's flaws. As it is a horror movie, music is a key part of the film as well. After all, you need the suspenseful music before someone jumps out at a character; and it's pretty typical fare here. Nothing to tear the movie apart on.
Another thing crucial to a horror movie is how scary it is. Duh! Overall, Man-Thing has its "OH SHIT!" moments just like all good horror movies, but it's not the sort of horror movie that will cause you to sleep with the lights on for weeks afterwards, either. Times when bodies appear suddenly, or Man-Thing fucks someone up by surprise often happen quickly (and thus, shockingly). Part of what makes this movie bearable is that the logical decision doesn't always happen. Man-Thing doesn't kill everyone right away; he lets some people get away with the intention of killing them later. You'll see characters that you know Man-Thing really wanted to kill right then and there, but instead he's opted to spare them for some unbeknownst reason... only to slaughter them later on.
Man-Thing has its flaws, undoubtedly. But I'd say it's not as flawed as it's been made out to be. It's not the best movie Marvel has released thus far by any means. Conversely, I don't think it could be called the worst. The script deviates both from the origins of the Man-Thing classically iterated in the comics, and it's not really true to the nature of the character, either. And from a non-comic book perspective, the movie isn't unwatchable; it's just not something you'd want to go out of your way to watch.
Comic Geek Score: 1
Movie Fan Score: 5
Averaged Score: 3