Marvel Movie Madness! Part 19: Man-Thing

A long, hard look at Marvel's Man-Thing.

by | June 21, 2011 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

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Part 19: Man-Thing (2005, 20% @ 5 reviews)

Directed by Brett Leonard, starring Alex O’Loughlin, Rachael Taylor, Matthew Le Nevez, Imogen Bailey

Matt: This week of the Marvel Movie Madness contains the movies we’re calling “the weird crap” – Man-Thing, Red Sonja, and Howard the Duck. We’ve seen some good and bad films get made out of Marvel properties, but I think we can all agree that the movies this week are based on some of the lesser-known titles, and all three of them are pretty ugly.

Today, we’re focusing on Man-Thing. Based on a long-running, semi regular title, Man-Thing is a shambling swamp monster that’s basically Marvel’s version of Swamp Thing (the creators of both characters came up with them around the same time). Man-Thing had a brief monthly run, but was then cut to a quarterly or semi-annual run as double-sized issues. And to the delight of everyone’s inner 12-year-old, they were called “Giant-Size Man-Thing.”

Being able to make jokes about the title is the most interesting thing about this movie, because it’s really awful. It’s supposed to be set in Louisiana, but the movie was shot in Australia, and there’s not a single square foot of the land down under that looks anything like Louisiana swampland (and the Spanish moss hanging from every branch isn’t really fooling anybody). The story is about the new sheriff of Bywater, Lousiana, who is trying to solve the mystery of a spate of disappearances, connected to the local oil-drilling company. And there’s something about a shambling swamp monster. But honestly, I didn’t care about this film at all. The script is poorly written, the acting isn’t very good, and worst of all, the movie is flat out boring. Yes, something is killing the locals, but you don’t really care about any of them. The dialogue sounds like cliches from other movies, and the movie just felt cheap. It did get an international theatrical release, and had been shown in the US as a “Sci-Fi Original” on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel. But honestly, this movie makes Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus look like a James Cameron movie.

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Alex: This one was pretty much hopeless from the beginning. A low-budget creature feature designed to go straight-to-DVD? Even Howard the Duck had aspirations of being a good movie at one point. Man-Thing was indeed originally going to be shot in the deep American south but once production got relocated to Australia, everyone probably just about stopped caring. I agree, the swamp sets aren’t convincing. And the actors lurch from thick Australian to twangy American accents inside the same sentences. Director and non-actor Brett Leonard plays a pivotal secondary role, not out of narcissism but to ensure that at least somebody sounded consistent on screen.

But, hey, at least this movie showed some boobs.

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Tim: Man, this one has all my favorite movie stereotypes: malevolent southern degenerates, mystical Native Americans, evil small town plutocrats, and a well-meaning sheriff from the outside, who’s about to learn of the unspeakable secrets lurking out there in the mist. I said stereotypes, because Man-Thing is decidedly short on characters (though I kind of like stars Alex O’Loughlin and Rachael Taylor — they do the best they can with their cardboard roles). Or plotting. Or thrills. Or anything that would mark this as a Marvel property. Man-Thing feels like a particularly undercooked episode of The X-Files — I was constantly waiting for Dana Scully to show up and start gathering evidence. If the political undercurrent of, say,The X-Men has evolved since the 1960s, then pity poor Man-Thing, who seems condemned to being a ham-fisted eco-parable.


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