The premise to “Man-Thing” is nonsensical and is mostly comprised of bits of many different subplots that never add up to one fluid plot in a movie. There’s industrialists digging for oil in a swamp somewhere in the South and people are being killed off in the mysterious swamp. A new sheriff comes on-board and begins investigating the murders and discovers an evil force is offing the local residents… and there’s an Indian thrown around the movie somewhere, who knows? What they did drop the ball on was the plot which I found often fascinating.
Maybe I’m being biased because I’m still a comic book geek, but I was in to the plot. Though, it’s never really explained whether the monster was human, is a mistake, a creature, or a demon, I was in to the whole legendary stuff and the man thing. When he’s finally shown is very, very cool looking with an excellent costume and character design set for the movie. He’s probably the only nice thing about this movie. Otherwise the movie is supported by a good score carrying its suspense and atmosphere, and some decent direction by Leonard who shows off the swamp with a very cool light green glow emanating from the ground which was pretty neat to look at.
Regardless, this is a terrible movie, mainly because there’s just so much nonsense and not enough gore and action it promises to have. We have to wade through an hour and twenty minutes of meaningless dialogue, terrible character exposition, and really bad acting until we get to the climax which is also equally disappointing. Once I started my notes stating the film’s flaws and I realized they were piling up in only minutes in to this, I had a feeling this was a big turkey, and it was. What’s sad is the writers have the ability to do something truly good with this topic and creature they have on their hands, and this just does nothing but disappoint with a lot of film clichés, and really bad characters.
The clichés begin in the start of the film when the Man-thing offs two people whom are about to have sex after they trail off from a party. First, who has a party in a swamp? Second, who allows people to party near an oiling plant? Third, Wouldn’t Southerners know it’s smart not to trail off into the swamp, a very dangerous place at night? And if Man thing is there to kill industrialists whom are destroying the swamp–why is he focusing his man-thinginess on horny teenagers? One thing I noticed during the viewing of this movie was that it’s premiering on Sci Fi Channel, yet the language has been cut and the violence has been reduced to cut away’s.
If this is premiering on Sci-Fi, then why is the language and violence toned down? It just makes no sense. But I’ve come to a conclusion! It’s a tactic to get you to buy the DVD to the movie! They took out all the violence, language and good stuff out of the premiere and the only way you can get it is by buying the DVD. Don’t be fooled. Anyway, like I said Man-thing doesn’t show up until the last half of the movie. The entire first and second half’s are devoted to “build-up” which never works, “atmosphere” that’s never there and “anticipation” that’s nowhere to be found. And the audience is forced to wade through a lot of really bad sub-plots hovering around the swamp while we watch some of the most idiotic characters ever seen in a movie interact with one another. It’s no wonder nearly everyone is killed in this movie.
The acting most of the time is terrible. I’m not being kind, really, sometimes the acting can be decent, but most of the time there’s just a lot of bad acting from actors who have no idea how to do a Southern accent. We have to watch two of the most bland on-screen duos ever written, the brooding sheriff and the kindly hot blonde school teacher played by Sheri Taylor and Matthew LeNevez, two people whom obviously weren’t given speech coaches because most of the time Taylor’s character’s Southern accent appears and re-appears throughout courses of the movie. Sometimes she has a mild accent, sometimes she has no accent, and sometimes she sounds like Gomer Pyle, and LeNevez who is a “Cityboy” (how original), sometimes has an American accent, sometimes a British accent, and sometimes a Southern/British mix as if he can’t decide.
Maybe he forgot he’s not supposed to be Southern, and it was quite distracting to watch these two try so hard to be Southern. Both of them are so un-interesting and boring, the sheriff character Kyle is a natural brooding tough guy character who catches on when no one isn’t, and then there’s the character Teri who has no emphasis, no sub-plot, makes only two appearances throughout the entire movie and then suddenly plays a huge role in the end suddenly having a knowledge of the swamp even though she looks like the closest she’s ever come to a swamp is taking a mud bath in a spa. Then to basically make a grueling experience even worse, the character Kyle and Teri suddenly fall in love in the climax of the film. The two barely make any contact throughout the entire film and suddenly they’re madly in love.
Their romance and chemistry was so utterly forced, extremely rushed, and very contrived. I didn’t buy it for a second, and it was obvious bad writing. The film only really goes downhill as the movie progresses with characters that do nothing, villains that are way over the top and really idiotic plot holes. There’s even a scene where the Sheriff stops in the middle of the road and pulls out his gun as someone runs around him. Why does the sheriff go chasing someone in the swamp with a drawn weapon if they’re not committing a crime, not bothering or harassing him, haven’t stolen anything, and haven’t committed a murder? If you’re watching, all the person is doing is running around his car giving him the spooks, and by then a logical person would have gotten in their car and driven off.
The rest of the characters are so utterly moronic with the deputy whose sole duty is following the sheriff around without any focus, there are the evil industrialists who antagonize the sheriff and are laughably over the top. The characters are so goofy and stupid you want them to die. If it hasn’t stopped becoming worse and worse, the monster, the only hope for this movie is again taken under the writer’s carnage being reduced from a monster to a walking plot device. There’s even views in to the eyes of the monster who sees through–that’s right, you guessed it– red vision! I haven’t seen a monster movie yet that doesn’t rip off “Predator”. And would it have been bad to learn about the monster?
It would have been nice to learn a little more about the man-thing and its back-story, we learn nothing about the man he used to be, because surprise surprise he used to be a man, we learn nothing about the spirits of the swamp, it’s never indicated whether this is a man-thing or just a monster, and he’s not given anything to do except literally watch people run around the swamps, and then kill them. In the comics, Man-Thing was like Frankenstein in “The Bride” where he was a mindless creature but could emote, think, and in some miniscule ways display logic, but here he’s reduced to “The Son of Frankenstein” being shrunken back in to a mindless walking monster with no brain for no reason whatsoever.
This has to be one of the most utterly ill-conceived movies I’ve ever seen. The original writer claims he’s a hardcore fan of the Man-thing character, but he shows no sign of it because he just reduces his “favorite” character in to just a mindless creature. Why de-evolve your favorite character? Throughout the entirety of the film, the movie plays out like the writer doesn’t even know how to write the monster, nor does he look like he knows how to write the monster in to the actual plot of the story. But, much like this movie, he’s just walking pile of mindless crap. While the special effects are really good, and the directing is decent, this just ends up becoming a really bad movie botching a really good concept with bad acting, bad writing, a hackneyed screenplay, really bad characterization, and clichés galore.