When I was younger I totally bought that our hero here was in fact a thing from the swamps. (And by “younger” I mean “at least up through college.”) Rewatching this, however, it was harder for me to suspend my disbelief because it’s so clear that he’s not so much a Swamp Thing as he is a guy in a spray painted wet suit with a minimal amount of swamp-themed shit like seaweed tacked on. They did go to the effort of giving him a cool nose, but from the neck down he’s pretty bare bones.
But there’s something pleasant about that cheapness, too, because it telegraphs the low stakes of the plot. There was a lot of talk last summer about apocalypse fatigue, of how the ability to destroy entire cities in a movie has led to an endless parade of movies which destroy everything. When you see a guy in what is clearly a wet suit you know that the scale of the problem is going to be a bit more manageable.
The plot of this movie pits Swamp Thing against a crazy businessman and a few of his uzi-toting henchmen who want to take his plant growth formula and use it for evil. At one point the uzis get put down and Mr. Thing gets into a sword fight with a mutant pig-man thing. Now, I’m not saying that I could manage to do well in a sword fight, much less a sword fight with a mutant pig-man thing, but I could manage that a lot easier than I could saving the whole world from aliens.
Swamp Thing is such a relic, not just of a time before CGI changed how movies were made, but of a time when comic book movies could be about movies more than comic books. This is basically a classic creature feature as much as it is a superhero movie and it has the same pleasures and limitations that you would expect from a creature feature. But honestly that’s a nice break from comic book movies that are heavy on the comic book, which means a big emphasis on mythology that takes itself too seriously and a lot of scenes which do nothing but establish continuity between others films, adding a lot of weight to the story that the plots generally can’t afford to take on. I don’t always need mythic and realistic-looking; sometimes I just need a rubber-suit fighting a rubber-suit.