Swamp Thing: Plot as Muddy as the Swamp

I’ve always been fascinated with the Swamp Thing story. For DC, it is far different from their other comic lines and is far more horror than it is anything else. There have been films in the past that were decent but this new series interested me because I was hoping they could do a good job of portraying the more unusual elements of the comic book. Catching up with the rest of the world, we watched the DC show. While there are the bones of an interesting story, most of it is buried in a muddy plot with too many plot elements, a lack of cohesion, and a cliffhanger ending that doesn’t resolve half of those threads.

Created by Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden for DC Universe and based on the DC Comics character of the same name, Derek Mears portrays the eponymous Swamp Thing, a plant-elemental creature who fights malevolent forces around a Louisiana swamp with the help of medical doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed). Abby is also attempting to cure a virus afflicting her hometown but also dealing with conflicts from her past, including the death of her best friend Shawna whose mother, Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen) wants Abby to leave. She and her husband, Avery (Will Patton) are attempting to develop the swamp including bringing in a biogeneticist to study it, Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand). There are others assisting Abby, including Alex Holland (Andy Bean), a former biologist for Avery and an old friend, a reporter, Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten). Abby seeks to find out the connection between Swamp Thing and the virus and discover a way to help Swamp Thing in the process.

Part of the story is incredibly intriguing. There are elements that seem like they’ve given great thought to, the development of the swamp, the influence of the outside on what is happening to the swamp and how that all creates the virus impacting the town. The blend of science within the story should make it more interesting but it is not developed enough and parts of that aspect don’t quite work. The mystical elements are better woven and if the plot had focused on those, it would have gone better. The show attempts to combine the science aspects with the magic but is not successful.

One of the other elements that we liked is a small homage to the 1982 movie. These touches were appreciated, including having Adrienne Barbeau as assistant director of the CDC who Abby works for. Her inclusion really added to the homage to that previous movie.

In addition, the film was shot on location in North Carolina. Having that shot in a rural area, having it be shot on location, added to the realism of the swamp and the plantlife. With that aspect, the shots were incredibly realistic and added to the climate of the show.

Like I mentioned, though, it is the plot that dragged the film down, though. Within the first couple episodes, we have financial scheming, Abby’s backstory with her dead friend, Swamp Thing, the virus, a fortune teller dealing with magic, a stuntman who has magic powers, and the virus ravaging the town. There is a lot going on and while the show builds, not many of the threads are resolved. Instead, it is built up to reach a conclusion but drops that conclusion ending on a cliffhanger with the creation of one of Swamp Thing’s adversaries. There is too much happening and too little resolution. In addition, all the different threads drain the story of all horror aspects and left me not feeling the spooky at all.

The actors do their best with the material but there are points where it could have delved into campy and again the action is too serious. If it had been more campy, it might have been more fun but as it was, it just left us disappointed. Not in the actors but in the writing. There are some scenes between the actors that might have been excellent but because there were so many plot elements, you couldn’t really focus on the acting.

If you’re interested in checking it out for the acting and the touches from the 1982 film, we were pleased with those aspects. There are moments that add in a touch of campy humor with some truly Byzantine intrigue going on in this small town but overall, I would have appreciated less complexity and more focus, with a solid resolution on at least one plot element.

Rating: 2 out of 5 swamp creatures.

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