SWAMP THING (TV Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

TV Review, horror, Drama, comic book, Superhero, DC Universe, DC comics, Swamp Thing, Derek Mears, Crystal Reed, Alec Bean

Synopsis: Something unnatural is happening in the swamps outside Marais, Louisiana. When a mysterious illness strikes the town, CDC investigator (and former Marais native) Abby Arcane is sent to investigate. At the hospital, she encounters biologist Alec Holland who believes the bizarre illness might be connected to his scientific work in the swamp for powerful businessman Avery Sunderland. When Alec goes missing after investigating the unnatural experiments deep in the swamp, something else rises in his place: Swamp Thing, a mysterious creature born of the depths of the swamp’s mystical and terrifying secrets. With nature wildly out of balance and coming for the people of Marais, in the end, it may take some Thing from the swamp to save it.

TV Review, horror, Drama, comic book, Superhero, DC Universe, DC comics, Swamp Thing, Derek Mears, Crystal Reed, Alec Bean

Review: DC Universe was always a risky gamble for a streaming service. They made the smart move and created a product that included more than just live action series which will keep dedicated DC fans satiated, but it is the adaptations of comic books like Titans, Doom Patrol and now Swamp Thing that need to be good to bring in viewers. While Titans and Doom Patrol followed a similar tone, format, and style as the more accessible DC shows on The CW, Swamp Thing looks to be aiming for a much darker and mature audience. Billed as a horror series and touting the involvement of James Wan (who serves as an executive producer) and director Len Wiseman (who helmed the pilot and serves as executive producer), Swamp Thing is far and away the closest visual adaptation to the comic book source material but still manages to make a fatal flaw that undermines the story from being one worth investing in.

When you tune in for a series called Swamp Thing, you are probably expecting that the titular creature would be front and center. Well, this series manages to get through an entire pilot episode with less than two minutes worth of actual Swamp Thing. Sure, there are a lot of things and a lot of swamps, but seeing the moss and vine covered monster is minimal. Now, it may not be fair to judge an entire series based on a limited number of episodes (two episodes were made available for review of a ten episode season), but there is enough here to gauge whether you would want to spend two and a half months of your time on a show if the payoff is not worth it. That being said, there are some elements of Swamp Thing that gave me pause, and dare I say hope, that this could end up being better than what I have seen so far.

First off, while Alec Holland (IT: CHAPTER TWO's Andy Bean) has a significant role in the first episode, this show is built around Abby Arcane (Gotham's Crystal Reed), a CDC doctor who returns to her small Louisiana hometown when a mysterious epidemic threatens the locals. Why and how she was selected out of hundreds of viable candidates is not explained, but you and I both know there is going to be a reason. Suspending that question, we find Abby returning after a long time away and there is drama in her wake. I won't spoil it here, but the question remains why are we spending so much time during a pilot episode with a character other than Swamp Thing? Comic book fans will obviously know that Abby Arcane is a major part of the Alec Holland/Swamp Thing mythos, but setting up the series this way is akin to telling the story of The Incredible Hulk from the perspective of Betty Ross. Sure, it can work, but is it really necessary? Yes, there is more Swamp Thing in the second episode, but it is still not nearly enough.

There is a full cast of faces, both new and familiar, and some are playing heroes and villains from DC lore. While you will recognize faces like Leonardo Nam (Westworld), Will Patton (ARMAGEDDON), Virginia Madsen (CANDYMAN), and Jennifer Beals (FLASHDANCE), they are mostly playing minor or original characters to the series. Others play DC characters like Ian Ziering as Blue Devil, Kevin Durand as The Floronic Man, Henderson Wade as Matt Cable, and Jeryl Prescott as Madame Xanadu. Bringing this roster together instantly makes this the most comics accurate take on Swamp Thing we have seen in live action, but it still doesn't feel like it all clicks. There just seems to be so much focus on Abby that it undermines what the series is really supposed to be about.

TV Review, horror, Drama, comic book, Superhero, DC Universe, DC comics, Swamp Thing, Derek Mears, Crystal Reed, Alec Bean

Andy Bean is decent as Alec Holland and Derek Mears (FRIDAY THE 13TH) plays an even more imposing monster than Dick Durock did in the films and previous TV series, but taking a supporting role gives this show a similar feel to the Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton series Beauty and the Beast. What helps save Swamp Thing is the horrific monster design which uses some of the best practical effects I have seen since John Carpenter's THE THING. In fact, some of these swamp monstrosities look like they could have been adapted from the seminal film's FX team. It helps sell the horror side of the show, but in the end the biggest problem this adaptation has is that it still feels like it is trying too hard with the profanity sometimes. If the producers and writers are reading this, please note that just because you aren't on network channels doesn't mean you need to force in profanity to sound cool or edgy.

If Swamp Thing were airing on any traditional network or cable channel, I would say it is worth checking out if you are a fan of the character and the comics. Even if it were on a streamer like Hulu or Netflix, I would probably be a little more willing to give it a full season shot. But, unless you already subscribe to DC Universe, this is far from enough of a reason to shell out for a niche product. Swamp Thing is generic and fine and doesn't have enough narratively to hook you from the outset even if the inventive monster effects are far better than most TV budgets can afford. It is also nice to see some darker superheroes getting a turn in the limelight. While seeing talent the caliber of Will Patton chewing scenery alongside young, fresher faces is certainly giving me faith that this show could improve, there just was not enough there in the first episodes to sway me.

Swamp Thing premieres May 31st on DC Universe.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.