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March 21, 2011
 

Movie Mondays: The Return of Swamp Thing

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: The Return of Swamp Thing
Director:
Jim Wynorski
Writers: Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris (created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson)
Distributed By: Millimeter Films
Starring: Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Sarah Douglas, Dick Durock
Release Date: May 12th, 1989
MPAA: PG-13

Abby Arcane (Heather Locklear) goes back to the swamps of Louisiana to reconcile with her step-father Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan). But when Dr. Arcane has other plans, to use her DNA in a risky experiment to give him the fountain of youth, only his arch nemesis Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) can put an end to the mad experiments run by Dr. Arcane and Dr. Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas) and save Abby.

The Return of Swamp Thing takes a completely different turn from the original film. Gone is the old seventies/early eighties horror camp for a lighter, action horror style of late eighties camp. And from a glance, it seems to be far superior to the original film.

This is basically the tone for the entire film.

For starters, the film is fairly faithful to the comics. It took the basic premise of the Swamp Thing and the characters without completely changing it up. While there were quite a few 80s/90s non-superhero films that either downplayed or ignored their comic roots, this film completely acknowledges it. In fact, the opening credits have a bunch of artwork and panels taken straight from the comics. And combined with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou,” it really pumps you up for the film.

Cthulhu makes a guest appearance in Return of Swamp Thing.

Also, they put a lot more money into the production this time around. Swamp Thing now looks like he came right out of a comic book panel. The sets are big and atmospheric, from the smoke machine covered swamps to Dr. Arcane’s grandeur mansion. Plus, the fighting scenes are much better choreographed this time around. No more throwing baddies twenty feet into the air.

Swamp Thing may not be the most powerful green hero, but can The Hulk drive a car? Yeah, I didn't think so.

However, when you actually start watching the film, you’ll find it far worse than Swamp Thing.

The biggest flaw is that the writing completely blows here (and before you ask, the screenplay was done by Grant Morris not Morrison). It’s T.V.-movie bad writing, or the kind of mediocre one star reviewed film you sometimes find on Showtime/Cinemax. The plot itself isn’t too bad, but some of the plot holes are completely stupid (e.g. a guard releasing Abby Arcane from captivity), and the subplots are mostly pointless (e.g. the kids trying to get a photo of Swamp Thing) and add no value whatsoever to the film.

Before the internet.

But the plot is nothing compared to the dialog. The dialog is the worst part of the film. Perhaps if the dialog was better, I might have enjoyed the film. It’s just that the lines feel completely forced and are very cheesy (but not the “it’s so bad it’s good” kind of cheesy). You’ll be shaking your head at every tenth line delivered in the film.

And what makes it even worse, is the acting. It sounds like everyone is doing a morning (script) reading rather than an actual performance on the set. Abby Arcane can easily be considered one of Heather Locklear’s worst performances with probably no competition. But the cast members who don’t have any major parts in it are the worst. Dick Durock wasn’t bad as the Swamp Thing, but I preferred the gentle green giant persona in the first film than the knight in shining armor in this film.

Everyone in Louisiana is crazy. Or at least in this film.

There is one exception though, and that’s Louis Jourdan. Louis Jourdan as Dr. Anton Arcane is the man in this film; he keeps the hour and a half at least somewhat interesting. If he made Dr. Arcane the villain you loved to hate in the first film, then this time around he plays the villain you can’t help but be jealous of. He has a huge beautiful mansion, a bunch of hot babes working for him, and mad skills when it comes to playing the pipe organ. I know I’m green with envy.

The other problems with this film are minor compared to the script, dialog, and acting. However, the annoying children, inaccurate uzis, exploding cars, heroic tune whenever Swamp Thing charges in, and monster mashes definitely get tiring after a while.

Dr. Arcane hired her because of her abilities as a mercenary. It had nothing to do with her looks. Nope, not at all….

With all that being said, The Return of Swamp Thing isn’t on my list of worst comic book films of all time, but that doesn’t save it from being really bad. Not unwatchable bad, but definitely not good. Like Swamp Thing, however, it does have some charm to its camp. However, if we’re talking about “so bad it’s good” 80s films, I’d rather watch Friday the 13th Part III or Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Or…the first film.

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Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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