Hasitha Fernando reviews the first episode of Swamp Thing…
Swamp Thing follows the story of Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed), a doctor at the CDC who is called on to investigate a possible swamp borne disease outbreak in her hometown of Marais, Louisiana. While working the case she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Alec Holland (Andy Bean) a do-gooder scientist conducting research in the nearby bayou. Together they stumble upon a sinister plot involving the dark swampland of Marais, and the terrifying secrets it holds within…
Swamp Thing made its comic book debut in July 1971, within a standalone horror story belonging to the House of Secrets anthology series, published by DC Comics. Created by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, the character found its greatest popularity in the 70’s and early 90’s with acclaimed writers such as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison contributing extensively to its ever-growing mythos. Apart from the print medium, the property also gained a decent cult-following for its two movies and TV series which aired in the early 90’s. Now you can call me sentimental, but boy was I a fan of this Swamp Thing TV series or what! There was something that drew me to this darkly campy over-the-top affair which was equal parts laughable, loveable and terrifying all at the same time. Naturally I was super stoked to see this character being revamped for the modern audience by the DC streaming service. The heavy involvement of Conjuring alums James Wan and writer Gary Dauberman only served to reinforce my faith upon this new adaptation. So, now we come to the question; does this latest take on the character deliver? And the resounding response is- ‘HELL YES!’.
The pilot episode kicks off with a darkly tragic and appropriately ominous Hans Zimmer-esque opening theme courtesy of Brian Tyler (Iron Man 3) which perfectly captures the tone of the TV series. Following this rather sepulchral introduction the scene then shifts to a group of hired thugs who are up to no good, in the middle of the bayou. What happens next seems like something straight out of a Stephen King horror novel as the hapless souls are torn limb from limb in gruesome fashion by the local plant life. We are then introduced to CDC doctor Abby Arcane, who’s less than pleased to be back in Marais to investigate a possible virus originating from the swampland. She eventually saddles up with disgraced scientist Alec Holland, who believes that a mysterious accelerated mutagen tied with his research is the true culprit of this outbreak. However, Alec is eventually shot and killed by an unknown assailant while trying to test this theory out in a secluded aspect of the bayou. He succumbs to his grievous injuries and is dragged away by the surrounding swamp flora thus completing his transformation into…the Swamp Thing.
I cannot praise showrunners Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden enough for the role they played in ensuring that this adaptation stayed true to the tone of the source material. From the get go the dark gothic horror elements take a center stage, sucking the viewer into its phantasmagoric world. Undoubtedly, maestro James Wan too contributed heavily by bringing in his horror sensibilities to the production. Andy Bean gives a very restrained performance but proves to be an instantly likeable character. So much so, that his inevitable metamorphosis to the titular character becomes quite a devastating ordeal to sit through. Crystal Reed turns out a decent performance as the female lead. It turns out her reluctance in coming back to Marais stems from a tragic past incident that took place in her life. Throughout the episode we are briefly introduced to the key players in the series, with the main stand out being Will Patton (Armageddon) as the duplicitous businessman Avery Sunderland. Although the reasons for Sunderland hiring Alec Holland in the first place aren’t disclosed in the episode, its fairly obvious that it wasn’t made with an altruistic purpose in mind. Props to the makeup department for the unstinted efforts they put in, to bringing this world to life. These are the true unsung heroes who tirelessly work behind the scenes to create the magic we witness onscreen. But no good production is complete without a talented director at the helm and Len Wiseman (Underworld) truly deserves praise for steering this pilot episode with an assured hand.
All things considered I must say that the fledgling DC streaming service is on a roll here. First Titans, then Doom Patrol and now this! As a fan of the comic book character I’m absolutely overjoyed with what they’ve done with the source material. It’s quite clear the cast and crew involved with the production have poured their heart and souls into bringing this iteration to life. This truly is ‘the’ definitive Swamp Thing and I cannot wait to see what surprises lies in store for us in the swamplands of Marais, Louisiana.