If we’re going talk about the new Swamp Thing live-actio series, premiering this fall on the CW, we’re going to have to talk about Alan Moore first. In 1983, then-editor at DC, Len Wein, one of the creators of Swamp Thing, took a risk and brought over Moore from the UK. Moore, a rising star in the UK had been heading acclaim for his work on 2000AD and his book, V for Vendetta. Moore would be given the writing duties on issue #20 of Swamp Thing and took a title that was doing terrible in sales and popularity and killed Swamp Thing by the end of the issues.
What Moore was doing was reinventing the character. Across Moore’s first run with the character, Swamp Thing would be transformed into a tragic character that, despite the fact he’s basically a plant, Swamp Thing’s pain, confusion, and trauma to his own identity were so well thought out and so well handled by Moore, it would eventually inspire characters and stories in both DC and Marvel countless times since Moore’s run.
Which brings out the biggest issue with the new series, Swamp Thing isn’t the star of his own tv series.
Swamp Thing revolves around Abby Arcane, a CDC doctor whose tasked with returning to her home, Marais, Louisiana to investigate a deadly swamp-borne virus. There, she develops a bond with disgraced scientist Alec Holland. After Holland tragically dies, Abby will discover the mysteries of the swamp and that Holland may not be dead after all when a mysterious creature claims to be him.
Executive producer, James Wan along with the showrunners, Netflix Daredevil producer, Mark Verheiden, and Annabelle universe producer, Gary Dauberman choose to “Beauty and the Beast” the show and set Abby Arcane as the principle character of Swamp Thing’s show. And that presents a few problems in the later episodes of the first season, the emotional impact and horror over the biggest revelations Moore gave Swamp Thing when he reinvented them.
The show starts off with a very clear narrative, an adaptation of Moore’s first run with the character, and it progressively gets more cluttered as the story brings in more and more characters. Which is the problem when Moore takes his time and allows you to understand who Swamp Thing is. The show does have a tempo, while exciting and riveting at times, isn’t built on character development. And that brings me to the most annoying thing about this series. It’s absolutely fantastic.
With a show running team with the collective credits that included, Netflix’s Daredevil, Ash vs the Evil Dead, Battlestar Galactica, all the Annabelle movies, It: Chapter 2, Heroes, and Smallville, Verheiden, and Dauberman, and James Wan’s producer eye, while not being completely authentic to what Moore was doing with Swamp thing, they have created a love letter to Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing is a dark and sweeping gothic horror based in a southern Louisiana swamp. Utilizing strong and violent visuals, massive sets, massive sweeping wide shots, and the ever classic shadows. They truly do bring to life the world in the Swamp Thing comics and, despite the aforementioned issues with cluttered plots. with a filmmaking team like this and a cast as good as they have, they create a season arc that is satisfying as much as it is a surprise in how they handled the biggest reasoning Moore had in reinventing the character.
Speaking of reinventing the character, the film crew on this series has created some extraordinary sets, including a massive enclosed swamp, a small southern town that feels and looks like it’s been there for decades, and also, Swamp Thing himself. While obviously helped by CGI in certain situations, 98% of the time, Swamp Thing is a massive prosthetic suit. And it’s Swamp Thing. He looks alive, he looks like a plant, it’s some incredible work by a lot of talented people.
Most notably would be the actor in the suit, Derek Mears. Derek Mears is predominately a creature actor who really manages to give a ton of rubber and make up actual life. He was able to bring out the intelligence and thoughtfulness of Alec Holland while in the Swamp Thing suit as much as his pain and PTSD to his change. After the fact, I genuinely wish they had truly let Mears shine and built the show as Swamp Thing’s show with the tempo and storytelling direct from Moore’s work.
Crystal Reed is given a heavy amount as the series lead but more than proves she’s able to carry it. The show creates an Abby Arcane that feels very much the character and radiates a strength that’s every bit equal to Swamp Thing. She never feels like a damsel in distress and never once has that moment.
In a show that’s based around a living plant, the fact that the cast includes Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Jennifer Beals, and Kevin Durand speaks to the caliber of the show. This cast knocks it out of the park every episode.
I’ve spoken time and time again about the problems this show has had and with good reason. Swamp Thing debuted on DC’s digital platform, DC Universe, intended to be the first of the original content meant to debut on the platform. However, a month before it’s debut last year, it was announced the series order was cut from 13 episodes to 10 due to creative differences between WarnerMedia and the production company. This especially rings true with the final half-hour in episode 10. Much of it feels forced but it stills works and functions as the season finale they were forced to go with.
And on top of those problems, the show was canceled by Warner Media after the 1st episode aired citing budget cuts forced by tax policy changes in North Carolina where the show was shot.
Whereas the show is vastly different from the shows you find on the CW, tone, gore, and violence, it does represent an opportunity. Swamp Thing, as it is, is well deserved Four out of Five stars. And while the CW premier is the networking needing new content for the new season in a time when it can’t shoot new content, there is a chance, a very small chance, that Swamp Thing could be revived according to the rumors on the blogs.
or that because this series, even with its problems, Swamp Thing is a gripping ride that you shouldn’t miss. Hopefully, the show will be able to put down some roots with CW and be allowed to grow and learn from the first season. I’d be all for it.