Skip to main content

"Man-Thing": A Forgotten Marvel Movie

I have a weakness for cheesy, "so bad they're good" low-budget horror, sci-fi, or action movies. I watch' em so you don't have to!

Man-Thing, 2005

Man-Thing, 2005

Man-Thing (2005)

Director: Brett Leonard

Long-time comic book nerds might remember the Man-Thing from his Marvel Comics series of the '70s and '80s. However, any resemblance between the film version of Man-Thing and the comic series is coincidental at best. Even though it may not score particularly high at being faithful to Manny's four-color source material, Man-Thing still delivered the gooey goods as a straight-up creature feature.


Square-jawed Sheriff Kyle Williams (Matthew Le Nevez) comes to the sleepy village of Bywater, Louisiana to take over the town's top-cop position, and quickly learns that his new home has been plagued by an unusually large number of missing persons cases—one of which involves his predecessor—in and around the local swamps.

Williams also gets caught in the midst of an ongoing battle between a local Native American tribe and the shifty representatives of an oil company that has been drilling deep in the heart of the tribe's sacred swamplands. The roughneck in charge of the drilling operations (Pat Thompson) claims that the company legally purchased the land from tribal elder Ted Sallis, who then skipped town with the money. As Sheriff Williams struggles to balance his investigation of the disappearances and the fight between the tribe and the oil goons, he begins to understand that the events may be related.

It turns out that rather than purchasing the tribe's land nice 'n' legally, the corporation simply murdered tribal rep Sallis and then plunked their gigantic drilling platform smack in the middle of the "Dark Water" ... a mysterious part of the swamp where the tribe believes mystical things happen. These corporate shenanigans have now awakened the swamp's guardian spirit, a giant, slimy humanoid/plant hybrid creature known as the Man-Thing—who avenges these attacks on his territory by tearing any and all intruders limb from limb.

As bodies continue to pile up, Sheriff Williams and the plucky local schoolteacher/convenient love interest (Rachael Taylor) have to make the trek to the Dark Water themselves, where all they have to do is survive a showdown between the oil hooligans and the Man-Thing. Just another day in the life of a Southern sheriff, right?

Man-Thing vs. Swamp Thing

From a technical perspective, there's nothing terribly wrong with Man-Thing, in fact I found it to be a pretty slick (if formulaic) piece of work that is better than its IMDb rating of 4.1 out of 10 would have you believe.

Of course, this movie begs the inevitable comparisons with Swamp Thing from Marvel's rival DC Comics (which has also spawned two feature films and a TV series), but while Swamp Thing was an intelligent, heroic character, Man-Thing is your basic mindless killing machine. This actually differs greatly from his comic-book roots, where Man-Thing was still mindless but also a gentle, almost benevolent creature... unless, of course, he was directly provoked.

Cool Visuals & Fun Gory Sequences

Director Brett Leonard is best known for flicks that are short on logic but long on eye candy, like The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity, and Man-Thing doesn't disappoint in that regard. Leonard's knack for cool visuals shines through in the film's dark, creepy swampland settings, awash in fog and mysterious green glow.

Unfortunately, we don't get to see much of the Man-Thing creature till the last fifteen or 20 minutes of the film. He may not look much like the comic book version but he's certainly a nasty customer (despite the fact that he appears to be rendered mostly in CGI).

Man-Thing's performances are about as good as you'd expect, though it must be noted that the film was shot in Australia with an all-local cast, so when a character occasionally "loses" his or her Louisiana accent and lapses into Aussie-speak (actress Rachael Taylor is most guilty of this), it causes some unintentional humor.

Amongst the monstrous goings-on, there are plenty of decent gory bits, some cool magical Native American mumbo-jumbo, a gratuitous naked girl, and an all-around atmosphere of creepiness and dread, all of which should be enough to keep B-grade horror fans entertained.

Easter Eggs

As an added Geek Note, several characters in this film are named after people who worked on the Man-Thing comic books back in the day: writer/creator Steve Gerber and artists Val Mayerik and Mike Ploog. It's a nice nod to Man-Thing's four-color origins that only aging nerds like me are likely to notice.

Surprisingly, the filmmakers resisted the urge to make a cheap joke using the ironic title of the monster's 1970s comic book series—"Giant Size Man-Thing," which means they have way more self control than I do.

Summin' It Up...

When I first came across Man-Thing in a store several years ago I didn't even know that the character had been adapted into a film. I wondered how I'd missed it till I flipped the DVD over and saw the Lionsgate Films logo on the back, then I smirked and murmured, "Ahhh, poor Manny. Direct to Video."

Indeed, despite its Marvel Comics pedigree and the fact that comic book movies continue to be a hot property, Manny's film didn't get nearly as much love as the mega-budgeted releases starring some of his fellow House of Ideas stalwarts like Spider-Man, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four.

Instead, Man-Thing shambled through several unsuccessful test screenings and an aborted theatrical release before being consigned to the ultimate fate—premiering on the SyFy Channel (oh, the humanity!) before going quietly to DVD...where it will now forever lurk in the Bargain Bin.

© 2011 Keith Abt


Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 02, 2014:

I get the feeling that Marvel wasn't exactly proud of the final product so they did their best to sweep it under the rug... haha

Thomas Bensen from Wisconsin on October 02, 2014:

Never seen the movie actually I dont remember even hearing about it but I remember seeing the comic book.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 18, 2013:

Hi NateB11 - I love monster flicks, I love cheap DVDs and I love comic books so this movie hit all the sweet spots!!

Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on March 18, 2013:

I grew up reading lots of comic books and I can vaguely remember Man-Thing. Sounds like an entertaining movie. And $3.99 is a bargain for a DVD. Sounds like it's got the elements of true B-movie comic book entertainment.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 07, 2011:

Cool, hope you dig'em, Skeelo.

Skeelo from Scotland on October 06, 2011:

Very nice review. I'm going to look into the movie and the comic.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 06, 2011:

Yeah, they do...but I still can't resist a SyFy "original," once in a while. They're like junk food for the brain. Haha.

Rob from Oviedo, FL on October 06, 2011:

That's true, Freddie. Syfy make the worst movies ever!

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 05, 2011:

Thanx Rob. You gotta give it this much at least: it was better than the usual SyFy Channel movie offering, wasn't it? :)

Rob from Oviedo, FL on October 05, 2011:

I saw the "Man-Thing" film on the sy-fy channel one night.Can't say I was impressed. I was pretty surprised that the Man Thing was so violent and menacing in this. I prefer the comic version.

Nice review.


Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 05, 2011:

Manny, I would love to have the 1990 "FF" movie but unfortunately it's never been officially released. It was a hot commodity on the bootleg circuit for years, as you mentioned, but I've never gotten hold of a copy. Maybe one of these days...

manny on October 05, 2011:

FF, one Marvel movie I wish they would release on DVD, would be the 1980's Fanstatic Four movie made by those C-movie masters at Canon.I have seen clips of it on youtube and its so horrible, but funny, I couldn't help to watch it, I used to see bootleg copies of this movie on VHS but never picked one up, if you have that horrid little movie I hope you consider reviewing it.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 04, 2011:

@ Manny - I'd say that in the hierarchy of Marvel movies, "Man-Thing" ranks above misfires like "Ghost Rider," the 1990 "Captain America" (ugh) and the Dolph Lundgren "Punisher" flick,but obviously it's nowhere near as good as the X-Men, Spidey or even the Fantastic Four flicks. It's just B-Grade fun.

Manny on October 04, 2011:

I have this DVD at home and bought because I am such a comic book nerd and remember reading a few Marvel team Ups and one or two issues of his short lived series, I tired watching it once but did not make all the way thru, I am going to give another shot over the weekend, God knows it has to be better then Ghost Rider!!!

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 04, 2011:

Thank you, manthy. If you dig creature features, you can do a lot worse than this one, that's for sure.

Mark from Alabama,USA on October 04, 2011:

Look like an awesome movie to me & I love to buy stuff at a bargain ;0)You name is very unique,,,it makes you think it literally cam from a bargain bin!

Voted up and awesome-cool hub