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Swamp Thing: The Complete Series (2019)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/11/2020

All Ratings out of

Series: 1/2



Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/10/2020

My favorite line from Jurassic Park is when Dr. Ian Malcolm says something to the effect of “Are there going to be dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour?”, much to the chagrin of John Hammond.  This has become my go-to comment when an event doesn’t live up to its promise.  This sentiment also applies to many movies, most notably monster movies.  So often, a monster is featured in the title or in the ads, but often doesn’t make an appearance until the film’s finale.  (A time where we are often disappointed to see that the “monster” is just a guy in a suit.)  Audiences want to feel as if they are getting their money’s worth and if we came to see a monster, then we should see a monster.  It’s bad enough when a creature is a bit shy in a 90-minute movie, but what if this occurs in a 10-episode television series?  That’s exactly the case with Swamp Thing.

Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) of the CDC returns to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a mysterious illness which is plaguing the town.  Along with her colleague, Dr. Harlan Edwards (Leonardo Nam), Abby is determined to do her work and not get distracted by the town.  But, she soon finds herself in the grip of Marais, as she reunites with her old friend Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) and runs into town patriarch Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) and his wife, Maria (Virginia Madsen), whose deceased daughter had once been Abby’s best friend.  Abby also meets an outsider named Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who was hired by Sunderland to research changes in the swamp which is the lifeblood of the town.  Intrigued by the disease, Holland quickly convinces Abby that he can be of help and the two begin to work together.  However, when Holland gets too close to a secret operation in the swamp, he is murdered.  His body is overtaken by the strange plants which grow there and he emerges as the creature known as Swamp Thing.  Given Holland’s fate, Abby becomes even more determined to find the secret of the swamp.

Swamp Thing was broadcast on the DC Universe streaming service, along with the likes of Doom Patrol.  Now, that program, with its bizarre stories, strange imagery, and language, belongs on a streaming platform.  And while Swamp Thing may have some violence and profanity, it feels much more akin to the DC shows which air on the CW, like The Flash and Supergirl.  In fact, the show also has a lot in common with CW programs like Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars.  For, as this is supposed to be a comic book inspired show with a slant towards horror, what we really get is much more of a soap opera.  While the show is entitled Swamp Thing, this is truly the Abby Arcane show, as we watch her deal with her return to Marais and the revelations of the town’s dark secrets.  From her relationship with Alec Holland to the secret behind the death of Avery and Marie’s daughter to Liz’s investigation into the shady dealings in the swamp, Abby actually shirks her duties as a doctor to play detective around town.  We also get dramatic subplots involving Sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals) and her son Deputy Matt Cable (Henderson Wade), who still has a childhood crush on Abby.  We also have mysterious video store owner Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering) and the even more mysterious tarot card reading Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott).  All of these characters interact and stab each other in the back in a manner which would at home in any prime- time drama.

So, let’s go back to that opening paragraph and say, “Is there going to be any Swamp Thing in your Swamp Thing show?”  I wasn’t surprised when the titular creature didn’t appear until the last few moments of the pilot, but I was certainly shocked when he (it?) didn’t show up all that often over the course of the series.  Yes, Swamp Thing appears in each episode, but he definitely becomes a supporting character, and this seems to happen for two reasons.  First, as stated above, the show focuses much more on Abby and Swamp Thing is only brought in when needed.  Secondly, Swamp Thing never leaves the swamp here, so unless the scene is occurring in the swamp, Swamp Thing isn’t in it.  If you were hoping to see a true Swamp Thing show, you will be sorely disappointed by this.

As someone who has always been intrigued by the Swamp Thing character, I was intrigued by this show and was surprised to hear that it had been cancelled after just one season.  Having now seen it, I completely understand why.  The show will be a huge letdown for those wanting to see Swamp Thing in a show.  The soap opera aspects seem tailored made for fans of CW shows, but Swamp Thing contains just enough violence and monster action to make it fall outside of that demographic.  All of this is truly a shame, as the Swamp Thing design looks very good.  And one would think that a show which has the likes of James Wan, Len Wiseman, It and Annabelle writer Gary Dauberman, and veteran comic book scribe Mark Verheiden behind it would have been better.  I like that DC Universe is taking a chance on somewhat obscure characters and Swamp Thing certainly needed a change from the feature films of the 80s, but this series is a misfire that deserves to sink into the mud.

Swamp Thing: The Complete Series clearly didn’t know that it was being cancelled on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  The 10-episodes are presented on two Discs here.  The show has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials.  This is a dark show, but the action is always visible and the colors look good, most notably the omnipresent greens.  The level of detail is good, as we can see each leaf on Swamp Thing, and the depth works well, most notably in the swamp shots.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.4 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The gunshots and explosions deliver nice subwoofer effects.  The scenes in the swamp bring home impressive surround sound and stereo effects, which constantly highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The Swamp Thing: The Complete Series contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2020 by Mike Long