In 2005 a film adaptation of the comic book character Man-Thing was released by Lions Gate Films. And I can say with full confidence that of all the films released in 2005 – this was definitely one of them. I don’t know why you’d want to but you could watch the movie version I guess.

I had to watch this “adaptation” (several times actually) in order to do a bonus episode for The Nexus of All Realities, a podcast I do about the character of Man-Thing. You might, if you’re smart, not want to watch this movie because it’s not very good. I suggest just listening to the podcast episode instead. There you will find a complete breakdown of the film – the plot, the behind-the-scenes drama, and comic book connections – all done in my oh-so-entertaining style.

But okay if you don’t listen to the episode I will post a brief synopsis here, but note I do go into much more detail on the episode (can you tell I’m trying to get you to listen to the episode?):

In 2000 Marvel partnered up with Artisan entertainment to produce 15 movies based on various characters. These included among others: Iron Fist, Black Widow, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and obviously Man-Thing. Many obviously didn’t see that light of day. Strangely Man-Thig was one of the few that did. Now, these films were evidently going to include some theatrical releases (like the Punisher) but it seems most were meant to be direct to DVD fare – which is what Man-Thing should have been. But in 2004 Lionsgate merged with Artisan and in an attempt to cash in on the success of the rising popularity of comic book movies, it was given a theatrical release. Well…not in the US or Canada. You see, test audiences were apparently underwhelmed and many walked out. So in North America Man-Thing was released as a “Sci-Fi Original” TV movie on the Sci-Fi Channel back when the Sci-Fi Channel was still spelled correctly.

Suffice it to say it was…not well received. But as this was a just TV movie shown on a second-tier cable channel no one really noticed. I did. But then I have a weird fixation on swamp monsters so I think I was one of the few.

The film itself was made in Australia, had a ridiculously low budget, and had very little oversight. The producer Avi Arad – and if you don’t know who he is Avi Arad has pretty much had a hand in everything comic book-related coming to the screen in the late 90s and 2000s. That’s a bit of an exaggeration – but not by much. He kinda trashed the film saying quote:

“The one hiccup we had was the one project we didn’t micromanage. We were not going to the Outback, there was so much going on. We will never do that again. We should never have trusted anybody that far away without our supervision. Thankfully it was a small movie and not a disaster. If we were there and on top of it, it would have been a amazing movie. I look at the {horror} genre, and I think ‘Sh–, I can’t believe this’. We’ve learned our lesson.”

First off it’s not a faithful adaptation of Man-Thing from the comics. In that sense the movie is a failure for sure…but let’s take this on its own as a standalone horror flick. I want to remove it from its Marvel trappings and look at it as what it is – a low-budget horror movie.

I actually love low-budget horror movies. Not in a postmodern, ironic sort of way but I a genuine “golly I really like this” sort of way. Even so – this is a difficult movie to love. Or even like in a platonic way.

It stars Matthew Le Nevez as Sheriff Kyle Williams (if you don’t know Matthew Le Nevez just picture a low budget David Duchovny) and Rachael Taylor as Teri Richards (comic book fans might know her as Trish Walker in Jessica Jones) and as leads, they are not bad. (Although Rachael Taylor’s accent does fade in and out in varying degrees of strength and consistency.) But the less said about accents in this movie is for the best – just let it be known they’re from the South y’all.

But you can see they are trying so hard to make this stuff work. But there is just not a lot to work with. Every character is a trope or a cliché. Now tropes and clichés are fine – really – they are shorthand to get us up to speed quickly and we can get to know who and what a person is right away without much exposition. But the thing is once you introduce those tropes and clichés – do something with them! They are shorthand not the entirety of the character’s personality.

As for Man-Thing himself. – forgetting the fact that Man-Thing isn’t really Man-Thing – as a generic horror monster he’s really not bad. Gloopy vegetation, glowing red eyes, tree-like tentacles – as a movie monster he’s really okay. The design is really quite good – sure it’s cheap but in the great grand scheme of things he’s an effective monster.

The movie is directed by Bret Leonard the same fella who did Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity. Those films are regarded as a cult – well not classics, but they have a following. So he’s not a complete unknown. And there is a certain level of competence here. You can tell that he is attempting to be stylish – that at least a minimal effort is being put in with camera angles and imagery. For instance, the scene transitions are quick cuts of random pictures and goopy things – this does add something dynamic to the proceedings but there is just something missing from it.

If you’ve ever seen the show Angel – the Buffy spinoff – it employed sort of the same thing. Between scenes, there would be quick cuts of characters and scenery. But in Angel these weren’t random – everything shown was relevant to the episode – either thing happening between the scenes or flashes to upcoming events, that sort of thing. In Man-Thing there is no relevancy – it is just images that have a vague creepiness to them.  And that kinda sums up what is going on here in general – it seems as if the movie wants to do something different or at least take familiar tropes and play with them in a unique way – but in the end, it just leans hard into those tropes and they just sit there. Stereotypes, not characters. Locations, not places. There is no heart to this film.

In the final analysis for 2005’s Man-Thing is simply this. It is not a good movie. But it is interesting as an artifact of a time before the explosion of comic books and superhero movies into pop culture. A time when anything was being tried to capture that sweet, sweet nerd demographic, and various genres and characters both mainstream and obscure were thrown at the wall. Literally, because movies are actually thrown on a wall – that’s how we watch them. It is just a reminder of what a) should not be done when adapting a character to the screen and b) hopefully shows filmmakers what can be done with a creature like Man-Thing.

But if you for some reason want to buy the movie so you can own it for yourself you can do so at the link below! Also, listen to the episode.