This film version of Man-Thing cruises in on the back of the successes of various Marvel Comics adaptations on screen in recent years with the likes of Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003), The Punisher (2004), Elektra (2005), Fantastic Four (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), Iron Man (2008), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015), Deadpool (2016), Doctor Strange (2016) and various sequels to most of these, as well as the tv series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 ), Daredevil (2015 ), Agent Carter (2015-6), Jessica Jones (2015 ), Luke Cage (2016 ), Iron Fist (2017 ) and The Defenders (2017 ). There are all the requisite in-references to Marvel Comics throughout no cameo from Stan Lee this time but there is a shed owner named after Marvel artist Mike Ploog, a character named after Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber, while director Brett Leonard himself plays a character named after Man-Thing artist Val Mayerik.
Brett Leonard was one of the first directors to climb aboard the CGI wave with the hit The Lawnmower Man (1992) and he then went onto make other films like Hideaway (1995) and Virtuosity (1995). Alas, all of these films were brainless and driven entirely by CGI effects. After the flop of Virtuosity, Brett Leonard seemingly could not get another job and retired to directing IMAX shorts Man-Thing was Leonards first feature-length film in a decade. Unfortunately for Leonard, Man-Thing was the only Marvel film adaptation of the 00s to be released straight to video in most areas, to cable in the US. Brett Leonard is certainly a long way down the food chain here from the time when he started his own CGI effects company. Leonard subsequently returned to feature film works with the amazingly perverse Feed (2005) and the appallingly bad Highlander: The Source (2007).
Marvels Man-Thing is often seen as a rip-off of DCs superior Swamp Thing, even if this is not the case Man-Thing in fact appeared in print a month earlier than Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing has not fared well on screen see the generally dismal likes of Wes Cravens Swamp Thing (1982), The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) and the tv series Swamp Thing (1990-3) and the animated Swamp Thing (1991) so you could not accuse Man-Thing of trying to copy or exploit the success of the various Swamp Thing screen incarnations. To be said in its favour, Man-Thing has much more atmosphere and makes more of its environmentalist themes than any of the Swamp Thing adaptations.
However, particularly oddly for a film cruising by on the success of Marvel Comics on screen in the 00s, Man-Thing feels more like a horror film than it ever does a comic-book adaptation or superhero film. (Man-Thing is the only of the recent Marvel adaptations to come with an R-rating for example). If one did not know of the Marvel pedigree behind the film, it would be impossible to tell from a straight viewing of Man-Thing that it is a superhero film/comic-book adaptation and not a horror film about something supernatural stirring in the bayous. Indeed, Man-Thing holds more in common with the pollution mutant monster in Prophecy (1979) than it does any of the recent Marvel superhero adaptations. Most of the aspects of the comic-book have been thrown out there is no explanation of Ted Sallis or any mention of the origin story of Man-Thing, with Man-Thing now made into a Native American spirit of unspecified supernatural origin.
Brett Leonard conducts the lurking around the swamps passably well, shooting in a sickly green light and cruising his camera through midnight-lit swamps. Alas, as horror films go, the script is generic and there is nothing in Man-Thing that does not come by cliche. We also see surprisingly little of the title character it is 70 minutes into the films 97-minute running time before we even encounter Man-Thing, for instance. Although to Brett Leonards credit, when we do, the unveiled Man-Thing is an impressive creation.