Retro Review: Marvel’s Man-Thing (2005)

In a time where pretty much everything Marvel makes turns to gold, it’s almost unfathomable to think that they could ever make something awful. Sure, the film we’re about to talk about technically wasn’t made when Marvel had their Cinematic Universe – but it’s worth nothing for Marvel’s history. Sort of.

The film I’m talking about is none other than 2005’s Man-Thing.

Wait. There was a Man-Thing movie? I’m sure most of you are asking yourselves that very question. It’s a valid one because I’m not even sure that I would count this as a Man-Thing movie.

Sure, it’s called Man-Thing and he’s in it (for a little bit).

Image result for man-thing movie poster
Image: Marvel/Lionsgate

Back in 2000, Marvel entered a joint partnership with Artisan to produce 15 Marvel movies. The list of planned films included Iron Fist, Black Widow, Luke Cage and obviously – The Punisher.

After the success of 2004’s Punisher film, Man-Thing was the next character they selected and even scrapped the straight to DVD plans and scheduled it for a wide release in October of 2004.

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Image: SyFy

After they held a screening in which nearly half the audience walked out, they scrapped those plans for a wide release and eventually, the movie premiered on the SyFy channel marketed as an original movie – so you know it was bad.

Getting to the movie itself, I think that the budget cuts are obviously a big part of the film’s failure, as I think this could have been a pretty cool movie.

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Image: Marvel/Lionsgate

The film only had a 7.5 million dollar budget (it was cut by a lot) and had to relocate to Australia for filming (hence why you have a bunch of unknown Australian actors trying to sound like they’re from Louisiana) and what you get is an awful film that was dumped to the SyFy channel, most likely with the hope that it would just disappear – and they lucked out, because it did just that.

Producer Avi Arad even trashed the film:

“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.”

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Image: Marvel/Lionsgate

From the get go, you know this thing is going to be bad. It starts off with your standard Horror movie opening. Two teens having sex in a swamp, who are then brutally murdered by Man-Thing.

It then follows Sheriff Kyle Williams (Matthew Le Nevez) as he tries to figure out who is responsible for the string of recent murders in the swamp – and also focuses on just how bad the actors in this film cannot do a southern accent.

Image result for man-thing matthew le nevez
Image: Marvel/Lionsgate

After budget problems forced them to shoot the film in Australia, they were forced to hire Australian actors (on a budget) and it definitely shows, as you can hear most of their accents throughout the majority of the film.

So what about Man-Thing himself? Well, Ted Salis, (his alter-ego in the comics) has been changed into a shaman and Seminole chieftain who is only referenced by name and nothing else.

manthingmovie

I would talk about some of the other plot developments in this movie, but there’s really nothing to talk about. There’s a romance between Kyle Williams and a local teacher Teri Richards (Rachel Williams) that is so bad, it’s almost hard not to laugh out loud when they kiss and you didn’t even realize they were even going in that direction due to the lack of character development.

The thing that pisses me off the most about Man-Thing isn’t its bad acting, directing, writing or that it’s bad in general – it’s that they got the character completely wrong.

For those of you who have read Man-Thing, you know that he’s really not a villain. His ‘slogan’ is “For Those Who Know Fear Will Burn At The Man-Thing’s Touch”. So, basically, if you come into contact with the creature, and you’re not scared – he won’t harm you.

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In this film, Pete Horn (Rawiri Paratene) confronting the beast and literally tells him that he’s not scared of him.

What happens next?

Man-Thing kills him. 

This could have something to do with what director Brett Leonard said in an interview a couple years back in which he described “basically superhero but with a darker edge, and with a supernatural edge and with a supernatural and kind of spiritual aspect to it. That would have been an interesting, sort of modern take on that material.”

He added:

“That’s what I was reaching for. All of that got ripped out. It got fully ripped out so it became a straight-up monster movie, where it was like there was a monster in the swamp, the sheriff goes in, tries to find it, and again, not much happens.”

He also mentioned how the film was entirely different than what we saw. He wouldn’t name any names, but said “the powers at be” essentially messed the film up.

If you watch the film as a generic SyFy Horror film, I still don’t think you’d like it. NOTHING happens. They just visit the swamp (only at night for some reason) and then, after not appearing in the entire film at all, Man-Thing is in it for the final 10 minutes. That’s it.

The ending, in which Man-Thing dies, was also totally different according to Leonard:

“I mean I had everyone die except the Man-Thing,” Leonard says. 

He added:

“I thought that if Man-Thing won [at the end of the film] it would satisfy both the superhero fans of the genre and the horror fans,” Brett Leonard theorizes. “Because it was a dark ending but also very anti-hero based on who actually survives. So it was kind of everyone who was fans of the genre, and the way it went was it satisfied none of those fans of the genre, for very good reason.”

Image result for man thing movie

Man-Thing himself has a pretty cool design given the budget constraints and fans of practical effects will enjoy it, but that might be the only positive out of this movie.

If you’re into movies that are 90% walking around and talking about “a creature in the swamp”, bad acting and bad writing with no story development where literally NOTHING happens until the final act, then this one is for you.

Even director Brett Leonard said this:

“You’ve got basically a hardass sheriff comes into town, the Man-Thing kills people, and he goes after him, and then basically nothing really happens!” 

It’s good to see him in such good spirits after having his original vision taken from him.

I’d like to see Marvel do something with the character again, as he’s recently been name-dropped on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so we’ll see what happens.