I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a small, small town; and – on Saturdays – the only real escape from the doldrums of existence was our hometown movie theater. A film like Swamp Thing would arrive, and – most likely because all of the kids would flock to see it – it would get held over for a few weeks. The end result of these repeat engagements is that we’d go to see it again and again, perhaps not so much because we loved it but because … well … it was playing … there was nothing else to do … and we were bored otherwise. We’re all creatures of habit, as they say, so who’s to say no? Suffice it to say, I probably sat through Craven’s film four times (at least!), so I grew to appreciate it unlike other features of the era.
However, I give you my word that for years I’ve avoided viewing The Return Of Swamp Thing (1989). And, yes, this was a conscious choice on my part, mostly because – being one who traffics with a great number of folks who talk about film – I’d only heard some pretty awful assessments of the sequel. While the first installment was no big winner by any estimation, everyone I know insisted that the follow-up wasn’t worth the time, mostly because of its cookie-cutter plot, horrible performances, and low-quality production.
Well, many years have gone by now – actually, three decades – and I think it’s safe to say that, for the most part, everything I had been told was mostly accurate. I’ve finally sat down and watched this curious misfire of a comic book property. About the only good thing I can truly say about it is that – if you have kids – they may get a kick out of it. The story definitely leans heavily toward the young audiences, so much so that I’m not surprised this one has likely ended up in the trash heap of film history.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“In this tongue-in-cheek sequel, the benevolent bog creature falls for the vegetarian, plant-loving daughter of the evil scientist who created him.”
As I said above, I do have a love for Swamp Thing.
In fact, my love of the original film has caused me on more than one occasion to even pick up a few graphic novel collections exploring the history of DC Comics’ creature feature. I’ve checked out both incarnations of the live action television shows highlighting the monster; the first one – like The Return Of Swamp Thing – was painfully bad, and the second one just never quite found any grounding, never built up any momentum. I think Swamp Thing is a hard sell in some respects because his better stories are a bit ‘out there.’ Outside of the character’s origins, his isn’t the most relatable story out there, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps the worst addition, however, is Heather Locklear.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for a pretty face when a pretty face is needed. In fact, I’m often flamed by casual readers for pointing out that sometimes the best attributes put to good use in movies are good looks, and Locklear here is in top form … as an uncontested beauty queen. Though she’s given a few worthwhile snarky lines, she can’t otherwise act to save her life much less the lives of anyone else in here in jeopardy – though I believe she emerges unscathed for those who will worry otherwise – and the fact that the script really gives her nothing to do except serve as a love interest and ‘damsel-in-distress’ proves that this is likely why she was hired to the part. She lacks any of the moxie of, say, Kim Basinger rather famously brought to her role of ‘Vicki Vale’ in 1989’s Batman; and I suspect this may be what producers had in mind when Locklear was cast. It’s hard enough making sparks fly opposite a stalk of celery, but that’s what she was meant to do … and she fails stupendously.
Perhaps Return’s saving grace is a pair of young children who are along for the ride and tend to pop up when the story needs a laugh or two. On that front, they’re effective, though forgettable …
… and I suspect man of you will want to forget this film as well.
The Return Of Swamp Thing (1989) was produced by Lightyear Entertainment. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by Lightyear and MVD Visual. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, I found the sights and sounds of this one to be surprisingly good. (Having watched the new 4K Restoration from the original interpositive, I can assure you that its both crisp and bright. Nice work!) Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then you have quite a bit to look forward to. The 4K disc boasts the restored film, an interview with producer Michael E. Uslan, and a curious RiffTrax music video. The Blu-ray includes two separate commentary tracks, some interview shorts, promotional clips, TV spots, a photo gallery, and a bit more. It’s a fabulous collection for people who like this sort of thing.
Though I give this one only a modest recommendation, I think it’s safe to say that it’s likely only intended for the very young – an audience of children, basically – as it just lacks any real substance in plot, character, and (ahem) acting. It isn’t as bad as I’ve been led to believe over the years, but it’s definitely close. It was undoubtedly produced on a pretty slim budget. The humor isn’t all that grand. And the jolly green giant of the swamps really deserved something vastly more fitting than this.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lightyear provided me with a complimentary 4K UltraHD + Blu-ray copy of The Return Of Swamp Thing (1989) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.