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Man-Thing (June 5/05)

Based on the obscure Marvel title and produced by Avi Arad, Man-Thing is the first comic book movie to premiere on video since the recent resurgence of the genre (it was supposed to debut in theaters). But given just how awful the film is, it comes as no surprise that Lion's Gate is unceremoniously dumping it to DVD (not surprisingly, there's no commentary track or behind-the-scenes featurette to be found here).

Man-Thing's been directed by Brett Leonard, an underrated filmmaker who tries his hardest to imbue the movie with a slick, comic book-like sense of style. But the half-baked storyline - which revolves almost entirely around a new Sheriff in a small town and his attempts to solve a series of murders - never develops any momentum, something that's exacerbated by the complete lack of compelling characters.

It certainly doesn't help that the title Man-Thing is utterly misleading; a more apt and accurate title would be Cop Investigates Hillbillies in a Small Town. We don't get a good look at the titular creature until 75-minutes into the film (!), which wouldn't necessarily be a problem if we were given even the slightest hint as to his/its origins. As it is, the Man-Thing is evidently a swamp-based monster who hides in the shadows - emerging only to brutally murder whatever inept redneck happens to be passing through his neck of the woods (whether or not he/it used to be a human is unknown).

The performances vary from unmemorable to ridiculously broad, and it does seem curious that there's not a single familiar face to be found within the cast (this was supposed to go to theaters, remember). Star Matthew Le Nevez, an Australian actor, proves to be completely incompetent at adopting an American accent - while Rachel Taylor, who plays his love interest, seems to have been hired for her looks (Man-Thing marks the actress' first and only screen gig, according to the Internet Movie Database). The villains are portrayed as campy idiots, something that's exemplified by the sequence in which the evil genius and his moronic son laugh maniacally at their sinister plan (no, really).

With virtually no screen time for the Man-Thing, it seems highly unlikely that fans of the comic will find a whole lot here worth embracing. Everyone else, on the other hand, will be turned off by the dull storyline and less-than-enthralling characters. This is easily the worst comic book movie ever made, and no, I haven't forgotten about the original Punisher adaptation.

out of

About the DVD: Man-Thing arrives on DVD courtesy of Maple Pictures, who presents the film with a sharp letterboxed transfer but - as mentioned above - no bonus features (several trailers are included, though).
© David Nusair