I tell you what, when Alec Holland concocts nuclear plant food, the man delivers. That glowing green potion of his not only bridges the divide between the plantae and the animalia, it also produces some high-powered propulsion that can blast a well-stocked science lab right back to the stone age.
I mean, all Alec did was splash about two fingers of the stuff onto the floor from a height of several inches, and it turned the contents of the entire building into a smoldering ruin, up to and including the computer equipment, the security system, the plants and stairs and electric lights, even the cooper’s digger. Gone, all gone.
Well, they told us it was powerful, what with all the recombinant animal nuclei and everything. It was supposed to solve world hunger, which I guess technically it would, at least in the immediate blast radius. The only thing I can’t figure out is why Arcane thinks that he should put it in his mouth.
But here we are touring the last days of Pompeii, still gently simmering more than twenty-four hours after the explosion. The violent, shrieking vengeance demon haunting the neighborhood has returned to the scene of the crime, damp and hopeless.
So far, we’ve seen Swamp Thing murder a troop of gunmen and pull cars apart with his bare hands, but now it’s time for him to reveal his softer side. This is his moment of charm, where he gets to take a break from wreaking havoc and show us that there’s still a living man inside there, under all the rubber and carpet glue.
Behold the man inside the monster, presented to us in quiet close-ups, returning to the office to see if anything remains of the life he once knew. But many of the shots present him from a low angle, reminding us that yes, this is actually the enormous creature that wrecked the place.
Obviously, in a narrative sense, Arcane is to blame for last night’s catastrophe, but it was Alec who made the explode-a-potion, and it was Alec who dropped it. In the comic book, the bad guys taped dynamite to the underside of a table and blew up Alec’s lab from a distance, so there was no need to posit that the bio-restorative fluid was also liquid nitro somehow. But in the film, Craven wanted the villain to be in the room when Alec caught fire, so they made the stuff super-combustible, whether that makes sense or not.
So Swamp Thing is both Frankenstein and the monster, a luckless mad scientist hoisted with his own petard before anyone else could get near it.
And like Frankenstein, he can have gentle moments, where we see the possibility of taming the unnatural. If everyone left him alone and just let him brew up his world-altering toxic chemical melanges in peace, then he wouldn’t ever have to get angry and throw people through walls. I guess that’s the Hulk, too. It’s probably a lot of people.
So here he is, sentimentally cradling his dead sister’s locket in his enormous transmogrified paws, making sure that even the stupidest person in the audience understands that yes, Alec is the monster; this isn’t some weird rubbery coincidence that popped up out of nowhere. It’s a man, confronted by facts that don’t care about his feelings.
Meanwhile, in the weird library lobby over at Arcane’s place, the villain is musing on immortality, and how it’s one more thing that’s almost in his grasp. “I want this swamp thing,” he tells his minions, “and I want the notebook. Now.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of him,” a goon answers.
“You will not get rid of him,” Arcane commands. “You will simply — get him.”
That’s how Arcane works, in this movie. He reaches out his hand, and takes everything that he sees. If the notebook eludes him, then it’s only for the moment; he’ll catch up with it before long.
But Alec experiences nothing but loss. Everything that he had — his achievements, his abilities, his family and his dreams — they’ve crumbled to ash, scattered around the devastated shell of his former life. He’s not going to be able to fix this, mix the right chemicals and make the tragedy go away.
So if this is a horror fim, and I’m not at all convinced that it is, then I would argue that the horror is what’s been done to the monster, not what he does. Yes, his powerful new body can crush a man’s head with one hand, but Alec is the one who’s trapped in a nightmare, with no chance of ever waking.
A special weekend popcorn post about
Thor: Love and Thunder!
— Danny Horn