REVIEW: SWAMP THING (2019)

Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

Starring

Crystal Reed (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Andy Bean (Transformers: The Last Knight)
Henderson Wade (Riverdale)
Maria Sten (Channel Zero)
Jeryl Prescott (The Skeleton Key)
Jennifer Beals (Lie To Me)
Will Patton (Silkwood)
Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Derek Mears (Sleepy Hollow)

Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Macon Blair (Logan Lucky)
Elle Graham (Mile 22)
Given Sharp (The Gifted)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Selena Anduze (Venom)
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Justice Leak (Supergirl)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)

Swamp Thing (2019)Say what you will about DC Universe, but original series-wise the still-young streaming service is on the same trajectory as Superman himself: Up, up, and a-way better than Titans. That first series had its fans and certainly improved as it went along,  Then came Doom Patrol, which started out solid as Brendan Fraser‘s bare backside and gradually became one of the most wonderfully absurd delights on all of television.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)That put a lot of pressure on the big mossy shoulders of original series #3, Swamp Thing, to keep up the quality, especially in the wake of the backstage wonkiness that cut its originally-ordered 13 episodes to 10. Well, I’m here to report that Swamp Thing, at least in its first two episodes, not only ups the ante, it’s also a triumph on pretty much every level, a nasty, gleefully disturbing bit of body horror on the Louisiana bayou that evokes everything from John Carpenter‘s The Thing to executive-producer James Wan‘s work with the Trench in Aquaman. It’s 2019, man, and it looks like it’s officially time to go green.Swamp Thing (2019)Len Wiseman—the director behind the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer—also helmed the pilot here, an extremely on-brand choice considering Swamp Thing follows a similar formula: Straight-laced professional woman partners up with a quirky man who has a supernatural twist. In Sleepy Hollow, it was a sheriff’s lieutenant and the actual Ichabod Crane. In Lucifer, it was a detective and the literal Christian Devil. Here, it’s a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service named Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), the latter who—spoilers—eventually morphs with a sentient swamp to become a giant moss-monster played under heavy prosthetics by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears. Again, it’s a formula, but the formula really does work to charming effect.Swamp Thing (2019)Arcane has been called back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a strange disease that’s seemingly emanating from the nearby swamp, causing locals to collapse, cough up gooey leaves into their hospital beds, and—in much more extreme cases—devolve into mossy, decaying statues straight out of a biologist’s worst fever dreams. (Think the gory artwork of Hannibal meets, like, a fucked-up Ent.) Butting into her investigation is disgraced scientist Holland, who discovered abnormal mutagens in the swamp that may just be the key to finding a cure. But the deeper Arcane and Holland dig, the more it smells like a rotten conspiracy, a conspiracy the swamp itself seems intent on violently stopping.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)It’s in that violence and rot that this show truly shines as a no-joke horror story, not a surprise given Wan’s involvement and a pilot script co-written by Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs. Evil Dead). Wiseman, who also directed episode 2, shoots Marais’ swamp like a dark fairy tale, all twisted trees and moonlit ponds. The effect makes it that much more jarring in the moments that almost primordial darkness invades Abby Arcane’s world of science. There’s a scene set in a morgue that floored me in its creepiness; the swamp disease brings a corpse back to profane “life”, the body standing up off the operating table even as it’s ripped apart by twisting vines and probing branches. It’s gross, it really does have serious The Thing vibes, and most importantly, it appears to be mostly practical.

Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)Those practical set-pieces throughout elevate Swamp Thing a good deal. Maybe it’s the Jaws fanatic in me, but I love seeing a boat actually lifted out of the water by some unseen monstrosity. But Fractured FX—the minds behind the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and every ghoul in The Conjuring franchise, among many other abominations—worked overtime to make sure the monstrosities we do see are equally impressive. I don’t think Swampy fans could ask for a more pitch-perfect live-action take than the one we get here. The suit plastered on Mears oozes and shines in all the right, rotten ways; there’s a moment where he pulls off a piece of his own head and you can see the strands of goo between his fingers. It’s disgusting. It’s great. (And yes, Swamp Thing is ripped af, and I expect certain corners of the internet to react accordingly, as is their right.)Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)But the real miracle here is that Swamp Thing still manages to feel like a human show. Abby Arcane is an effective entry point into the madness; she brings back to her hometown a dark secret from her past that Reed manages to tease out through haunted looks and sentences cut just short. She has an easy chemistry with a pre-monster Bean, whose oddball charisma makes you sad that he has to turn into Swamp Thing on a show literally called Swamp Thing. But of course, it’s Mears pulling the real magic trick here. He doesn’t speak a single word over the first two episodes because he doesn’t need to. Mears injects a potent dose of rage, confusion, and sadness into Swamp Thing with his face, the way he stands, the way he stumbles against a tree.Sadly Swamp Thing got cancelled due to a high budget, so one season is all we get, but it sure as hell is one hell of a season

REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

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CAST

Mark Wahlberg (Ted)
Josh Duhamel (Paradise Lost)
Gemma Chan (Humans)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Anthony Hopkins (Westworld)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Laura Haddock (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Isabela Moner (Soldado)
Jerrod Carmichael (Bad Neighbors 2)
Santiago Cabrera (Heroes)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Liam Garrigan (24: Live Another Day)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Tony Hale (Chuck)
Gil Birmingham (Twilight)
Peter Cullen (Dungeons & Dragons)
Erik Aadahl (Godzilla)
Jim Carter (Dinotopia)
Omar Sy (Jurassic World)
John Goodman (Red State)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk empire)
Steven Barr (Fall From Grace)
Mark Ryan (Robin of Sherwood)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Jess Harnell (Animaniacs)
Andy Bean (Swamp Thing)

In 484 AD, King Arthur and his knights struggle in a battle against the Saxons. Meanwhile, Merlin begs for help from the Knights of Iacon, a group of twelve Transformers who have hidden on Earth. They give Merlin an alien staff and combine themselves into a huge robotic dragon named Dragonstorm to help Arthur triumph over the Saxons, but not before warning Merlin that a great evil will one day come for the staff.In the present, five years after the Hong Kong battle, the Transformers are declared outlaws by all governments on Earth, to which the Transformer Reaction Force (TRF) is formed from the fallen Cemetery Wind to eradicate the alien robots, despite more Transformers continuously arriving on Earth. All the while, enormous metallic horns begin to rise from different parts of the world. In a part of war-torn Chicago, a group of children find a ship with a knight inside before being caught by a TRF drone. Izabella, a survivor of the Battle of Chicago, saves the children along with her Transformers companions Sqweeks and Canopy. The drone mistakes Canopy for a Decepticon and kills him before Bumblebee and Cade Yeager (who are also being hunted by the TRF) arrive and help the children, Izabella, and Sqweeks escape from the drones. Cade finds the knight in the ship, who attaches a talisman to his arm. The Decepticon Barricade observes this act and reports the discovery to Megatron. After a brief standoff with the TRF, Cade returns to his junkyard in South Dakota (with Izabella and Sqweeks hitching a ride with him) where the remaining Autobots are hiding from the TRF, including Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, Crosshairs, Wheelie, Grimlock, Slug, Daytrader, Trench, and three Mini-Dinobots.TRF member and former Autobot ally William Lennox brokers a deal between the TRF and Megatron so he can find Cade and recover the talisman. In exchange, Megatron demands the release of a squad of Decepticons, including Nitro Zeus, Dreadbot, Mohawk, and Onslaught (Megatron tries to get Berserker, but they won’t let him because he is far too dangerous). Meanwhile, in deep space, Optimus Prime crash-lands on Cybertron, discovering that it is heading directly for Earth. He encounters Quintessa, the self-proclaimed creator of the Transformers, who brainwashes Optimus and renames him “Nemesis Prime”. Quintessa charges him with recovering the staff from the Knights who stole it from her.Earth, she reveals, is actually Cybertron’s ancient enemy Unicron and she intends to drain its life force using the staff, so that Cybertron can be restored. Back on Earth, Megatron and the TRF locate Cade, his coworker Jimmy, Izabella, Sqweeks, and the Autobots, thanks to a tracker planted on Bumblebee during the standoff. They flee to an abandoned town where they discover Bumblebee’s tracking device. In the ensuing battle, Dreadbot, Onslaught, Mohawk, and several TRF soldiers are killed by Grimlock, Slug, Crosshairs, Drift, and Bumblebee. As a result, Megatron, Nitro Zeus, and Barricade are forced to retreat. While fighting off a unit of TRF drones, Cade is approached by Cogman, a Transformer envoy who takes him and Bumblebee to England to meet his master, Sir Edmund Burton.

There, Burton arranges a meeting between Cade and Viviane Wembly, an Oxford professor, who had just been kidnapped by the Autobot Hot Rod under Burton’s orders. Burton introduces himself as the last living member of the “Witwiccan” order, an ancient brotherhood dedicated to guarding the secret history of Transformers on Earth. He reveals that Cade’s talisman indicates that he is the Last Knight of Iacon. He also reveals that Viviane is Merlin’s last descendant and that she must find and use his staff to prevent the impending destruction of Earth by Cybertron. MI6 and the TRF arrive at Burton’s mansion, forcing the group to flee.After escaping from MI6, the TRF, and Barricade, Cade, Viviane, Bumblebee, and Cogman follow the clues left by Viviane’s father and take the museum submarine HMS Alliance (after Burton shuts down the attraction and evicts the tourists) into the sea to find the Cybertronian Knights’ sunken ship while the TRF pursue them with submarines of their own. Burton meets with the Prime Minister to engage the military at Stonehenge, which he deduces is the access point to Unicron. In the ship, Cade and Viviane discover the tomb of Merlin and the staff. Viviane activates the staff, which causes the ship to rise towards the surface. The TRF confronts the group and attempts to take the staff from them before Nemesis Prime intervenes and forces them to hand over the staff. Bumblebee chases after Optimus and the two Autobots fight each other at the top of the ship. Before Optimus can kill Bumblebee, the mute Autobot finally speaks, freeing Optimus from Quintessa’s control. Suddenly, Megatron, revealed to be conspiring with Quintessa, arrives to steal the staff and flees while the Knights attack Optimus for his presumed betrayal. Cade stops the Knights with the talisman, which transforms into King Arthur’s sword Excalibur. The Knights yield to Cade as the Last Knight of Iacon, and Yeager urges Optimus to fight for Earth once more.As Cybertron anchors itself to Earth, Megatron, Nitro Zeus, and Barricade deliver the staff to Quintessa, who begins draining the life force of Earth from Unicron. Burton and the British military intervene, and Megatron shoots Burton, who dies with Cogman at his side. The Autobots arrive to join the fight with the TRF, Cade, Viviane, Izabella, and Sqweeks, landing on Cybertron and battling against Megatron and Quintessa’s minions, the Infernocons. Vanquishing their foes with help from the Knights as Dragonstorm, the Autobots reach the chamber where the staff and Quintessa are. Optimus defeats Megatron by kicking him through the Ignition Chamber’s wall, sending him flying to Earth, while Bumblebee kills Nitro Zeus. Together, Optimus and Bumblebee seemingly kill Quintessa. Viviane removes the staff, stopping Cybertron’s destruction of Earth but leaving both worlds connected. Optimus declares that humans and Transformers must now work together to rebuild their worlds and sends a message calling any surviving Autobots to come home.In a mid-credits scene, scientists inspect one of Unicron’s horns in a desert. Quintessa, who has survived and is disguised as a human, arrives and offers them a way to destroy Unicron.The transformers movies are known for being hated. Me I personally think these movies are just fun. That’s why we watch them, not for an outstanding Oscar worthy film. I know I am in the minority that I love Age of extinction. So I was pretty excited to see this film. I was not disappointed.