The Return of the Swamp Thing (1989) — Swamp Thing! You make my heart sing!

“You said it yourself: I’m a plant.” “That’s okay, I’m a vegetarian.”

Justin’s rating: When salads attack!

Justin’s review: Considering how incredibly few superhero film properties there were from Marvel or DC in the ’80s, it’s kind of mind-boggling to me that DC’s Swamp Thing got two proper movies during this decade. I mean… Swamp Thing? Were Flash or Wonder Woman unavailable for filming? Were the kids back then clamoring for rotting vegetable matter?

What might be even more astounding is that both of the Swamp Thing movies actually did a good job, despite not being smash hits. The first film honestly attempted to do its source material right, while the follow-up — delivered seven years later — also made a name for itself through its humor and monster-loving setting.

In The Return of the Swamp Thing, our leafy hero is still hanging out at a bog and acting as its sole protector. Not that a bog needs protecting, mind you, but what else is a half-man, half-veggie guy to do? YouTube wasn’t invented yet, and it’s not like he was going to get a job as a subway attendant or a Starbucks barista (although I would see both of those movies).

It’s a good thing that S.T. hangs out in this particular bog, because it also happens to be the epicenter of a breakout of a variety of gross, less-altruistic mutants thanks to an evil mad scientist called Dr. Arcane. I guess he was in the first movie but I didn’t watch that and we’re just going to gloss over that lapse in reviewer integrity right now.. Arcane is experimenting to turn people into human/animal hybrids in the most ’80s laboratory you’ll ever see. It’s got those frosted glass cubes and colored beakers and everything.

Arcane has a daughter named Abby and HOLY COW BELLS it’s Heather Locklear, because why wouldn’t it be Heather Locklear in a 1989 B-movie? The movie knows that it has a ways to go to get us on board with a Melrose Place resident becoming attracted to a sentient compost pile, so it shoehorns in the most awkward line of “Why can’t men be more like plants? At least plants don’t get the wrong idea when you stroke them.” right at the start.

As Abby reconnects with her mad scientist step-father, she bumps into Swampy and starts a cross-species romance for the ages. Arcane wants Swamp Thing for some sort of anti-aging properties that naturally come with decaying plant matter, Abby wants to find out what happened to her mom from the first film, two very annoying boys want to take a picture of S.T., and Swamp Thing wants someone to kiss him without throwing up right afterward.

I kind of loved everyone here. Swamp Thing is a likable hero who moves a lot faster than you’d assume from that rubber suit, the villain talks like a Bond villain (because he totally was, in Octopussy), and Locklear does a lot of heavy lifting on the comedic front with witty dialogue that raises her far above your average damsel-in-distress. Even the henchmen and henchwomen are in on the spirit of this weird premise.

While Wes Craven did his best to give some gravitas to the inherent silliness of the premise in the 1982 film, Return of the Swamp Thing plays things a lot more tongue-in-cheek. I think it was the right move for this series, considering that they weren’t really going to wow us with special effects and the Russo brothers at the helm. I’m just impressed there’s continuity from the first movie and an effort to do the comic book justice.

We didn’t get any more Swamp Thing movies after this (at least as of 2021), but despite getting stomped on by Tim Burton’s Batman, the franchise did get a follow-up with a USA Network TV series in the early ’90s. Again, YouTube wasn’t invented yet. In any case, Return of the Swamp Thing is a whole lot more entertaining — on purpose — than a lot of other ’80s superhero sequels I could name, even while being chock-full of cheese. Yes, Supergirl and Superman IV, I was talking about you, I just didn’t want to embarrass you.

Didja notice?

  • The most bumbling hunting party ever
  • This swamp has a whole lot of back lighting
  • Swamp Thing brings the PAIN
  • Neat comic book illustrated intro
  • Abby looooooves her plants way too much
  • Everyone needs a secret elevator in their mansion
  • The half-man, half-elephant
  • The half-man, half-cockroach!
  • You’d think that a whole bunch of guards with machine guns standing around a mansion would raise some eyebrows
  • The skull over the painting when the lightning flashes. They REALLY want you to notice this.
  • This super-loud kid is a candidate for punting
  • Swamp Thing loves his thumbs-up after massive property damage
  • Hunting a Swamp thing in a bog? Just throw dynamite from helicopters and ride in ATVs everywhere. That’ll do it.
  • Death by grenade launcher. Fortunately, you can come back from that.
  • Girls love it when you break off a part of your body and feed it to them
  • The scar comparison scene
  • Was there a sale on orange jumpsuits?

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