The most widely praised aspect of Doctor Strange is its psychedelic special effects and magical worldbuilding, hinting that audiences—and perhaps more importantly, Hollywood studios—are ready for comic book movies that get weird. Swamp Thing is an ideal source for that much-needed weirdness, a story about a plant creature who acts as the guardian of a Louisiana swamp.
Warner Bros. is already working on a live-action Justice League Dark movie, which will likely involve Swamp Thing in some capacity. In a recent interview, director Doug Liman discussed his “unconventional” vision for the franchise, which focuses on a team of supernatural DC Comics antiheroes.
With that in mind, we have a suggestion for Warner Bros.: It’s time for a solo Swamp Thing movie.
Swamp Thing was revamped in the early ’80s by Alan Moore, shifting a fairly simple horror character into a story with a deep emotional core, and a mythos that incorporated ecological themes, occult worldbuilding, and gothic romance. Alongside Sandman and Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, was part of a wave of cult adult comics from DC/Vertigo in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s also one of the few high-profile Alan Moore comics not to receive a Hollywood adaptation in recent memory.
Wes Craven made a low-budget Swamp Thing adaptation back in 1982, a rather hokey monster movie starring a dude in a rubber suit. It doesn’t hold up well, but in fairness, it came before the Alan Moore takeover—and before Hollywood was willing to spend money on C-list comic book franchises. It took another 20 years for major studios to get onboard with the idea of superhero movies beyond Batman and Superman, never mind the special effects required to create an unconventional protagonist like Swamp Thing.
By now, Hollywood is well aware of the popularity of DC’s adult comics—although the resulting movies are patchy, to say the least. Both Constantine adaptations were defanged, and ignored the political message of the original Hellblazer comics. V for Vendetta and Watchmen each received mixed reviews, and Sandman‘s latest writer just quit on the grounds that the comic is impossible to adapt for the big screen.
Those lackluster DC adaptations can partly be blamed on timing: A Watchmen movie in 2016 would likely be very different from a Watchmen movie made in 2009, before Marvel Studios became a dominant force. But Hollywood may finally be ready for a more mature adaptation of Swamp Thing, which is weirder and less formulaic than your average superhero adaptation, but nowhere near as complex as the sprawling fantasy universe of Sandman.
Done right, Swamp Thing boasts several strengths that have been missing from the increasingly sanitized and repetitive world of comic book blockbusters. The comic’s supernatural worldbuilding and potential for imaginative visuals are exactly what fans and critics loved about Doctor Strange. Its Beauty and the Beast-style love story is compelling yet bizarre, giving Swamp Thing an emotional hook beyond the background romances of most superhero movies. And perhaps most importantly, Swamp Thing is politically relevant.
As an avatar of nature—a creature literally made from the Louisiana swamps—Swamp Thing defends his home from environmental dangers. In the same way that the X-Men work as an allegory for LGBT activism and the civil rights struggle, Swamp Thing is a superhero for the era of climate change.