To sell toys. To sell toys to gullible 5 year olds, seemed to be the only objective of this silly, childish, formulaic and badly animated adaptation of classic comic book character. This cartoon actually manages to be funny in a corny sort of way. It all starts with Alec Holland who is a brilliant scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. One fateful night, the evil Arcane and his henchmen break into his lab to try to steal his secret formula. In the ensuing chaos, Holland is doused with chemicals, and runs screaming into the Swamp. The chemicals react with the swamp matter causing him to mutate into SWAMP THING.
The origin shares some elements of the comic book and the movie origins but that is where the similarity ends. The comic book was a Gothic horror clever interwoven with philosophical themes, occult references and an ontological study of an individual's existence. Wes craven's movie was a straight forward horror show with a sympathetic monster. This cartoon on the other hand is a bad G I Joe ripoff complete with good team vs evil team, vehicles straight out of an engineer's nightmare and the titular Swamp Thing recast as a Captain Planet wannabe; he's always about saving the planet as much as Arcane is about capturing him and extracting the chemicals that keep Swamp Thing alive. Even the opening theme song is a rips off Chip Taylor's song "wild thing".
The first episode is possibly the series strongest, which is not saying much. It serves as a decent introduction to the characters and the formula that the series would follow. Arcane sends his "un-men" mutant henchmen to capture swamp thing in order to learn the secret of immortality but they are easily defeated. He then mutates them into stronger more bestial creatures with new powers. They battle again but the un-men get the upper hand when they capture two meddling kids. While Swamp Thing is being held captive, the kids team up with Arcane's step daughter, Abby, to try and rescue the benevolent monster. Of course, the good guys always win in the end.
Subsequent episodes involve attempts by Arcane to learn the secret of immortality including extracting it from ancient tree sap, desecrating an ancient burial ground to search for the fountain of youth and getting radioactive substances from a downed satellite. It is one big toy commercial with each episode showing off swamp thing's abilities and his powers to mimic trees, slime, roots and a cactus (each form is an action figure sold separately, no doubt). Each new toy from Swamp Thing to his token minority side kicks, Bayou Jack (the African American guy) and Tomahawk (the native American guy) get ample time to kick ass and show off new gadgets such as a water cannon and a crossbow that fires flat wooden arrows.
In fact, the writers are so obsessed with characters showing off new abilities and gadgets (to sell toys) that they give no time at all to character development. Everyone is a one dimensional bore. There is no depth to the story, zero development for the characters. It is pure kid friendly fare for 5 year olds that only serves to strengthen the stereotype that animation is for children.
Quality drops to a whole new low by episode 5 and it is not just in the tired, cliché ridden story. The animation also shows signs of lost steam . Episode 1 had mediocre but decent artwork and TV standard animation but as each episode went along, it got worse and worse. By episode 5, the artwork was frequently off model, lip flaps hardly matched dialog and the animation was stiff and choppy. Even the worse episodes of He-Man looked better than this.
For all its flaws, Swamp Thing: THe Animated series is best treated as a silly parody in the veins of "Scary Movie". It is so hilariously terrible that one has to thank god that it only lasted 5 episodes. On the bright side, the series gets a point for succeeding in its primary objective, which is to sell toys to gullible 5 year olds.
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