Swamp Thing: The Complete Series Blu-ray set was provided to me by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review. All the thoughts and opinions herein are my own.

The Background:

One of the main selling points for me about subscribing to DC Universe was the Swamp Thing series. Created by Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden, it was set to loosely adapt the classic Alan Moore run, lean heavily into the horror aspect of the character, was being produced by contemporary horror-meister James Wan, and had its first two episodes directed by Len Wiseman (which may or may not be a virtue, depending on your feelings about the Underworld series, Live Free or Die Hard, and the 2012 remake of Total Recall). The production values looked good and all the promotional material was impressive as hell.

Then, after the first episode aired, DC and WarnerMedia announced the originally planned 13 episodes were being cut back to 10. And almost immediately after that, announced the series was cancelled. There were rumors about a misunderstanding with North Caroline, where the series was filming, about tax rebates being reduced, causing a budgetary shortfall, although later reports clarified that wasn’t really the case. WarnerMedia received the full slate of tax rebates that North Carolina offered (they have a $12 million ceiling and were never offered $40 million as originally reported).

It was later reported that the cancellation decision boiled down to good, old-fashioned creative differences between DC Universe and Warner Bros.

Ultimately, Swamp Thing’s behind-the-scenes turmoil scuttled the show’s potential and caused a wave of doubt about the future of DC Universe itself that continues today.

The Series:

Now working for the CDC, Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) returns to her estranged home, Marais, Louisana to investigate a mysterious illness that is beginning to sweep the town. She meets Alec Holland (Andy Bean), a disgraced scientist who had been working for local community leader Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) on a mutagen accelerator designed to make trees grow faster and draw water from the swamp, resulting in new land for development. This accelerator might also be responsible for the mysterious illness and for the plants of the swamp attacking people. Holland’s replacement, Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) has other ideas about the research and believes it will ultimately provide an Alzheimer’s cure for his wife, Caroline (Selena Anduze). Meanwhile, we discover that the reason Abby left Marais is because she felt responsible for the death of her best friend, Shawna Sunderland (Given Sharp), and the Sunderland matriarch, Maria (Virginia Madsen) still blames her.

Whew! Got all that?

The series starts strong, with the first episode ending with the iconic Swamp Thing moment, where Alec Holland is murdered, blown up, and then consumed by the swamp, before emerging from the waters as the titular Swamp Thing (Derek Mears). From there we get ghosts, zombie-like infections, mutated monsters, and a number of DC Comics characters introduced, including Blue Devil (Ian Ziering), Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott), and the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair). We even get a final tease of Jason Woodrue transforming into The Floronic Man.

It’s possible that with a full 13-episode run as originally planned, there may have been time to really flesh out these, and other characters, but with the cutback to 10 episodes, there’s a tangible downtick in quality as the season goes on. Plot threads are abandoned or trimmed of so much material that they don’t really make sense or have any real purpose anymore (Blue Devil, I’m looking at you!). There’s just too much going on after the first chunk of episodes to really pull together, especially once the cancellation was made official and they had to start cutting and re-editing the back half.

The Conclusion:

On the plus side, DC and WarnerMedia put all of their money on the screen. Everything about the series looks fantastic, especially in the Blu-ray format. For some reason, when it aired on DC Universe, the colors were turned down and the black was turned up to the point where at times it was hard to even see what was happening, and yes, I adjusted my TV settings to see if it was a problem on my end. It wasn’t. I haven’t seen a show or movie this poorly lit since Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem.

Luckily, the Blu-ray transfer does a fantastic job of correcting the problem, and while the series is still dark, you can see what’s happening now. This is to the benefit of everybody involved in the making of Swamp Thing. The set designs are gorgeous, the action is easier to follow, and most importantly, the special effects look amazing. The gore is unsettling and Swamp Thing himself looks about as good as a practical suit could possibly look.

On the down side, however, DC and Warner Bros. have apparently decided to just cut their losses, issuing a bare-bones 2-disc Blu-ray set of Swamp Thing, with literally nothing extra added to help entice viewers. And with a $29.98 list price, it’s cheaper to just pay the $7.99 for a month of DC Universe, or better yet, blow through it on your 7-day free trial.

If you like what you see and don’t mind the fact that a lot of interesting ideas are never going to be followed up on, then I’d recommend dropping the cash on the Blu-rays if only for the higher picture quality. I honestly can’t believe that there are no extras included. I wonder if that means any behind-the-scenes look would have highlighted the problems between the suits and the creatives. I guess we’ll never know.

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