Swamp Thing Director James Mangold Compares Gothic Horror Approach to Frankenstein and RoboCop

06/29/2023 05:50 pm EDT

When comic book fans think of DC, they might often jump to the superheroics of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, but the publisher's storied history of figures has debuted all kinds of creations, including the monstrous Swamp Thing. With James Mangold developing a new Swamp Thing movie for the revived DC Universe under James Gunn and Peter Safran, the filmmaker has claimed that, rather than there being any goal of establishing an interconnected universe with long-term ramifications, he wants to use Swamp Thing as a way to tell a gothic horror story akin to something like Frankenstein or even inspired by the seminal '80s film RoboCop.

"Basically, the second I heard DC was going through some leadership convulsion and James was taking over, I just saw it as an opportunity to throw my hat down in the most -- I mean I just called them and I said, 'In all the stuff you're doing, if the idea of me making a gothic horror film, origin story of Swamp Thing fits in, tell me,'" Mangold recently revealed to the Happy Sad Confused podcast. "It's no different speech than anyone else gets with me; I don't have any agenda for a universe, I'm not building towards someone joining in some future. Have at it, but I'd just be interested in telling, I've always been interested in doing a version of Frankenstein, basically, and, yet, I feel, 'It's alive!' has been done enough, but Swamp Thing always occurred to me as this wonderful version of a Frankenstein story, much in the way one of my favorite pop films of growing up, RoboCop, the original one. This guy who just wakes up and he's been turned into, he finds he's become this machine, was also something I was fascinated with with Logan, obviously." 

He continued, "But, to me, the idea of making almost a noir, mystery, horror film about a guy who wakes up and he's this thing. There's an amnesiac quality of, 'How did I get here and who did this to me?' So I'm envisioning a horror-noir film following a creature that can't be seen, trying to piece together from fragments of memories, what happened and who did it. And none of this runs counter to the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and all the great work that went on ... I'm just framing it up in a new movie context, but that's all they were exploring in these comics and so beautifully."

It was only a decade ago that the slate of DC heroes earned a revival under a shared continuity with 2013's Man of Steel, with that franchise embracing a more dour and subdued tone. With Mangold claiming he wants to make a horror movie and the franchise previously delivering somber heroes, the filmmaker went on to address if his film will deliver R-rated material.

"My favorite thing about rated R isn't that I can say 'f-ck' or we can show naked people or more blood, which all obviously happens, can happen with that rating. But then when you make a rated-R movie, the entire marketing apparatus of a studio understands that they cannot dream, on this particular picture, of action figures, lunch boxes, and special tie-ins to get children to this movie," Mangold expressed. "It changes the way the script is perceived, meaning that, to use an example, Logan, pretty early on in the picture, there's an almost eight-minute scene between Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman inside that water tower. You can't do an eight-minute scene between two men over 40, entirely dialogue, one of them in a wheelchair talking about their past, in a movie that's designed [for younger audiences]. Your studio is gonna go, 'I don't know, Fast X is speaking more my language.' The reality is the rating suddenly creates tremendous space, even if you're not using the rating for what it's designed for. It creates an understanding of who this movie is for and that's a real advantage."

James Mangold's Swamp Thing doesn't currently have a release date.

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