- Movie Rating -

Wild Thing (1987)

| April 17, 1987

I am going to state the obvious for the sake of completion about Wild Thing largely because it would be a hole in my review not to point this out: You don’t have to be a film analyst to imagine that what the filmmakers want from this movie is to cross Tarzan with Batman and therefore create a new superhero.  It is there.  Your average 9 year-old could figure this out.  My question is why?  Why not adapt Tarzan and/or Batman into movies with the characters who already exist.  Tarzan doesn’t really need an updating, we got that with the dull-as-dishwater Greystoke.  Batman needs a new coat of pain.

Perhaps the licenses for these characters were far too expensive.  Perhaps I am over-thinking this.  Either way, the fusion of these two ideas – a vigilante warrior in the urban jungle who was raised in the streets and then becomes an avenging angel to those downtrodded by The Man or other street vermin.  What comes out the other end is not a bad idea, just a very silly one.

Wild Thing is pretty limp as superheroes go because his adventures can be found on the pages of any superhero who occupies the urban landscape.  What is curious is his origin.  He was the child of a pair of hippies who are murdered by a crooked cop and a drug dealer.  After their death, to is raised by a bag lady (Betty Buckley) who teaches young Thing to distrust The Bluecoats (police) and people from The Company (civilized society).  Then she dies and Thing is on his own, living in the dark corners of the landscape, sleeping in condemned buildings and living off whatever he can turn into sustenance.

Wild Thing becomes – literally – an urban legend to the poor and oppressed.  Our eyes and ears are provided, naturally, by a white woman (Kathleen Quinlan) named Jane who has come into this hellhole to help out the kindly old priest in his help center.  Naturally, there is resistance from the local drug kingpins who just happen to be the same people who murdered Wild Thing’s parents.

What happens after that is familiar to anyone who has ever seen or read Tarzan or Batman or for that matter Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, or The Flash.  The movie turns into a long-running series of chases and shoot-outs and attacks and stunts and fight scenes, all while Jane and Wild Thing fall in love.  Their bond is not tightly-written, it is more mandatory.  The urban vigilante superhero must discover romance, not sex.  It’s hard-baked into these things.

The biggest problem with Wild Thing is that so much emphasis has been placed on his origins that the rest of the movie feels a little less than focused.  Once the movie establishes that the drug dealers killed Wild Thing’s parents, the movie goes on automatic pilot and we get an action picture that could be about anything.  It doesn’t play to the special circumstances of our hero’s origins.

And what about those origins?  How did Wild Thing survive to adulthood?  What was his day like?  How did he learn to forage for food?  Where did his need for vigilante come from?  How did he make a grappling hook out of an old umbrella strong enough to hold his weight.  These are the important questions.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action