Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing

I haven’t written a review for a while, but tonight I watched The Thing and wanted to get this out. It's 3:17 in the morning so please pardon any overt typos... :D

My main issue with remakes is that they’re written by people who don’t understand or have the same motivation for writing or making the new film as the originators. Rarely is a remake undertaken with true passion for the subject and in horror, it seems that most remakes are written by fans who want nothing more than to leave their mark on their favourite franchise (witness how lovingly the Elm Street remake writers poured over Freddy’s backstory and left the rest of the characters, especially Nancy Holbrook, whose model, Nancy Thompson, was written for a specific reason and with purpose, out to dry...but I digress.)

I know The Thing in theatres right now is purported to be a prequel and not a remake. I call it a premake. It’s taking the bare bones of the first remake (yes, it’s a remake, I’ll get to that later, I’m sure), adding a few new characters, and follows through to the end, but it has a higher budget and what some people believe are “better effects.”

Let’s be honest here, even the title gives itself away; it’s not called The Thing Begins or Before the Thing or Again with the Thing. It’s The Thing. It’s as though The Thing took John Carpenter’s The Thing and assimilated it like the characters it’s about, but there’s just something intrinsically Not Right about it. To put it in the parlance of the film, it’s imitating and it can’t help it when a big mouth bursts through its chest when the viewer starts to think: “Hey, wait a minute...”

To sum up The New Thing’s story: a team of Norwegian explorers discover a massive alien craft well below the surface of Antarctica (100,000 years down, geologically speaking) and they call in American paleontologist Kate (the wonderful Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to help dig out the craft’s pilot (which was found near the surface, by the way. 100,000 years down is a loooooong way to go, ya dig?)

Anyway, she brings it up and the head of the expedition wants to take a tissue sample before she’s cleared the block of ice as being okay to drill into. It doesn’t matter since it’s warmer in the storeroom than outside and the ice starts melting. Dun dun dun....

Chaos ensues when The Thing inevitably bursts out of the ice very dramatically and eats everyone one by one.

That right there is a huge problem. Nothing The Thing does in this film is subtle. There’s no tension, no questioning who is what is who. Once The Thing is freed, the film turns into a sort of sci-fi action slasher.

Kate figures things out way too fast, almost faster than Blair (Wilford Brimley in Carpenter’s flick). It got to the point where I thought the character had read the script and was picking the right times to tell everyone what was going on.

Would it be a spoiler to say that it had a happy ending? “But Lori,” I hear you say in my head because I’m awesome like that, “the Norwegians were all counted as dead five or ten minutes into Carpenter’s flick.” I know. The NORWEGIANS were dead.


They dealt with the Norwegians and tying it into Carpenter’s The Thing as an afterthought; the scenes that tie them together are cut into the credits, accompanied by the only instance of Ennio Morricone’s brilliant theme (Marco Beltrami scored The New Thing and while I liked his work on Scream, his style is way too bombastic and in your face.)

The effects...they brought in two brilliant practical effects creature guys, Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., who were Stan Winston acolytes and have done some amazing work (The Terminator, Aliens, Death Becomes Her among so many others. Go look them up on the IMDb, seriously.) Then, the majority of their work was covered in CGI. The ubiquitous They also decided to show way too much of The Thing, probably to distract the viewer from wondering about the inconsistencies.

It’s a good cast dealing with what they’ve been given to the best of their abilities, but, honestly, the American angle was only added so they wouldn’t have to film the whole thing in Norwegian thereby alienating all those who don’t want to read the movie. They might’ve had a tighter film if they’d kept the Americans out of it because, other than to propel the movie forward, they add nothing to the story. As much as I like Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the film, any other character could’ve taken on that mantle.

John Carpenter’s The Thing was taut, though breezy, playing up the “Who Goes There?” (if you’ll pardon the reference) aspect far better than even its predecessor, Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World. The New Thing isn’t a prequel to a Cold War science fiction flick, though, it’s a prequel to Carpenter’s The Thing. If you can’t uphold the quality and tension of the flick you’re premaking then just don’t bother.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. At least its predecessor is called John Carpenter’s The Thing, but that won’t eliminate confusion when the DVD is released. Maybe that’s a tactic Universal is banking on, all those Blu-ray units moved because some people think that it’s JC’s The Thing.

I’d say avoid.

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