Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Thing (2011)

This version of of The Thing is a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic; though it is still called The Thing, just to confuse people. It succeeded too. Is it a prequel? Is it a remake? Well it’s both! It is only really a prequel in that the story ends exactly where JC’s film begins; but otherwise it is a remake! Comparisons will always be made with the 1982 version, but the fact that it is almost a scene by scene remake doesn’t help. Most of the characters look as though they are lifted right out of JC’s Thing as well. Because of all this, rather than being an enjoyable (which it is) stand alone film, it invites criticism upon itself; and comparing it to the 1982 classic is never a good thing.

If JC’s The Thing had not been made, this would be a great film. Having said that, I have just this minute finished watching the 1982 movie, and strangely it has made me appreciate the 2011 version more. There are various things that happen in the Norwegian camp (axe gets stuck in wall, creature crashes through walls/ceilings leaving big holes) that are all there when Kurt Russell et al., visit in JC’s film. To me this demonstrates that at least director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. has really studied the previous version and made an effort to really fit in to the cannon.

In terms of the atmosphere of the film there is a goodly amount of tension, and the characters looked suitably terrified and had no idea what’s going on. This to me was the make or break of the film; zero tension would have ruined everything that was so good in the 1982 film. However, I didn’t feel that it was as claustrophobic as it could have been, which would have ramped the tension up even more. The “looking at each others fillings” scene was not nearly as tense as the hot wire blood test either. I didn’t think that Mary Elizabeth was a great leading actor though; she was fine, but didn’t have the leadership qualities or presence that Kurt Russell did (See, I can’t help but compare it to JC’s film).

A lot of the special effects were suitably gooey, but there was also some unnecessary CG, particularly the end sequence. Another scene that looked a bit cartoony was the guys heads merging together. Though I did like this scene because it is a really horrific, gross idea, and again it ties in nicely with the other film as it is this burned creature that MacReady brings back to the US Outpost. I think the only CG in 1982’s version is this:

and all the better for it. That does lead me to another point that my wife made: the 2011 version can’t obviously be dated. The computer images above clearly date the film to the early 80s, but the 2011 film doesn’t really have that. Rather than have a computer model of cellular imitation, we see it occurring down a microscope; this only dates the film to a time when such microscopy visuals could be generated for a film, but doesn’t date it the same way as having a chess wizard computer!

So, I did really enjoy the film. I expected crap actors, no tension, and all CG effects; so I was very impressed. Tense, mostly practical-looking effects, mostly good cast, and well integrated into the classic The Thing mythology. Overall an enjoyable updated though perhaps unnecessary film. Comparisons to JC’s film are unfair but inevitable.