Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing Prequel Is An Utter Disappointment

THE THING
Directed by MATTHIJS VAN HEIJNINGEN
Starring MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, JOEL EDGERTON, 
and ULRICH THOMSEN

Before rushing to the theater to see The Thing, the alleged prequel to John Carpenter's classic 1982 film, you should know that The Thing (2011) is not really a prequel, it's a remake. Excluding the final few scenes, The Thing is a mediocre homage to Carpenter's film rather than an addition to the storyline. If you're a die-hard fan save it for the $1.50 theater. It's a mess, a hot mess. In order to remember the 1951 and 1982 versions with fondness, do yourself a favor, and skip it.


For those unfamiliar with the franchise there have been two previous versions of The Thing: 1951's The Thing From Another World and Carpenter's version. Both films are based on John W. Campbell's timeless novel, "Who Goes There," which also inspired "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Like it's predecessors, 2011's The Thing begins in the Antarctic when a team of scientists discover a crashed alien spaceship buried deep in the ice. The amount of time the spaceship has been in the ice varies, depending upon which film you watch. In the novel it was 20 million years. In the most recent film it's 100,000 years. Either way, it's been there a long time.

The Thing is slightly unique in that it tells the story of the doomed Norwegian exploration team, who came across the thing before it wandered into Kurt Russell's camp in 1982. That said, the film essentially follows the storyline of the 1982 film.

Not surprisingly the main character in the Norwegian expedition is Kate Lloyd, an American Paleontologist, played by Mary Elizabeth WinsteadWinstead is best known from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. One would think that the filmmakers would have cast a Norwegian actor or at least had an actor portray a Norwegian? I suppose they had to work the English language in there somehow.

At first glance the film appears to contemplate the existence of alien life and dish out new details on the thing. The tension builds as the scientists, including Kate Lloyd, retrieve the alien from the ice and attempt to uncover the mystery behind the alien spacecraft and the alien's alleged demise. Regrettably, as soon as the creature thaws out so does the movie. Similar to the recent remake of Don't Be Afraid of the DarkThe Thing shows the creature far too much. In fact The Thing quickly becomes a parade of grotesque special effects and special effects does not make a good movie.

One clever piece of writing in an otherwise predictable film, is when Kate, figures out how to identify who's human and who's not. In the novel and the previous films, the thing has the ability to imitate other life forms perfectly, so much so that it is difficult to identify. Ultimately people figure out that the thing can be identified by it's blood. In the remake, Kate cleverly figures out that the thing cannot replicate non-organic material like surgical implants or mercury dental fillings. Considering the fillings in my mouth during the mercury-drenched 1980s I would have been easily identified as human.

However, instead of focusing on these intriguing aspects not covered in the two previous films, first time director Matthijs van Heijningen chooses to create an elongated episode of "When Aliens Attack!Heijningen could have continued to build upon the already established sense of dread, but instead the film quickly descends into a bad creature feature.

That should not denote the creature feature genre. 2007's The Mist, based upon Stephen King's novel, is a great example of a modern creature feature done well. Some may disagree with this, asThe Mist received mixed reviews. However, unlike Carpenter's version and The MistThe Thingremake does not properly balance the basics of any good creature feature--paranoia and horror.Carpenter's film was the perfect mixture of both.

The main problem with this remake is that it's sloppy. The film focuses exclusively on grotesque scares and seat jolts, instead of psychological horror. Another problem with this movie was the casting. Winstead is woefully miscast in a role that is clearly meant for someone else. Winstead does not have the charisma of Kurt Russell or the chops of fellow alien fighter Sigourney Weaver. Unfortunately, Winstead's Kate is dishwater dull and a poor heroine if ever there was one.

Considering some of Winstead's other performances this was surprising. Some of this can be attributed to poor writing, however, Winstead's lackluster portrayal and listless demeanor can only be described as Keanu Reeves-esque. Not only is Winstead weak in her role, but the remaining cast is equally unmemorable. As the thing picks off people one by one, you're not likely to care. Writing 101 demands that you make the audience feel something about the characters, whether negative or positive.

If you really like the franchise then by all means see the film at the $1.50 theater. The Thing is not a terrible remake; it's just not a good one. It falls somewhere between fair to middle. The Thing is rated "R" for graphic violence. Note to parents please do not bring your four-year old child to see this film, as someone did when I was in the theater.

ONE -1/2 OUT OF FIVE STARS

7 comments:

  1. Disheartening, but good to know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Most of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are rotten. Skipping!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lot of bad reviews but some of my friends also said that it's an entertaining one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ennesima delusione, peccato! È brutto quando la creatura è mostrata troppo ed è fatta male! Ultimamente ho visto la stessa cosa in "Super 8".
    Concordo che quelle di "The Mist" erano invece ben fatte!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Some actors are not period piece actors, like Mickey Rourke. I would say too Keanau reeves was a tad strange in Dracula as Jonathan Harker.

    ReplyDelete

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