Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Review : The Thing (2011)


Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr. (short story "Who Goes There?")
Near an isolated Norwegian outpost in Antarctica,  a discovery full of scientific possibility becomes a mission of survival when an alien is unearthed by a crew of international scientists.An alien that can mimic any living thing perfectly, including humans....

There are two kinds of people in this world....those who love John Carpenters THE THING, and those who haven't seen it, (never trust these people, folks). Its that sort of film. A film so perfect in each and every detail that it  transcends genres as effectively as it blends them. For me, its the single greatest Sci-fi Horror in the history of cinema, even surpassing Ridley Scott's ALIEN. So it was with great trepidation that I approached this 'prequel'.

I say prequel in quotations, as this film could very easily be viewed as a remake. Not only of Carpenters masterpiece, but of the equally brilliant Howard Hawks original, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It takes Hawks genesis story, and transports it to the desolate landscape created by Carpenter in his version. I'm sure you all know by now that this film follows the fate of the Norwegian camp who originally unearthed our shape-shifting hombre. No one ever really gave two shits about seeing what went down at the camp, as we've all spent years dreaming up the scenario in our own imaginations, and no film could ever come close to rivalling the bloodbath we all dreamt of. Despite being unnecessary, word that the Norwegians tale would be detailed did raise interest in the Horror community. Interest and fear...

See, THE THING's monster is, without any doubt in my mind, (and many others), the most fascinating creature ever put on screen, and if you think theres one that's MORE fascinating, well, 'The Thing' can replicate it perfectly, so its got that base covered too, sucker. Its a monster that demands the greatest respect in how its treated on film, both on a physical level and an intellectual one.  Of course, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creature design here, as the great Rob Bottin proved with his stellar designs in Carpenters movie. He brought to the screen nightmares that to this very day, still piss all over any CG creations that Hollywood has churned out in the last few decades.

On an intellectual level, the 'thing' is equally as enthralling. Its an unknowable being. We don't know how it thinks, how it shape-shifts, where its from. We don't even know if it can mimic us so perfectly that we actually believe we're still human. Its just a fucking wonderful creation, and in the right hands, I'd happily watch a whole army of films dealing with this creature. John Carpenters hands were the right hands, Hollywood's hands are not....

Now I'm not saying that this 2011 version was directed by the wrong hands, quite the opposite, in fact. Director Heinenngin is clearly in love with the source material, and goes out of his way to pay great respect to the atmosphere, environment, sound effects, and camerawork that all combined to make THE THING (1982) such a perfect film. It should be noted that he originally stated that almost all the creature effects would be 'in-camera', with very little CG. Hell, all the scenes we witness in the movie were created with prosthetics, and then replaced by studio demand. Bastards...

Its here that the film falters. The CG just cannot match what came before. It looks rushed, and holds no weight. Theres no pain involved in the transformations, nowhere near enough gore, and very little to inspire awe.  Hollywood, as usual, has no fucking idea what fans want, and thinks that the upcoming generation need CG to enjoy a movie. Its just not true. THE THING would have been far superior were it handled old-school, as the director intended. The good news? There are still some prosphetics used, and they look just fantastic, as do some of the creatures incarnations, (though the CG does them no favors).

The film is also very much a mixed bag when it comes to suspense, too. The opening 40-45 minutes are actually pretty damn good. Sure, its all a little too polished, but they did hire mostly unknown and very capable actors, and as the story kicks off, the tension, and essentially, the paranoia runs really high. I found myself loving the damn thing, (pun intended), and I was engrossed in the characters plight, and in trying to identify who was human and who was an interstellar bad-ass. The second half, though, drags the whole damn show in a very different direction. It becomes, essentially, a monster movie. The paranoia and suspense are replaced by extended scenes of a monster/monsters chasing our heroes down dark tunnels. Theres nothing wrong with this in theory, but that's not what THE THING is about. Its a creature that wants to hide, that is as cunning and unknowable as it is deadly, and so when the fucker reveals itself to all and sundry, and begins a rampage around the Norwegian camp, you find yourself watching a merely capable monster flick. Why the film went this route is up for grabs, but for a film that opens so strong to devolve into (admittedly very fun), stock entertainment, really feels like another case of studio-fuckery at play.

That girl from FINAL DESTINATION 3 is surprisingly good too, and its to the producers benefit that shes never belittled or objectified in the film. She wears big old woolly tops and jackets throughout, and the focus remains on her character and not her looks. I was really impressed by the gal. Theres also no 'tacked-on' love story to ruin the experience, and that really does sweeten the deal. Shes fine in the film, and alongside a cool-as-fuck silent Norwegian called Lars, shes really the only memorable character in here.

As a card carrying fan-boy of the original, I could hate up a storm on this fucker, but I'm not gonna do it. I believe that hidden inside the so-so CG and the multiplex pandering action sequences during the final run, theres a really entertaining film here. It could never match the Carpenter movie, minus a miracle, but it doesn't taint that movies memory, either. For those unfamiliar with the original, this'll probably be a far above average monster movie, but for the fans, it cant quite seal the deal.

Still, I'm glad it exists. Its good enough that it will definitely draw a new audience to the Carpenter film, (while leaving fans of the original very keen to revisit the film), and that can only be a good thing. It helps that its a prequel, (mostly), rather than a straight up remake, and its a perfectly acceptable film, it just stings to know that the prosthetics were abandoned and that its only really half a 'Thing' movie, and half a B-Movie.. I say check it out, but don't expect miracles. Its good enough to leave you wanting more, but its a long, long way from Carpenter and Bottins nightmarish world.

7 Crazy Swedes out of 10


  1. I saw this last week and really didn't care for, even though I watched the whole thing. I thought it was to be a prequel but a lot of it was like the original. Sad to say, I probably won't rewatch this. I found it very lacking and didn't care for the fact looking monster.

  2. I was tempted to walk out I was so disappointed. I had high hopes for them making an actual prequel. Unfortunately they made more of a sequel. Carpenter's film was so good that it was clearly a tough act to follow, but the remake was just so bad.

    I thought Mary Elizabeth played this role in such a dull manner. It was like she was asleep for most of the film and would only wake up when the alien came out. It was almost as if that's what she thought a scientist should be, stoic?

  3. Yeah I was sort of kind to it, as it really coul;d have been so much worse. But I thopught it was a bearable little film. I thought winstead was ok tbh, and some of the effects were okay,but the CG sunk it. I think if an everyday kid saw it they would enjoy it, but its nothing compared to the original..at all.

    seems like people are either quite forgiving of this film(like me), or outright hate the damn thing,. (like you fine ladies). I do think it will draw an audience to Carpenters film tho...hence the 7/10 scoring.