Friday, October 14, 2016

MR The Thing (2011)

Movie: The Thing (2011) or also The Thing prequel, The Thing 0 or The Thing 2
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Release date October 2011 
Genre Science-fiction horror film
Country USA/Canada

John Carpenter's The Thing is a staple of science-fiction horror. Fans of the genre have often called it one of, if not, the best remake ever done along Chuck Russell's The Blob and David Cronenberg's The Fly (the "Holy Trinity" of horror remakes).

Due to its success, there's been various Thing-inspired products over the past 30+ years, including pretty good and pretty bad comics, video games and many more!

So of course there's been various attempts at making a follow-up to Carpenter's 1982 film.

For many years Carpenter himself wanted to make sequel for a time. It almost got made in 2003 when he was discussing possibilities with SyFy to produce an original mini-series which would have featured an older Kurt Russell, and Keith David's character as well. The Thing II would have followed the surviving characters as they dealt with The Thing trying to spread out to Earth. Much of what would have been the plot is what made it in the 2002 The Thing video game so Carpenter considers that to be the only true continuation of the film.

But Universal Pictures had other plans, so they finally decided to resurrect this propriety with a fairly decent Dutch director, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. who mostly worked on commercials up to that point and the 1996 film Red Rain.

By now completely distanced from the original Who Goes There? novella by John W. Campbell, this is a prequel in all but story. It's basically a remake of John Carpenter's film. You almost wish they'd instead adapted "The Things" short story by Peter Watts which told the events of the original film from the point of view of The Thing...

Our story takes place in 1982 (not like you could tell from anything in the film, really).

People at the Norwegian outpost, Thule Station, located in Antarctica near the American station Outpost 31 discover an alien spaceship three days before the events of Carpenter's film.

Of course they call for an American paleontologist, Kate (played by the very talented and always stunning Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim), probably because the producers thought the audience wouldn't care if there was no American in the cast.

And from then on, it's basically a shot-for-shot remake of the 1982 film. The Thing escapes, it starts assimilating people around and causing confusing among the group. Who is the creature?! They notice The Thing ditches dental fillings behind, so they set up a test. They use their flamethrower as a weapon.

The story goes through the exact same motions. The Thing is slightly more aggressive, because it didn't learn to blend in just yet.

The film is only carefully making sure to set things up for the older film, since it's supposed to act as a prequel. We even get to see the spacecraft power up.

The film finally ends with only one surviving Norwegian in the helicopter, going after a dog, leading up to the original film...

The Thing 2011 was made by the same producers behind the Dawn of the Dead remake, who were looking for other proprieties to bring back. They originally set it as a remake, but Universal felt they should do a prequel or a sequel instead since there was no reason to remake John Carpenter's classic. Which kind of explains why this oddly-paced hybrid prequel/remake ended up this way:...

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character is closer to Ripley from Alien rather than Kurt Russell's MacReady. Apart from the lead Norwegian guy, I did feel like the rest of the cast was actually pretty fun. I kind of wish they'd be given more focus, so you would feel more invested in them while the doubts pick up later on...

And the special effects were originally completely designed by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. of ADI (Amalgamated Dynamics), who have been responsible for countless great horror creatures design including the iconic Alien! They made all kinds of practical effects, hydraulic animatronics  and various other techniques to depict the various Thing creatures. So there were actual props on set the entire film. But the problem is the studio came in and hired Image Engine to cover everything up with quick cheap CGi.. All practical effects were covered by ugly improvised CGi (hey, I have nothing really against CGi when done right, but this was clearly a rush job!) and they even did a ton of digital matte paintings to completely alter and expand some original sets..

All of the great effects drowned in bad CGi just plain look fake.
And the film ran into more troubles late in production, including reshoots and various changes to the endings since they were no sure if Kate would be killed or not, if she escaped from The Thing or not or even if she met or find out more about the original alien pilots from the spacecraft!

Let's be clear, The Thing 2011 is not a proper prequel nor a sequel. It's plain reboot of the license, a half-remake, half-prequel hybrid. You got to ask... Why? They did not even really bother to modernize anything, since it's still set in the 80s, yet it redoes the entire original film.

It's just The Thing with a lot of CGi.

Possibly the most competent part of the entire film is in the very early scenes setting up the camaraderie among the Norwegian camp and how they are in the middle of nowhere. But once the creatures jumps out of the block of ice it all goes downhill from there.

Lars is the only really great character, most of these people aren't as stupid as they usually are in these types of horror flicks.

They did recreate most details of the original Norwegian outpost, like the two-headed creature, some shots, etc.

I found this 2011 remake/prequel pretty insulting, to be honest.

They added all these clichés the 80's version avoided, all present in the 2011 version. The monster was handled really badly, and, yes, I hate to say what everybody loves complaining about, but they relied too much on CGi (painted over great animatronics work, and it really, really showed...).

In the end all we are left with is a movie, like it's shapeshifting creature, that's just trying to assimilate elements from the original and blend in as much as possible.. but it just stands out like a really bad imposter.

The Thing prequel is mostly just a retreat back.

It's a bad film.

And no,  you can't judge it for the movie it could have been. We know they wanted to mostly use practical effects, but it's not the case anymore. We ended with another awful CGi horror film. Taking away most of the actual horror. The monsters can't be as "present" as the original's. It always runs very fast, waving tentacles, etc.

At the end of the day, it mostly feels like a rehash of the original for the most part. It's a decent rehash, but perfectly dispensable.

We all knew the Norwegians stuck a fireaxe on a door, that someone slit their throat and wrists in front of a radio, that the creature assimilated two bodies before being burnt down and that it originally came from a huge block of ice broken from the inside. But did we need to see how it all happened?

The original's still available to watch, and it still holds up a lot better than these already-aging 2011 special effects.

And the final act just kind of loses focuses entirely... Once she goes into that spaceship, it only gets worse... They could have done so much worse, making it talk or revealing more from where it came from. But there's no real sense of drama or mystery, no real reason to follow it there.. It all just feels unnecessary...

There are some good ideas. It's not entirely that awful. For a prequel it's pretty inconsistent, The Thing is way too fast and too strong revealing itself all the time for no reason, CGi or not. And it always uses those tentacles (reminded me of the worst The Thing comics, Eternal Vows). The characters act pretty stupid, The Thing itself was pretty dumb not even taking advantages of people from both cultures. The original movie was supposed to be about paranoia, and this prequel does not even play with how these characters are not able to communicate with each other...

The music composed by Marco Beltrami here is pretty average. It feels like a fairly generic action film. The only good parts are when it plays with the original Ennio Morricone score used as a reference and John Carpenter's original theme replays during the epilogue scene tying both films together.

Overall, the 2011 The Thing is a pretty bad, bland and pointless remake, just like there's been some many this past decade. Over 30 years have passed and all they could come up is this week rehash of the original film setting up a 2-minute finale/opening scene from the original.

While some ideas look nice, it feels like the only good idea they had was how the film was supposed to end to connect with the original film.

I'd say Give It A Look if you're interested in the idea of prequel or a huge fan of the original, and even that way you will try picking this prequel apart. It could have been a whole lot worse, but the Carpenter version is still miles better.

The original had a much better sense of dread, a monster that could look at people and pass for one of them, it was genuinely scary. Here it goes for easy jump scares, throwing tentacles at people's faces and there's simply no sense of paranoia. It's more of an action film. Closer to a classic slasher flick in fact, they didn't really care for any of the characters. The original monster wanted to frame other people, hide in plain sight, stalk and kill them one by one. It felt like a real malevolent entity. Here it just goes for the easy kills, on a rampage, never stopping. It's not a predator anymore, it attacks with loud noises.

The only good thing from this entire movie, in my eyes, was Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she's such a natural and fun actress in these types of films. I'm glad she's been popping up more and more in this genre lately.

At least this film would lead to Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff's attempting to finance their own independent horror film, Harbinger Down, based on the fan reaction to The Thing 2011!

I give it:
1 / 3 Necronomicons!

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