Friday, October 14, 2011

Do Not Be Afraid of THE THING!!! (Strike that. Reverse It).

REMAKE (from da Wiki):

The term "remake" is generally used in reference to a movie which uses an earlier movie as the main source material, rather than in reference to a second, later movie based on the same source.

PREQUEL (also from Wiki):

"A prequel is a work that supplements a previously completed one, and has an earlier time setting".

Do you understand the words that have just been typed in this review? You are going to have to comprehend them if you are even remotely thinking about going out to the cinema and perusing a movie that is getting a whole lotta press with a whole lotta misinformation. I don't think its intentional but I think it could hurt box office results more than it will help, and be absolutely motherfucking rest assured, I want the box office results for The Thing to be through the roof. So a remake is pretty much taking the story you knew and loved as a kid and then completely overhauling it (in some/most cases) and then replacing every peace of nostalgia you've ever felt with bitter hate. That's a remake. That's what I've heard on the street. That's not what I believe, but ya'll seem to take the stance quite often. Now a prequel... a prequel has a fighting chance even among the haters of big Hollywood's obsessions with taking your hopes and dreams and corrupting them. A prequel can crash and burn as much as a remake but typically has a different judging schema. So put your "suspension of disbelief" hat on and get ready for the review that feels very good about this PREQUEL to John Carpenter's REMAKE of The Thing. There will be spoilers, but not enough to ruin your appetite I hope.

From the minute I saw the TV spot for the Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.story about a creature discovered under the ice that is clearly from another world and ready to meet the public, I was skeptical. I was not the most skeptical fan boy out there. How could I be prejudice against a film that wanted me to re-explore a John Carpenter classic as well as a James Arnus starring role (Mr. Arnus died this past year)? I kept hearing the word "remake" floating around the horror gossip columns, and my first reaction was utter panic. Why remake a John Carpenter film? Sure we've seen Halloween remade and then a sequel, but those have been met with some criticism that might be considered less than favorable. Now take a movie that sits down and has a cup of tea with the hearts of several generations of horror fans with an iconic Kurt Russell character at the helm and you might as well be remaking Nightmare on Elm Street (oh yeah they did that... remember how you felt about that one?). So with remake being the dirty word on the lips of every Hollywood-bashing fan boy, Carpenter's The Thing seems like the movie you don't touch. You stay away from. You back away slowly and make sure you'e dog hasn't been co-opted by any alien beings.

As the rumors began to peak and production was underway, we all learned that it was not a remake and everyone settled down and started to dream big about how a new director in this day in age might create the Thing. Lord knows we were all anticipating with bated breath the gorgeous CGI that was most certainly to come. We were trying to figure out which computer graphic design company would be on the job and also excited to see who would don that beautiful prospector's hat that MacReady wore in the Carpenter "original". Oh wait... NONE OF THAT HAPPENED!!! To this day, in the theater this very night, folks were referring to it as a remake. Friends of friends corrected the younger generation, but it had me wondering why the commercials hadn't tackled this issue better. The CGI vs. physical effect debate has resulted in some near fatalities (now you get the feeling I'm exaggerating). People are even occupying Wall Street protesting computers in general. When the rumor mills a rockin' don't come a knockin'.

I think you know the story by now, and me and recaps of things films... I don't do them well because I find that I spend hours thinking about what I do and don't want to tell you about a film and then realize it's two in the morning and I haven't written a review yet. So here's what our trust friend at IMDB said about each film... let's do this properly.

Scientist at an Arctic research station discover a spacecraft buried in the ice. Upon closer examination, they discover the frozen pilot. All hell breaks loose when they take him back to their station and he is accidentally thawed out!

THE THING (1982)
An American scientific expedition to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic is interrupted by a group of seemingly mad Norwegians pursuing and shooting a dog. The helicopter pursuing the dog crashes leaving no explanation for the chase. During the night, the dog mutates and attacks other dogs in the cage and members of the team that investigate. The team soon realises that an alien life-form with the ability to take over other bodies is on the loose and they don't know who may already have been taken over.

THE THING (2011)
At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson. While Dr. Halvorson keeps to his research, Kate partners with Sam Carter, a helicopter pilot, to pursue the alien life form.

So there are all three film in a nut shell. The first film, The Thing from Another World, is disconnected from the two other films. There are tributes paid and ideas shared between each of the films, but for the most part the 1951 classic is just a jumping off point for a great idea as is the initial book Who Goes There?. The order of the next two films in terms of time line would by the 2011 version followed by the 1982 version. The new film is the story of three days before the Carpenter classic. I like to refer to it as the story of the dog... Remember the helicopter chasing the dog through the opening sequence of the film from 1982? Don't you ever wonder where he came from? Why they burned those mangled, strange bodies at the Norwegian camp? If you are a true fan boy of the Carpenter film than you will be happy to come visit this new picture for some nice plot fill ins and sutures on story gaps. Don't come looking for MacReady or that awesome hat. You can wear your own replica hat to the film, but they'll probably make you take it off before the picture begins.

So we've established that it's not a remake so you can put your harpoon guns away. We know that it fleshes out the story and does not simply regurgitate what would be things of trivia from '82 film. We also know that it pays tribute to the original Thing From Another World which makes this reviewer just a happy camper, and since I am a bit of a fan boy myself it might make you feel at ease that I believe it was done in good taste. What else could you possibly want to know?

How about the re-imagining of the Ennio Morricone score? Yep, it's in there. The original is used as well. and the score ties the two films nicely. You know some people think that Mr. John Carpenter himself produced this synth magic score from the 1982 version, but it was in fact, Mr. Morricone, in the recording studio with the synthesizer. Again, proper respects paid to the Carpenter film and continuity preserved.

The actors are terrible. They are atrocious. How can you stand to let people come into this film and fill Wilfred Brimley's shoes? Fill Keith David's shoes? Fill Kurt Russell's shoes? Well, you don't need to fill anybody's shoes. No one is playing MacReady. No one's playing any of your favorite characters. The only character in the film that is in both films isn't even credited in the original picture. Fan boys know who I'm talking about. We'll leave it at that to protect the innocent. Mary Elizabeth Winstead... I thought I had a crush on you in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. I really did think that. Well now you have moved above Zoe Deschanel on my star crush list. This actress is tops in my book. Versatile. Powerful. She's the smartest woman in the room in both films and I think that she will make an excellent role model for a strong female presence in our little male dominated genre. Breaking the mold. I hope somebody gets a picture of her hanging out with Kurt Russell, but I have no idea how he took this film. I hope well.

The filmmakers take the origin of the thing, the where did it come from in the story line and flesh it out nicely. It's as basic as the 1951 version. Nothing terribly fancy save an overly dramatic action sequence or two which are pretty effective. For the most part once you realize that the alien is loose, the film follows a similar pattern to the first film which is wholly appropriate. Human nature would nearly guarantee the events that discovering an alien would inspire. General paranoia. Total drop in the communication lines. More paranoia. Itchy trigger fingers. I don't want to show you where the Thing will lead you. I have a slight issue with where the the writers decided to take this one, but I suppose it will at least quell your curiosity burn.

So that's it right? You didn't need to know anything more about the film and you're ready to see it. Fork over your $11 and get your ass in the seat... OOOOOHHHH... you wanted to know about the special effects. I mentioned them earlier. You wanna know if they'll hold up to the Roy Arbogast original effects? Did CGI ruin the movie? Was there too much CGI? Is this an R rated PG13 film? Here's how I will answer you: Gore is back and it looks good. PG-13? Never! Would Roy Arbogast be proud? He would say that this films suffers from some of the typical CGI issues but overuse wasn't really one of them. The filmmakers showed restraint although I would say they need to use a tadbit more. Physical effects are definitely present and they are excellent, but the CGI has enlivened some of the action shots and to the films benefit. I'd love if they did more physical effects. I would also like if CGI creator as whole would work on the strange, unrealistic skin sliding that seems to occur in all computer generated humans. It looks fake. It looks bad. That goes for every film. Sometimes, Latex is best. But this issue is minor, won't ruin the film and you will like what you see. If you don't like what you see, I think you might be playing sentimental. I think you might be projecting your own feelings of negativity toward film's that mess with films from your childhood onto this film. Hey, maybe you wanted all physical effects, but I think the film would have suffered more from all physical effects. Well done guys. You took my only fear, my fear of terrible effects and wowed me. Favorite effects shot: the early stage of human duplication as scene in an autopsy. Enjoy this one. Your dates will puke in your popcorn (if you're lucky).

So to wrap up: My humble opinion, SEE THIS FILM. See it in the theater. Pay for your ticket. Let Hollywood know they got it right and as always, try to keep an open mind. Oh and it's not a remake! Make sure everyone knows that.

One last important thing: If you're taking people to see this new film that have not seen the Carpenter or Christian Nyby films, please do a little screening before or after (preferably before) you see the movie. It will save questions later and help to not ruin the movie in the theater for other people who listen on as you are forced to explain everything from the initial two films throughout the movie. I had to laugh as twelve year old boys listen to their fathers recant the tale of MacReady. It was practically a Paul Bunion, tall tale going on in the middle of an R Rated feature right behind me.

-Dr. Thing

Also, marketing idea that would be a sure fire hit: EVERYONE GETS A FLAMETHROWER!!!

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