One of the most treasured horror films in the history of cinema is John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing, his remake of the 1951 Thing From Another World. While it didn’t perform at the boxoffice (it didn’t even cross $20m domestic), it has since become the poster child for excellence in practical special effects. If anything, the claustrophobic creature feature is timeless purely based on the H.P. Lovecraftian effects work. It looks real…
When Universal Pictures announced they’d be releasing a prequel (a slick way of getting around the word “remake”) it caused fan outrage – specifically out of the fear that it would tarnish the original’s mysticism. While nothing can ruin Carpenter’s masterpiece, the 2011 Thing, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., can easily be erased from everyone’s memory.
In The Thing, Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins a Norwegian scientific team in Antarctica that has stumbled across an extraterrestrial ship buried in the ice. The creature breaks free and begins infecting the scientific team. Joel Edgerton plays crew’s forgettable pilot.
The 2011 version is a progressive film, specifically because it gets progressively worse. By the time the end credits crawl onto the screen you’ll find yourself whipping your eyes in disbelief. Let me explain…
As I mentioned in my letter to studio execs, CGI is ruining the film industry. It’s become a lazy tool to avoid the hassle of hard-boiled practical effects – and a way of making a film “bigger” than it should be. Early in The Thing, the initial creature is barely displayed. It flashes past the screen and is eventually trapped under a deck where the audience gets a small taste of the bizarre; it’s effective, creepy, and sets the tone perfectly. Only, as the minutes pass, the filmmakers feel the need to show more and more causing an alarming amount of CGI to vomit across the screen. It’s as if they don’t understand the difference between “scary” and “big and loud”. By the final act, the audience is forced (unless you do yourself a favor and walk out of the theater) to watch as a giant hybrid creature runs through halls, jumps around, and screams with super loud alien squeals; there’s literally a full-on CG shot of the creature standing 12 feet tall. It looked like something out of “Gears of War” or “Doom”, like re-rendered video game footage. (It should also be noted that the creatures are too symmetrical, like a perfect circle. There’s nothing haunting about a perfectly round mouth with sharp teeth. It’s the unordinary, broken arm structures of the first film’s creatures that give me chills.) It even sucks for the actors (and causes weak performances) because with CG there isn’t anything physical for them to react to. A perfect way to describe The Thing is to reflect back on George Lucas’ new Star Wars trilogy, which actually looks more dated than the original from 30+ years ago. It’s the same old song and dance, Universal’s new The Thing already looks more dated than Carpenter’s, and it’s not even in theaters as of this writing!
Speaking of writing, it’s a complete bummer harping on yet another Eric Heisserer-penned project as the guy has a knack for out-of-the-box thinking. His screenplays for both A Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination 5 are quite solid, and he implements some brilliant ideas into The Thing screenplay such as a new spin to the infamous “alien test” sequence. But I digress; there are some blatant holes in the film, although it’s unclear what was removed during multiple cuts and reshoots. It’s never explained as to why the alien creature sometimes forms itself as a human, while other aliens run around as half-hybrids for the duration of the film. It’s unclear if the aliens are self-aware or if they are just “viruses” reacting to their environment. Furthermore, who built the ship that was discovered? If these aliens are smart, it makes sense, but if they’re just viruses than it would have to be implied that they infected another alien race and caused the ship to crash onto Earth (a rip-off or homage to Alien?)
Even with a fanboy blowjob during the end credits (it leads directly up to Carpenter’s ’82 version), nothing can save The Thing from itself. Bigger and louder is not scarier nor better, it’s just more annoying. The Thing is too big for it’s britches and bites off more than it can chew. Everything that was great about the 1982 version (it was a small, claustrophobic film with strong characters and awesome special effects) is ignored in this 2011 crap that’s nothing more than a boring CGI promo-reel. Do not waste a second watching this; instead go pop Carpenter’s version back into your VHS/DVD/Blu-ray player and revisit one of the greatest horror films of all-time.
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