Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thing (2011) Review

THE PROLOGUE! (feel free to scroll down to the actual review)
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) is one of my favorite movies of all time. A team of American scientists trapped in the most desolate place on earth with a creature that is trying to kill and replicate them causing paranoia and terror to spread like herpes on Jersey Shore. The formula is perfect, the characters are believable and the creature effects set a standard for the movie industry.

When I learned that a prequel was in the works I got that:
"excited/scared feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it's more - It could be two - it could be 98% scared, 2% excited but that's what makes it so intense, it's so - confused. I can't really figure it out." -Oscar (Armageddon)
I didn't want to set my sights too high and get stabbed in the back like Hollywood has a tendency to do but I allowed myself to hope. When I started reading articles talking about all the practical effects and the interior of the space ship I had a geekasm. The female role left me feeling dubious, but what the hell, WHY NOT?! It's gotta get pretty lonely out there in Antarctica, am I RIGHT LLLLLLADIES!? Nothing against female leads but in a movie such as this it's just a distraction. Anyway, I went to see the movie with my heart in my hands and hoping Universal would not snatch it from me and take a dump on it but instead cause it to erupt from terror and icky nasty alien glee.
THE REVIEW! (minor spoiler alert)
The Thing (2011) is decent movie. It's not good, and it's not awful. It is a modern director's tribute to John Carpenter's classic that was very aware that it could never come close to the movie it was honoring; but tried anyway.

OVERVIEW: A team of Norwegian scientists tracking a mysterious signal find a space ship in the ice, they find a frozen alien nearby and get a hold of an American paleontologist (Winstead) with experience digging out ice age animals to come to Antarctica and dig up the ET. Once all the characters are assembled on top of the alien space ship, the first thing that becomes apparent is that there are no ugly women in Antarctica. All two of them.

They dig up the alien and bring it back to base and OH NO the main scientist guy turns out to be a dick and wants a tissue sample from the alien despite the protests by our friendly neighborhood American paleontologist hot chick and wouldn't you know it the alien gets thawed out and death ensues.

GOOD STUFF: The story keeps you interested through the end and it's a lot of fun if you're a fan of the 1982 film to see how the two films get tied together; the axe in the wall, the frozen body with it's throat cut, the creature that RJ and Doc find burnt in the ice outside of the camp are all there and explained. The ship is impressive and you get to go inside where a mad-crazy game of Tetris is going on (you'll see) and the base is faithfully recreated and the acting is pretty good.

The original original

BAD STUFF: The female lead is dubious and boring, not at all like the hard boiled RJ MacReady and her purpose seems to just be a place holder even though you're forced to spend most of your time with her instead of getting to know the other characters so when they die you don't really care because they are all place holders as well. Several scenes are brought right over from the 1982 flick which classifies it as a remake/prequel (remaquel, sounds Latin) only in less interesting ways. There are plot holes abound but you don't really notice them until the movie is over because it does keep you engaged to the end. There are some twists but the movie relies too much on shock scares to create the same level of paranoia in the original. Some characters make decisions that make no sense and it fails to explain how two men survive a helicopter crash with a massive alien on board with no fire. The creature itself also makes a lot of stupid decisions like NOT kill Winstead when it had several opportunities. OH, and if you like impaling than you have found your home! Impaling is EVERYWHERE! What is it with horror movies and impaling? Have you noticed that impaling is like the go-to for a death? And they're always through center of body mass, never through the face, or the side, or the hip, always through the sternum like they're SEAL team 6.

PRODUCTION: The creature effects are good if not great but become a little too reliant on CGI later on in the film which blows as the 1982 is so well known for it's practical effects; even the Norwegian helicopter is digital. Shaky cam is rampant, especially in a lot of the dialogue and if there's one trend I despise in Hollywood film making it's over used shaky cam. You don't feel like the characters are in Antarctica so much as on set; they don't get cold, in fact they don't even wear jackets a good bit of the time and run around outside like they're on vacation in Miami. For a place where the mean annual temperature is −57°C (−70°F) that's pretty ridiculous. To be fair the director had no idea what he was doing. He makes commercials. Considering this though, he did a good job for what he knew.

CONCLUSION: This movie is worth watching, but not a worthy installment to The Thing franchise. Think of it as a companion piece and nothing else. If you're looking a more satisfying accompaniment to John Carpenter's classic then I suggest the 2002 video game if you can find it.

The Thing (2011) gets a 3/5





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