Friday, May 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Thing (2011)


I had to put off seeing The Thing for a while because I hadn't yet fallen in love with The Thing... I mean, John Carpenter's The Thing, not the prequel ... OH MY FREAKING GOSH, why did they give a prequel a name that is exactly the same as the movie it's prequel-izing?! Argh. Okay, if I'm going to mention both movies here, maybe this will clear things up: the 1982 film will hereby be called "Thing 1" (because it's the original) and the prequel will be called "Thing 2." Thank you, Dr. Seuss. Onward.

Scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson recruits young paleontologist Kate Lloyd to dig up an alien specimen found on a research site in Antarctica. The thing is still alive, though, and able to absorb and replicate a person when it attacks. The team fights to survive, but they soon realize they can't let the thing escape the facility - a task made all the more difficult when they don't know who's human, and who's not.

Unlike probably every other horror fan in the world, I did not see Thing 1 until a few months ago and believe it or not, the first time I watched it, I wasn't completely crazy about it. Granted, I was a little distracted and not in the right frame of mind to really appreciate it, so I knew I had to give it another chance. Holy crap... that movie is a-freaking-mazing. I am now in the club of everybody who thinks Thing 1 is one of the best horror movies ever. So... what about Thing 2?

Basically, the problem with Thing 2 - and one that I saw coming a mile away - is that it has a little too much in common with Thing 1. I knew the plot of Thing 2 before I even saw it: people find the thing, they realize the thing is alive, the thing starts to kill, they realize the thing can replicate humans, they stop trusting each other, they die, the survivors fight the thing, they think they kill it but obviously they don't really because this is a prequel. DUH. And yup, that's pretty much what happens. No surprises, and nothing all that new is introduced to enhance the story.

Actually one thing I really liked was the new way they came up with for identifying who's a thing or not, if only because it makes more sense than what they tried to do in Thing 1. When Kate finds tooth fillings on the floor after someone has been attacked by the thing, she figures out that it cannot replicate inorganic material - fillings, steel rods for a broken arm, etc. So then there's a somewhat suspenseful scene where Kate goes around to everybody with a flashlight and looks inside their mouths. The way the scene is played out makes you expect something squiggly to come flying out of somebody's mouth and attack Kate. It doesn't happen, I'm sorry to say, but it was a nicely crafted little moment.

Another problem I have with Thing 2 is the effects. I don't completely hate CGI on principle - it can give us some really cool things to look at in a movie - but it did not work for me at all for Thing 2. When you're basing your prequel off of Thing 1, a movie that is known specifically for its awesome organic effects, and you go all CGI, it just doesn't feel the same. I miss the practical effects, okay? They look a heck of a lot better and are more convincing, plus they are just nasty, real and visceral and that's always fun for a horror fan. Thing 2 was all about somebody's body ripping apart and these weird tentacle things flying every whichaway. The ideas for the effects were very interesting and cool; I only wish they had gone with the practical approach to achieve them. I did like the two-headed thing, though. Props for that.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead replaces Kurt Russell in the role of the person who's really not in charge taking charge of the situation. And she does a pretty good job here - much different than the ditz I only knew her as in Death Proof, by the way. All the other characters and actors are kinda forgettable and I could never tell who was who or what their role was. They are mostly just fodder for the thing and you know who the survivors are going to be right from the beginning, so who cares, right?

If there's one part of Thing 2 that big fans of Thing 1 will love, it is of course the sequence during the end credits. When the movie "ended" the first time, I had a few seconds to go, "Wait, what? How can that be the end? What about the guys in the helicopter and the d-- ohhhhhhhh... there you go!" It's nothing all that big but I'm sure it was greatly appreciated by those who know and love Thing 1 (which now includes me!).

So did I hate Thing 2? No, I really didn't but I could also never recommend it over Thing 1, even though they are kinda the same movie with kinda the same characters. The CGI pulled me out of the movie a lot, but although Thing 2 is not a horrible movie, it won't ever get the same attention or admiration as the original.

15 comments:

  1. I was entertained by this movie, but it is so inferior to the Carpenter movie as to be on another plane of creative existence. On its own, though, it's decent.

    One MAJOR boo-boo: in the Carpenter movie, the alien ship is shown to be excavated by the use of a thermite bomb. However, in the prequel, the ship excavates itself when the engines start up and melt through the ice.

    Okay, pay attention all you screenwriters out there: if you write a prequel, you HAVE GOT to not miss details like that. You can be a little slack when it comes to small details, but large plot points like that one ought to be adhered to strictly. Otherwise, why make a prequel? Just do a full remake and don't worry about any of it.

    But all in all, I've seen much worse.

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  2. it lacked the thinking power of The Thing I, but I guess it kinda worked as a brainless creature feature. Yes, kudos to "Two-Face"...I named that creature Two-Face...

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  3. I kinda of enjoyed the prequel. It didn't insult the original, and the special effects were quite good. Liked the characters too. Overall, pretty decent.

    I recently rewatched the original and even though I still loved it, it feels a bit too dated.

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  4. Loved the 1951 version as it will ALWAYS be the best. The Carpenter vesion was and is a true classic. This version is something I will avoid, but very good review however.

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  5. Professor Q summed up everything I might have said. Thank you, Bernard.

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  6. Wonderful review for a horrible, HORRIBLE movie. I really, really hated it. The original is one of the greatest and most impressive horror movies of all time (totally don't agree with Nebular, it's NOT dated at all), but this prequel-remake is just crap, especially because of all the idiotic tie-ins. Hated the ending sequence or things like the axe in the wall (no! leave it there!).

    They should have titled it "The Thing 2: Origins" or something like that and dumped it onto DVD.

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  7. Michele, to complete the trilogy (as it were) why not reveiw the 1951 version as well, obviously its a ludicrously out-moded and anachronistic cinematic museum piece by todays standards but its still surprisingly entertaining and quite cosy on a dark and stormy night.

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  8. I just saw it recently myself. I am a huge lover of practical effects, so this version lost points for it's CGI. This movie was just a predictable you describe, but despite the flaws I can't bring myself to hate it. I read Who Goes There?, I saw the 1951 version, and the John Carpenter version which was my favorite. It's a great story and so far I've enjoyed everyone's take on it.

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  9. The one thing I did like was when they ventured inside of the alien craft, we never got to see that in the Thing 1, same as you, and probably every one else on the planet, I still think the make up effects where better on the original.

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  10. I totally agree with you Michele, I didn't hate this prequel, but it sure lost points for overuse of CGI, and the fact that it's an unnecessary scene by scene remake of JC's Thing. I don't think that JC's Thing has dated as far as the effects go (effects guru Stan Winston even designed the dog-thing near the beginning), however the chess computer and the computer simulation does look quite naff now. The one good thing about this new version was that the simulation was reserved for looking down the microscope, not a computer which will become dated.

    Actually, our local arty-cinema is showing JC's Thing tomorrow night as part of an 80s season. Labyrinth last week, The Thing tomorrow. Go figure. Can't wait though.

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  11. Good review. Thing2 was a terrible let down, which was particularly tragic when you consider how much potential it had. It started off really well too, built atmosphere effectively, then just went to shit. I hate it when movies do that. Remember 30 Days of Night?

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  12. This version is just as good and creepy as the John Carpenter's 1982 version "The Thing." But I really think the filmmakers should've done all the electronic puppet fx and all the real special makeup effects for this movie.

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  13. Hope the film ditectors would make nine or ten new "The Thing" movie sequels. Only they'll have to take their time of doing plenty of puppetry fx and special makeup effects, none of the CGI fx.

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  14. Rob Bottin's real SPECIAL MAKEUP EFFECTS are three hundred times twice as better and realistic than the fake CGI fx because Rob Bottin's puppetry effects and makeup fx are very well horrifying, eerie, and scarier. Loved how the way Rob Bottin did his Special Effects in the 1982 version of "THE THING." Can't wait for more new 'The Thing' movies soon.

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