Saturday, October 15, 2011
The Thing (2011)
Tonight, I took my wife on a movie date (yay!). She agreed to go see the new The Thing, a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 classic of the same name. It was interesting to see it with someone who had seen the original film, but who was not a big fan and only dimly remembered it: about half way through the film, she remembered the original and thought she was watching a simple remake. Afterwards, I had to jog her memory for her to see how it was a prequel.
I think that there is something telling about this, and it fits with my take on the film. The Thing succeeds as both a meticulous prequel, providing explanations for everything in John Carpenter's film and, at the same time, it is The Thing for our time: for today's movie goers who are too young to have seen its forebear. The effects are better, as we would expect them to be with superior technology, but at the same time I think this led to giving in to the temptation to show more of the Thing, which is not necessarily better story-telling for this genre of film. In spite of this relative weakness, the look of the film is amazingly true to the original and the crafting of a detailed set-up to John Carpenter's narrative is thorough -- two aspects that go together to make the film as much a love letter to the original as a film in its own right. But the acting is also very good, and attention to subtle clues such as facial expressions and eye directions will enhance your enjoyment of the film. Amongst the run of good acting, Mary Elizabeth Winstead's and Ulrich Thomsen's stands out. Also, the film managed to misdirect me a couple of times, and as my sense for what a horror movie is going to do to try and surprise you is pretty good, so that was satisfying.
While most remakes send me into a murderous rant about the spiritual bankruptcy of Hollywood and how I wish cannibals would get hold of the jerks doing them and do to them what they do to the work of their forerunners and betters, I was happy overall with this remake-that-is-strictly-not-a-remake. (I can't help but guess that some of the harsher reviews out there come from big fans of the original who are already filled with rage by the constant plague of Hollywood remakes and took it out on a film that didn't really deserve it.) It works as a horror film in its own right, a prequel, and, as sad as it makes me to admit it, a competent substitute for those who will never see the original, or, if they do, get hung up on the difference in effects. But I believe that the makers hoped it would send people back to the original, and I dare to hope they will have some success there, too. And yes, they did open up a new avenue that could lead to a future sequel. Hopefully, that will be left to tease viewers imaginations and they will move on to new stories.
Recommended for getting into that Halloween mood, for open-minded fans of the original, and for getting folks who haven't seen the original primed to fill that lame lacuna.