Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Thing (2011)

Here’s The THING.
In recent years the Horror based franchises have been spewing more than their fair share of Remakes, largely to introduce a new generation of viewers with updated versions of Horror films they may have missed with age. The only problem is that many of them to date haven’t been any good. In fact in my own opinion the only Horror film remake that has even been worth watching in recent years was Zach Snyder’s 2005’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” and this success comes from taking the original films most basic concept (Survivors trapped in a mall by Zombies) and making a brand new movie from that key concept.

Now “The Thing” is in fact not a remake of “The Thing” but instead a prequel aimed at introducing new viewers to the series while feeding the appetite of the fans of the original, allowing the new version to tread in similar footprints to Carpenter’s versions but fill in gaps and unanswered questions and as it is produced by the same producers of the remake of the film “Dawn of the Dead” I was very excited about its release.

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen the plot follows a group of American and Norwegian scientist that discover a Alien spaceship and a sole survivor buried beneath the ice which quickly awaken and begins to assimilate members of the team in hopes of escaping the base and reaching civilisation and assimilating the planets entire population.

There is a thin line between a film attempting to pay homage to a film by honouring the original with subtle references and films that simply rehash of the same film that you are trying to pay tribute to, so “The Thing” the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 Sci-Fi/Horror film “The Thing” (Hence forth to be named Carpenter’s to avoid any more confusion during this review) has an even bigger challenge due to not only needing to carry a similar theme and mood as the original inspiration, but needing to lead directly into the original and answer questions left unanswered by the previous movie without feeling as if it was simply following a list of boxes to tick.

Who Goes There?
The cast is strong with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) filling the lead role well as American Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, The role plays in a similar vain to the character of Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” Franchise (With a strong woman taking command as everything goes to hell) and interestingly correcting the gender balancing problem found in Carpenters version, even if the gender issue isn't used as effectively to portray the trust issues created by the gender barrier as it could have been.

The rest of the cast are impressive and believable but come to nothing more than Thing-chow, being given little screen time for development before being killed off in horrible manners with the exception of Joel Edgerton who is also convincing as an Sam Carter an American pilot who’s characteristic and appearance are largely reminiscent of Kurt Russell’s “MacReady” Edgerton is able to his own on screen and leaves you wishing he held more screen time.
And the breakdown of trust isn't given as much attention as it perhaps could have been but when the Thing goes amok amongst the team it’s almost impossible to predict who has and who has not been assimilated with one Thing unveiling springing to mind instantly due the way in which it seems to come out of nowhere.

The variations on the Things forms allows creates a wide variety of largely differently threatening forms for the Thing with the Two Headed Form glimpsed at in Carpenters version being the most visually memorable with the transformation being incredibly eerie and disturbing.

And Another THING.
The effects helmed by “Amalgamated Dynamics” and “Image Engine” are impressive through-out but the animatronics are consistently better than the CGI present in the film, with one of the film’s best sequences (A race to a departing helicopter that may or may not have a Thing hidden on board) let down by a moment of poor CGI. This is by far the weakest moment of CGI present in the film and the rest of the film is consistently much better with some of the best moments being when the revealed Thing unveiling itself in all its bone snapping glory. But it’s when animatronics are used over CGI that the film really comes alive, with a sequence in which the team first encounters the Thing mid-assimilation with the beast only partially visible from in-side of a tool-shed being incredibly visually and conceptually impressive.

The environments work beautiful with the white snow plains working well to create the feeling of isolation and the harshness of the world outside of the base with snowstorms ever present trapping the survivors inside the facility.

Just One More THING.
Going back to the way in which this prequel ties into Carpenters original everything is thought of from the axe embedded in the wall to the two headed corpse discovered badly burnt, The fleeing dog, the block of ice which the beast is found, the suicide, and the burnt out building are explained and falling into place beautifully while thankfully avoiding appearing like a list of events to simply be ticked off one by one. The pacing of the film works brilliantly with the sense of dread building gradually as the film progresses allowing the film to flow through all three acts smoothly.

If the film has one weakness it’s that it runs a bit too similarly to Carpenter’s original with certain sequences baring too close a similarity to sequences from the 1982 version but even these are given a fresh spin.
Another problem the film falls into (a problem that I have been noticing more and more in films of late) is that it seems to be a set up for a much bigger sequel, as if 2011’s version is testing the market for a much bigger film to come.
The film isn't perfect due to some minor difficulties but the film is able to move past these to become an enjoyable watch that sets up Carpenter’s version well, even if failing to match it and will certainly make an interesting watch back-to-back.

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