In many ways, a lot of them are. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t without their merits. This years The Thing, a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie of the same name (just to make things extra confusing), was branded as inferior before it was ever released to the public, which is a tad unfair. After seeing it, I can tell you it’s not as good as the original but it’s not exactly a massive shitfest either. In fact, its only crime is that it apes the beats of the first film almost exactly; and let’s not forget that while the original is enjoyable it’s not the greatest movie ever or anything (but then again, it does come from The Decade That Cannot Be Badmouthed but I digress onto a personal pet peeve of mine). And besides, the 1982 movie was a pseudo remake itself, so y’all can get off those mutated multi-limbed high horses.
The new film is a retread of the original, filling in the gaps hinted at in that movie all with a sprinkling of CGI to enhance the beasties. And that’s pretty much it; which isn’t to say its bad, just basically exactly the same as the original. But it’s kind of neat to see how the things Kurt Russell et al discover came about; even if we didn’t ever need to know in the first place, as the shit-to-fan nature of what happened was pretty evident in the first place. But now we know how the two headed creature came about, as well as the axe in the wall, and the guy at the radios who committed suicide. Unnecessary, but cool to see anyway.
We even have an almost verbatim ‘test’ scene, except instead of a blood test there’s an ‘open your mouth and show us your fillings’ test (the alien can’t copy inorganic tissue, however that does bring up the how does it replicate clothes? plot hole), which much like the blood test, ramps up the tension nicely, and leads into the big effects showcase that continues for the rest of the film.
If there’s one part of the movie I didn’t like it was the last act in which the two remaining characters go inside the alien spaceship. Frankly it’s dumb, and takes away from the ‘realness’ a little bit. When we’re stranded in a snowy outpost it feels real even though there’s a parasitic lifeform assimilating people. Going onboard the alien spacecraft just took me out of the scene.
The whole CGI versus practical effects argument raised in head a lot before The Thing came out but just because the practical effects were so good in the original doesn’t mean the filmmakers had to go down that route again. The CGI beasties for the most part are really impressive with only one truly rubbish effect that brings The Rock Scorpion King to mind (funnily enough, it’s also the last big effect piece, much like The Rock was). And if we’re being honest here, the chest mouth from the original Thing was pretty naff too.
And on the subject of the monsters; if the 1982 Thing’s creatures were ‘holy shit, that is fucked up,’ 2011’s are more ‘holy shit, that is creepy.’ With the surprise element gone, as I figure most going to see this are at least familiar with the original, the filmmakers decided to make them as messed up as possible. And they succeeded. The standout being the French woman’s transformation into a multi limbed T-1000 post grenade lookalike, moaning a horrible moan. Gloriously effed in the head. [see above]
Anyway, The Thing (2011), for what it was, was highly enjoyable. If I had to boil it down to its core elements I’d say it was a slasher prequel to the thriller original.