Sunday, October 16, 2011


You might recall I've been anticipating the new movie of The Thing.  I'd been interested for another reason beyond the desire to see more of a good (cough) thing.  What really attracted me is the attitude, promises and vision of the man who brought it to the screen, Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.  In a nutshell:  When the time came that they wanted to remake the property, he came along saying 'Not, a remake... a prequel.'  It would be the same premise, so in essence, a remake, but it would tie into the famous and beloved version by John Carpenter by showing the events of the Norwegian base that the Carpenter characters come across.  And then, end as the other movie began.  All done with utter respect and accuracy out of love.

I'm happy to say that Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. delivered.  Exactly what he professed to do.

Funnily enough, I longed to see how that axe would get lodged in the door.  And when it finally happened, I wanted to applaud.  I wouldn't have guessed that to be the scenario.  Such clever use of a cherished aspect of the original film to achieve it, too.  And a wee bit of a joke made out of it to boot.  But so much more made me love it than inventive axe usage.

Is it a remake?  Well, yes, but decidedly NO.  The idea of being trapped/isolated in a harsh frozen environment and not able to trust anyone because they might be the Thing remains.  So in that sense, it's the same movie over again.  But other elements make it new and fresh.

For one (cough) thing, it is in fact the prequel.  We're treated to finding the Thing and the joys and eventual horror that come with such a discovery.  Most importantly, though, it enabled the incorporaton of a classic storyline.  The monster movie!  It worked very well.  Since it deals with previous events, it only makes sense that the creature would run around "out in the open."  After all, it's a potentinally giant contorted beastie with huge set (or sets!) of jaws with the ability to grab victims with tentacles or claws.  I mean, really, who would challenge it?  As you probably know from the first movie, a flamethrower is the humans' friend.  Torching the hell out of the Thing happens a lot (again, in both movies.)  If YOU were the Thing, you'd eventually learn that being burned up in this place is a fact of life.  Thus, it would adapt.  Safer to remain hidden and hide AS other beings.  Don't get me wrong, it does that as well in this movie.  The "could be anyone of us" theme is core.  But again, the Thing tries running amok as a monster, chasing the humans through halls and such.  A welcome dimension to the film/concept/story and a terrific delight.

Matching up all the visuals, both sets and items (like the burnt up twisted mass of human and monster that the Carpenter folk found) all were executed beautifully.  When we entered the room that had the giant block of ice, yeah, I got the chills.  And it all felt like the original film.

And when they also began to rehash (more like homage) a part of the original story/movie, namely the "test" for how to determine who the monster is... they then took it away.  Something happens resulting that they are unable to proceed.  But the scene remains.  How?  A believable alternative solution as to how to expose the monster arises.  However, it again adds another dimension to the familiar tale.  The new method is not foolproof.  All it can say is this person might be the monster.  What a great extra level of psychological torture, no?

It had been great not just to see the reason for the axe, but how other key incidents/objects in Carpenter's played out.  Yet it didn't answer all the questions.  I'm glad.  I don't think it should.  Mystery and the unknown is essential to this story.  We also don't have a clear picture of what the Thing looked like when they found it.  It's in ice, remember?  So it's not all that easy to see.  And when it escape, boy howdy!, is it quick.  Quick enough to make me use the words "boy howdy!"

Reportedly this new movie would utilize the same type of special effects as the Carpenter movie.  The tendency nowadays is to just CGI it.  But van Heijningen, Jr. didn't want that.  It had to have the same look as the original if it were to be accepted as on par and part of it.  So they went with animatronics and laytex and all the old school wizardry.  A little CGI, yes, but only when it couldn't be done otherwise or to "clean up" an existing effect.  And it's truly, for my money, exactly that.  It has the same beautiful ickiness of the original.

I also must give credit to Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  I knew her as Ramona Flowers in one of my absoulte favorites Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  But she's not an elusive cute chick in this flick.  She's a downright action hero.  And she looked taller, to be honest.  van Heijningen, Jr. had been right.  Using a woman as the main character to counter balance the inmitable Kurt Russell helped seal the deal.  Winstead played it with gusto.  Showing the character's vulnerability but ability to rise to the occasion and take charge.  Brava! 

Unfortunately, Buttercup didn't like as much as me.  She had trouble articulating her point of view, but she felt there were no new ideas presented.  Not in the sense of newness that' I've already mentioned, but in terms of it seemed "just any old monster movie," or so is my take on what she'd meant from how she expressed herself.  My response is, well, it's meant to be a backwards extension of Carpenter's film.  Thus, it should have been in a "as before" kind of mode. 'Tis a shame she didn't love it, too, as Buttercup and I usually agree.  But she didn't hate it.  She said she isn't sorry she went.  And thought the F/X were good and such.

I'm going to see it again.  I texted a college friend of mine that I haven't seen in years.  He's a HUGE fan of Carpenter's The Thing.  He said he's been curious about it... and now I get to go with him and hope that he, too, feels the joy of its horrors.

For me, though:
All in all, a triumph.  It's rare when you receive exactly what you wanted.  Especially from Hollywood.

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