The Thing (2011)

Leaving the story of the Norwegian camp a mystery added to the underlying menace and hoplessness of the 1982 John Carpenter version of The Thing. You don't know exactly what happened there, instead you only get to see how crazy the lone survivor was, and then the horrible truth is slowly, but never completely revealed. It's a lot like how Michael Myers was scarier before his back story was explained in the remake of Halloween. Like the much maligned (although I actually enjoyed them) Rob Zombie remakes, The Thing is now getting the remake/prequel treatment. Don't be fooled, they're billing it as a prequel, probably to stem some of the hatred from the fanboys, but this is beat for beat essentially a remake of the Carptenter classic. That said, I REALLY wanted to love this movie. The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies, and to see those disgusting aliens back up on the big screen in 2011 could've been epic. I sincerely believe that if it had been handled properly this movie could have stood proudly alongside the Carpenter version.

What went wrong? Unfortunately this movie completely shit the bed in almost every area that matters.

If the filmmakers had real balls the entire movie would have been in Norwegian with subtitles. It made zero sense that they would need to bring in people from American and Britain. Are there no radio operators or palaeontologists in Norway? Give me a fucking break. Then later in the movie characters completely contradict the plot when they are desperate to ensure no outsiders come to the base to steal their discovery. Oh yeah, except for the American pilots and the American palaeontologist and the radio guy from the UK, they're OK I guess. Stupid.

While I applaud the fact that there was even any Norwegian in the movie at all, I guarantee the English speaking characters were included because the filmmakers think the audience is stupid and can't handle reading in a movie. It doesn't even make any sense to me because why have half of the characters subtitled, but not all of them. Some subtitles are OK as long as we have an honest to goodness english speaking character to relate to? It reminds me of what they did with High Tension when they released it to theatres in North America with it's half dub. Fucking pointless. To top all of this, of course the Americans are the heroes and the Norwegians are nothing but walking meat bags waiting to get ripped apart and eaten. Was the theme music from Team America World Police playing on repeat in the mind of the writer when he was penning this script?

The casting of women caused a lot of controversy, but honestly really didn't bother me too much watching the finished product as any sort of tacked on romantic sub-plot was completely absent. At least they got that right. But with no romance and no gender conflict, did they need to be women? Or was this just a studio decision to appeal to a wider demographic? I'm not trying to be sexist in saying that you need to have sex or gender conflict in a movie to have a co-ed cast, but the orginal film's all adult, grizzled, male ensemble cast was one of the things that made it so unique and such a middle finger to everthing else in Hollywood at the time. Why not try to do something like that here? Also, I actually wonder if women were even sent out on those long expeditions at that time. Workplace rights were not what they are now and the fear of a woman being ravished by her cabin fever inflicted male counterparts, whether founded or not, in such an isolated place must've been something that was considered when selecting the teams. I could be wrong on that one though.

The biggest and most heinous mistake made with this movie is the rampant use of sub-par CG. It completely ruins this movie. This should have been a showcase for every advancement made in puppetry, animatronics, and makeup effects since 1982. And there has been ALOT of advancement. They had some real talent working on it (Alec Guinness and Tom Woodruff Jr.) but all they got to do was sculpt a few dead aliens on lab tables. Everything else, including a majority of the gore, was rendered with cheap, cartoonish looking computer animation. This movie should have been mind blowing and should've pushed the limits of people's tolerances for the disgusting like John Carpenter's did in 1982. Instead I was pulled right out of it by how terribly unconvincing the creatures looked every time they were on screen, which is a lot. They literally look like cartoons chasing the characters around, and because of the overly phony and animated look they have, they completely lose their disgustingness.

Why the fuck didn't they ask Rob Bottin to come back? Even as a consultant it couldn't have hurt. The CG should have complemented the practical work (see Pan's Labyrinth or Alexander Aja's Hills Have Eyes for how to do this right), instead it totally replaces it. Imagine how cool it could've been if they had full size Bottin skulpted rod puppets running around the halls of the artic base. The could've had the puppeteers in green morph suites and the rods green as well, and digitally removed them like they did with Doug Jones' legs when he played Pan and the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth. They'd have been so much more tangeable, the actors could've played off of them much better and could've been so much more slimy and revolting. This should've been a visual effects wet dream, instead it's barely above video game.

What adds insult to injury is that throughout production the filmmakers kept promising how they were going to do as much as possible using practical effects, and only use CG sparingly. I guess that just makes them a bunch of lying cocks. What a waste.

The creatures don't even sound right. The original monsters sounded unique with their haunting, almost sorrowful howling. Here they just make everything sound like Aliens, except WAY too loud. It seriously becomes physically painful as your bombarded with contant high pitched shrieks. Why does every monster have to either sound like monsters from Doom or the xenomorphs from the Alien films? Apparently they got a vocalist from a death metal band to come in and create some of the monster sounds, but I couldn't pick it up in the movie at all. That could've been cool. They should've kept faithful to the '82 version and just done some variation on that instead.

Another thing that bugged me: glaring continuity errors. This is a prequel to a movie that's been watched repeatedly for 20+ years, the importance of continuity is paramount. In the original, the American team watches tapes of the Norwegians where they clearly blow the alien craft out of the ice with explosives. The characters even say "they're using Thermite charges" and it shows the explosion on the video. In this, the ice above the ship breaks when the creature turns on its ship. I read in an interview that the director always had a copy of the '82 version on hand to check for continuity. How do you miss that? Especially when they would've taken the time to create a full visual effects sequence to do it. Did no one during that time step back and say, "wait a minute guys, this isn't what is supposed to happen here, lets just go out into a snowy feild and blow up some explosives instead" instead of spending weeks rendering the ice breaking on computers. When the ship is shown in the original it is in a vast snow plane. Where did the vehicles and cave from this movie go? The stories are seemingly hours apart, so I don't think they got covered up in a storm. Sloppy film making.

It states at the start of the movie that it's 1982. We see Kate Lloyd examining the inside of a specimen using a camera on a tube. Next to her is a flat-screen computer monitor with a display showing modern looking video, text and graphics. Funny, I don't recall that technology existing in 1982. I don't even think they had a GUI at that time beyond command line. Take a look at the computer simulation used in the original: 2-bit graphics with non-existent animation. You were lucky back then if you had a computer that could render more than green and black on the screen. How hard would it have been to secure a CRT TV from a pawn shop and hook up the video feed using RCA cables from a camcorder? Because I have a feeling that is exactly what they would have been using.

The 1982 version has one of the most memorable soundtracks in movie history. The music totally adds to the bleakness and horror. Here, it's your standard throwaway Hollywood score that you'll forget the minute you leave the cinema. The classic theme is heard at the end, and by then it's too little too late. They should've tried to do a modern interpretation of the old score with current electronics. Imagine how cool the classic bass pulse from the original theme would've been pumping out of the sub-woofers. In fact, why didn't they just get Ennio Morricone who did the original score? The guy is doing fucking TV movies now for christ's sakes, throw him a bone.

Finally, the 2011 movie thinks that having random characters transform into monsters at unexpected times without any sort of logic, simply to have an onslaught of cheap jump scares, is suspenseful. You never see 95% of them come into any contact with the creatures. I get that they were trying to keep you on your toes, but the mystery should have been better developed like it was in the original. The creature in the original wanted to stay hidden as much as possible, in this they transform into monsters wantonly. Instead of suspense and paranoia, you just have a monster chase movie, with monsters that don't hold up.

The writer was the same guy who worked on the abysmal Nightmare on Elm Street remake. The constant monsters popping out closely mirrors the tactic he used in Nightmare on Elm Street with micro naps so Freddy could pop out and essentially say "boo!" constantly. Your 0 for 2 buddy.

The only things that this movie did well is that story-wise it wasn't too offensive and did manage to tie in well with the original (continuity errors aside), the acting was fine (although there's basically zero character development), and despite how fake the CG looked, the creature designs were cool (just so poorly executed). I honestly could've forgiven many of the shortcomings above if the creature effects were what they should have been. Instead we have an empty hollow shell of what a prequel to The Thing should be. Wow, one of only 2 fucking horror movies this October and the other one is Paranormal Activity 3, what a fucking terrible year for horror. Skip this shit and stick with the 1982 version.