Friday, October 14, 2011

Review - The Thing (2011)

“Not all of us are human!”

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen
Writer: Eric Heisserer

You would think that a prequel to the 1982 classic would not cop a lot of the remake stigma, but I think that’s to it using the same title, it’s still copped some flak. However title aside there is some room for the prequel as the 1982 did mention a Norwegian expedition that discovered the thing first. Also let’s not forget that the 1982 The Thing is also a remake and was an absolute awesome remake. So come on let’s be like the Blue Lanterns and let a little bit of hope enter us. Time to delve into the gooey mass that is The Thing.

One of the reasons why I loved the 1982 The Thing was for the characters used. Each was allowed their time to shine, and thus creating characters created tension. This time we don’t get as much character development, but there is still some distinct characters that get out of the pack, also the characterisation of the Norwegian expedition as a whole is done in a way that shows us that they aren’t bad people and allows the audience to get behind them quickly. Right at the beginning one of the Norwegians is telling a joke, at the punch line I noticed a lot of the audience laugh and you could sense in one confidant action, the director Matthijs had gotten the audience on side.

Acting wise I couldn’t fault this movie. Sure some actors weren’t given much to do, but there was no one that I would call god awful. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is refreshing strong female character. She’s strong but not characterised as butch, which is a trap some movies fall into. I also didn’t mind Ulrich Thomsen who played Dr Sander Halvorson. While portrayed as the bastard scientist, his portrayal isn’t so much evil as focused on uncovering what’s happening. Also out of the Norwegian group I thought that Jorgen Lanhelle as Lars and Kristofer Hivju as Jonas stood out of the pack. Finally I thought Joel Edgerton was okay, but sometimes it looked like he was trying to do a Kurt Russel impersonation.

Visually the movie manages to capture the cold environment, and you do feel the loneliness and isolation of the area. In that regards it does stand along side the original. Where it goes a little pear shaped is in the special effects. Now CG wise the special effects aren’t that bad, but when compared to some of the work in the original it doesn’t stack up. There are some practical effects but mostly CG. However the creature design is pretty damn awesome. I like some of the ideas for how the creature changed, and exactly what it used. So while the CG isn’t as good as the practical work from 1982, the two match up perfectly with the design of the creature.

The 1982 The Thing was an exercise in tension, this movie does have some tense scenes, and at some points I was on the edge of my seat sometimes. But there are two things that really hamper this movie from becoming great. First off is the final act of the movie. Tension is thrown out of the window for the big bad alien hunt. While personally I didn’t mind it, I can see others just not liking it. Still I’ve seen worse tonal changes. Also the movie is slightly hampered by how it’s trying to connect to the 1982 movie. Things have to be set up, so it matches with the next movie. While it’s commendable that they are trying to have both movies connected, it does feel a little forced sometimes. Also the movie does mimic John Carpenters movie just a little. There are some similar beats, and I’m sure people will point to these story moments and say that this is evidence enough to call this movie crap. Fact is while I did recognise the similarities, and to some extent it did make me wish the film makers of this prequel were a tad more original, I still had fun watching this movie.

Overall this wasn’t a bad movie, but it’s going to cop some flak from people who love the original. This movie will be compared to the 1982 movie, and be found wanting, but that’s not fair. It succeeds more than it fails and personally I think that people who like alien movies should go along and see this as they will have fun. In fact when this comes out on DVD I’m going to buy it and watch the two movies together. This movie does not diminish the original, and personally I think it’s entertaining enough to hold its own.

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