The Thing

Soooo…                                                                                                                            So you think you can tell                                                                                           Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field                                                                                               From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade                                                                                               Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange                                                                                                     A walk on part in the war                                                                                                For a lead role in a cage?

Sorry. I try not to “sing” I really do. But I couldn’t help myself. I was sad and wistful leaving the theatre, and not in a good way. I played this song on the way home like three times in a row (“Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd, for the uninitiated). It’s perfect. I realize that a lot of you probably didn’t “get it”, but that’s ok, let me explain. Watching this movie, I felt like I had been sold out. That somewhere along the line, Hollywood lost respect for me, and now, special effects were expected to replace suspense.

I try not to wax nostalgic. I mean, if the Shark had worked, Spielberg would have shown us it from the opening sequence. It’s a well documented fact. So… I mean, if John Carpenter had CGI in 1982, he probably would have used it then too. And listen, that “Monster” at the end is one of the Carpenter version is one of the silliest, goofiest practical monsters ever. It’s just completely whacked out. So that’s probably what they’re drawing off of here. But the thing is, by the time its shown at the end of the 82 version, you’re so in love with that awesome movie, you’re completely willing to forgive. I love when it gets to that part!

Here’s the difference, and this is what has me melancholy. Now that they have an arsenal of special effects toys, now that they can literally visual anything… they wind up coming up with a WORSE movie.

The big problem is, instead of a movie loaded with suspense, like in ’82, where you never really SEE a lot of the creature, here you get an in your face over the top alien from day one. The CGI isn’t even that bad, it’s the crazy ass character design. One minute I was like, “Hey that’s pretty sick, what a sick design”, and then the next I was like, “Oh c’mon, for real?” And instead of the “Where is it now?” “Who is he?” “Are you human?” game (which this movie pays lip service to), you get an action movie / creature feature where the monster is never far out of sight, bursting through walls and doors, and chasing down the science crew.

I recognize that a lot of people haven’t seen the Carpenter version, so in that case, this would probably be a decent movie for you, and maybe even a good one, if you can get past the outrageousness of “The Thing”. It would probably be like a B, B- for a total newcomer.

This movie wasn’t the case of a typical regurgitation/we’re slapping an old name on some new crap, I do think they actually tried here. They tried to hew to the spirit of the “original”… for a “Prequel” and not a “Remake”, they sure as hell match the story beats pretty closely. But all the things that were GOOD were good because they lifted them from the Carpenter flick and/or original, and everything that was new, that they could call their own, kind of sucked.

If you HAVEN’T seen the ’82 version, rent that one. On demand it. It’s probably all over the place right now on tv because of the new release… watch that one. Seriously. Plus, that version had some stars, some charisma. Kurt Russell? Wilford Brimely? Keith David was in it… I don’t think they’re going to top anybody’s greatest actors ever list, but there’s some real watchability there. The acting wasn’t bad here, it was fine. But there was no wattage whatsoever coming off of the screen. Just dullness.

I couldn’t shake the Ghosts of ’82 on this one, folks.

C+

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16 thoughts on “The Thing

  1. Kurt Russell not on a greatest actors ever list? Heresy!! Kidding, kidding. Russell deserves some kudos, partly for being such a fixture (with a couple movies in production now, he’ll be one of the few actors who has starred in films in six different decades), and he’s certainly one of the greatest B-movie actors, but yeah, he’s a good charismatic actor, not a “great” overall.

    Haven’t seen either Thing yet (the ’82 version is on my list), but I know what you mean about the CGI monster, even without having seen it. Monsters can be one of the strongest examples of “better in your head”. No matter what the animators come up with, it’ll never be scarier than what your own imagination supplies.

    • Seriously. I don’t want to make it out – in any way – like the 82 version is some special effects masterpiece. But if it was a 2 hour movie, for an hour 45 you had passable effects stuff kept low key (compared to this) and then it had a crazy reveal/finale. And an awesome ending.

      This is whacked out, I can only suspend my disbelief so far level stuff

  2. I’m feeling nostalgic and I haven’t even seen the new one. And, I probably won’t. I’m not really a fan of remakes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the movie industry is fairly young; too young, in fact, to be revamping films merely decades old. Maybe I’ve grown old and unwilling to endure change well before my time. Maybe the youth of today enjoy fast-paced movies, with a bombardment of “in your face’ graphics. My mother let me watch horror movies such as The Thing back in ”82, when I was 12 and the suspense scared the crap out of me, even though it was corny and the graphics were silly and I knew it wasn’t real. I want to see new movies and ideas. I want someone to utilize the new technology with the true element of suspense and tease me along. Draw me in, then…BAM……make me jump, scream and toss some popcorn.

    • Yeah, I totally didn’t want to turn the review into a comparison piece, but I couldn’t help myself.

      I might not MIND remakes – after all, the 82 version ITSELF is a remake – except they’re not making them BETTER, you know?

      Plus, as you say, it’s one less chance for something new.

      • Hmm… many reviews are saying that while gory, the CGI is too fake or obvious to be believable… looks like the “remake curse” strikes again…

  3. Good review, I’ll probably just wait for the DVD, I haven’t seen the ’82 version but I have seen the original ’51 “The Thing From Another World” and quite enjoyed that, granted it wasn’t gory or anything, but I’ll make sure to check out the ’82 version before seeing this.

  4. My best advice… is to not expect it to be as good as, or even close to, John Carpenter’s film. To do so would leave you disappointed. And you’d be a fool. Nice review Dan.

  5. The impression that I get from this remake-prequel is that it eschews the detective work promoted by Carpenter’s film in favor of a generic “people being chased by monsters” horror movie. If that’s the case then I’ve already got my mind made up.

    • Yes, and no. More like… it pays lip service to the detective work, while working in the “monster chase” element. It doesn’t completely abandon the “who is it” element, it steals some scenes straight out of the ’82 version!! But after that, yeah, a lot of chasing and roaring and smashing through walls.

      And that’s exactly why I didn’t like it.

  6. 82 THING is great; why remake it.
    Is using CGI or gore a slippery slope? The strength of not showing the audience everything right away is that it creates suspense and gives the actors room for their craft. Russell is great in 82 version.

    • Well… maybe you’ve got a point about it being a slippery slope. But I think in my skilled hands, you could have your cake and eat it too. They could have had the suspense, and then when the time for the rveal came, or towards the end, you could have gone with CGI. Honestly, I had more of a problem with the creature design than the effects, if that makes any sense.

  7. I can say that The Thing was one of my Halloween movies of the year (the 80s one) and that’s because it has a nice hodgepodge of horror where there are moments you jump your seat, cringe at the grotesque imagery, and feel overwhelming suspense. Then there’s the drama and action to coat the movie and keep things from being boring. What’s not to love?

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