Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Thing (2011)

hi there

i am, believe it or not, having a go at trying to catch up on the many films i wish to see but have not found the time for. it isn't going too well thus far this year, it has to be said (two films and we are into the third month), but the intent is there. in my defence, i keep finding things like Scarface, The Godfather and in particular the silence of the lambs come up on TV when i turn it on, and thus i am not particularly inclined to switch them off.

this weekend it was the turn of The Thing, since i think the only other things on were the tedious Back To The Future II and some sort of comedy about a family reunion that looked like it was an awful lot of shouting.

as is usually the case with any sort of remake, sequel or prequel to a "cult classic", the new version of The Thing was derided and shouted down before they had even begun making it by the usual suspects - that small in number but very loud on the internet group called "fanboys" who, for some reason, have got it into their heads that they have a divine right to call the shots on what may or may not happen with certain precious titles. i try to have a look at the least, although as regulars will recall i wanted nothing at all to do with the horrid looking film version of Brideshead Revisited.

the short review is that, much like last years' excellent Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, very lazy critics and overzealous fanboys have it all wrong - this film called The Thing is excellent and well worth seeing, so long as you can put up with graphic violence and the idea of being terrified.

the above will all be expanded upon after the poster for the film, but as usual be warned, for there is a *** MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING *** in place for the rest of this post.

one thing that people were not at all sure of about this new version was if it was a sequel, a prequel or a remake. the truth is, well, it serves as all three. elements of the start of the film suggest it's a sequel, aspects of the body of the film feel like a very good remake and then the end implies it is in fact a prequel. very much like the only other film i can think of which did this trick, Evil Dead II, it somehow works and delivers an excellent film whether you liked or even saw the original.

the premise, if you wish it, after the opening sees a young but apparently gifted science student called Kate Lloyd being whisked off to Antarctica by the incredibly arrogant Dr. Sander Halvorson to investigate "something". what that something is turns out to be what looks like a crashed (but very well preserved) alien craft and, a little distance from it trapped in ice, the presumed pilot of the craft.

the "thing" trapped in the ice is taken back to a Norwegian base camp and, surprise surprise, manages to escape the block of ice it was trapped in. whatever the thing is, it has two characteristics - it can merge and mimic other living organisms (humans being a speciality) and it is really, really unfriendly.

those familiar with the original hardly need me to tell you the rest, but for those who don't know what follows is a brilliant exercise in terror and paranoia. with an ability to mimic humans, the survivors are trapped in fear of the thing lurking outside but are also aware it could be hiding with them, taking the shape of one of their colleagues.

fans of the original (itself a remake, by the way) will always be ready to tell you that the film was famous for having an all male cast. this one differs somewhat, with the main character being a lady in the shape of the superb Mary Elizabeth Winstead. it is handy that she is superb, as the preposterous premise (a student would really be asked to go on a mystery mission involving aliens? and they would agree without knowing?) is pulled off convincingly enough thanks to her.

another reason for it being handy is how it borrows on an idea from the 80s version if the John Carpenter version of The Thing borrowed rather heavily from Ridley Scott's Alien, with Kurt Russell in the "accepting doom" role of Tom Skerrit, then the Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. version of The Thing owes more than a passing nod to Aliens with Kate Lloyd being very much the Ellen Ripley of the piece.

the rest of the cast do the job asked of them, and very well indeed. it certainly was a nice touch having those playing the Norwegians sing a "classic" 80s Eurovision Song Contest entry from Norway.

something that left me very impressed indeed was that for the most part the film used actual, proper special effects and props, with only the bare minimum of the dreaded CGI used to give subtle touch ups. you can tell that this is a film crafted by film lovers who wished to make the implausible feel real, and my word they succeeded.

as suggested at the start, this film is scary. and i do mean scary. the list of films that casued me genuine fear is limited to An American Werewolf In London, the silence of the lambs and The Descent, with an honourable mention for the infamous "sloth" scene in Se7en. this film came pretty close to joining the list. it's strange - as familiar as i am with the John Carpenter version and as much as i anticipated one or two things in this version, the film made me jump and shake at least three times. bravo.

i presume the message that i really enjoyed this film has come across loud and clear from my comments thus far. it really was excellent viewing, and i would not hesitate in encouraging even the most obnoxious of "1982 version" purists from giving it a try.

for those precious, special types out there that are berating the idea of someone touching the John Carpenter "original", do bear this in mind - one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the making of this film was John Carpenter. he even went as far as trying to sneak over to the set and make a cameo appearance, but his schedule would not allow it. this particular group of lazy critics and misguided fanboys should, then, get off their high horse and just enjoy what really is an amazing work of film.

the 2011 version of The Thing is not an attempt to better or improve the 1982 version. it's an honest attempt by people who clearly loved that film to enhance and expand on what we loved of it and make a damned good film in its own right. to that extent, it is a huge success, and well worth seeking out.

as for what film i shall catch up with and when, i have no idea at the moment! a rather nasty eye infection is probably going to make it tricky to watch anything for a few days, anyway!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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