After putting it off far too long, I finally watched the “prequel re-make” of John Carpenter’s The Thing. At the end of the film I found myself asking only one question.
Now I will be the first to admit that Carpenter’s The Thing is itself a re-make. Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks first brought the film to the big screen in 1951. It featured James Arness (who does indeed look like a giant carrot as suggested by author Stephen King) heavily made up and very unfriendly. The creature is dispatched at the end of the film via an electric sidewalk.
John Carpenter re-imagined the film in 1982 and it became a classic. Brooding, suspenseful and menacing, it set the standard for economically telling a story and creating characters you could form a bond with. It was suitably scary with moments of genuine humour. In fact I would go as far as to suggest that Carpenter’s The Thing should be used as a template on how to make a good film. *I would also add James Cameron’s Terminator 2 to that very short list*
Now we have the “prequel” The Thing 2011. I will say that the special effects were beyond spectacular. Sadly, that is the only good thing I can bring myself to say about the film. Despite the fact that the director and the producers set the pacing of the film at breakneck speed, I did not care about any of it.
The characters were not even two dimensional creations. They all appeared to be one dimensional filler. No one, apart from Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character, had a clear cut “job” in the film. Winstead was supposed to be the “heroine,” yet her character was so lacklustre and flat that I found myself not really caring whether she lived, died, or defeated the alien.
Every other character in the film seemed to be used to fill one or two functions. I can envision the director saying, “Right we need a large cast that an alien needs to chew through. We also need enough people that we can group one bunch as victims and one bunch as aliens. Since that really is all they are going to be doing, we won’t bother with giving them specific things to do in the film.”
Yes, the film did zoom along. Like a runaway train it sped to the conclusion, to it’s detriment. The script had so many holes, gaps and glaring omissions that I am actually amazed that it managed to run for an entire 103 minutes. But, having said that, the film felt much longer.
I will say that the last bit of the film – the “teaser-like” flashes we the audience got intermixed with the end credits – did indeed fill the bill as a prequel. Sadly, it was really the only part of the film that I got anywhere near excited about.
So my final verdict about the film? Great FX! Mediocre characters and performances with the only real prequel being at the end of the film. I am so glad I did not see this at the cinema.
I would have asked for my money back.