Monday, July 02, 2012
Arctic Air Conditioning: 7 Reasons THE THING (2011)
Arlene: They like it better than no thing. -- Death Proof (2007)
It's the heat of the summer and... so... hard... to watch anything but movies that take place in very, very cold locations. Over the next few months, let's examine some... together. First, the recent remake/prequel of The Thing (which is itself a remake of a 1951 film) which I feel needs some vindicating. It is indeed better than no Thing, and if you're a horror or Hawks fan you know how good a Thing is to have around, there to chill you out on cold Arctic summer nights. All it takes to realize the world sucks and deserves to be taken over by mutating monsters is to peak at rottentomatoes, where this Thing (2011) gets a mere 36% approval. Absurdum!
What is it about genius that they don't understand?
A big issue with the film is the confusion of this being called The Thing when it's clearly a prequel to Carpenter's 1982 film, so why not call it "The Earlier Thing"? or something? T
Remakes are a long and noble tradition dating back to the silent era... and so what if they're aimed at teenagers? They always have been. We who revere John Carpenter do so because we saw his films as teenagers and recognized a true compatriot. My friends and I in high school watched Carpenter's Thing over and over, and while I'm still not sure I love it. It's just endlessly re-watchable. Who's to say this Thing ain't just like that? Maybe the tenth time around its genius will gleam through?
Here's seven reasons why THE THING (2011):
2. Subtle Variations on Action and science fiction cliches: When a helicopter explodes it does so behind a mountain and all we see is a far off wisp of smoke and all we hear is a distant thud -- this is a movie that dares value artsy surprise over explosions, though there are plenty of both, sure as hell more than 36% worth. And once the characters realize they're dealing with a prehistoric creature from another world there's a real sense of wonder and excitement tempered with some reserve fitting the occasion rather than the usual Spielbergian overacting. But this underplaying makes their realization the world of science as they know it has forever changed conversely palpable, as does the nervousness that the secret will leak out and their camp will swarm with newsmen, gladhanders and people trying to horn in on the glory.
3) Faithfulness: Unlike so many tossed off remakes of Carpenter films--The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, this one clearly is made by people who revere the Carpenter original and can probably quote it as well as you, me, or Eli Roth. If you know the original like the back of your hand you'll be pleased to find everything left right where Kurt Russel finds it when he and Doc fly over to the Norwegian base camp. The situating of burnt-out corpses are exact!
4) Make-up and CGI: The alien is clearly modeled after the Rob Bottin makeup work of the original but thanks to CGI it can go a lot farther, including a hilarious and disturbing melding of two dudes hairy faces... and the photography is crisp. Unlike the 1980 film's gross make-up, which was awesome, don't get me wrong, the biomorphing of the creature here is much more fluid --it generates and evolves and sprouts new mouths with every intake of breath.
5) Badass Score: Marco Beltrami, gently nodding towards the Ennio Morricone original.
6) Arctic locale: Perfect for summer. Lots of great icy reflection that looks perfect on blu-ray.
7) Norwegians: There's even language barriers, though of course all Nordic scientists can speak English, and have great shaggy haircuts and blonde beards.
A few minor quibbles: It becomes annoying that Winstead has to pause and stare blankly at every major realization, but that's her thing, she tunes out to tune in, and keeps a level head instead of crying and shrieking. Also the film speeds along way too fast once the bodies start piling up, at times on the verge of becoming disjointed trashy B-movie nonsense; characters we don't even know go flying to their deaths and everyone's running hither and yon, and shouting, but it never gets as incomprensible as Alien 3.
Carpenter's film has its problems too, and I am sore that I held off on seeing this in the theater due to the bad reviews. I'd say give it a chance. Either way, it's way better than no thing, especially when it's too hot to move off the couch and you're anchored by a frosty beverage, air conditioning, and an erratically behaving cat. Dude what's the matter with the cat? Get back!
Speaking of which, here's a hilarious video from Johnny Neill's son, Arlox!