'The Thing' remake is a little too close to the original but still entertaining
'The Thing' is fun to watch but has a lot of missed opportunities.
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Former commercial director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. tries to recreate the world of Carpenter’s film, and for the most part succeeds. This film has many fun Easter eggs and nods to the original, but like the script, lacks true insight into what made the concept behind the story (based on the 1938 novella ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell Jr.,) so terrifying in the first place. Carpenter’s film wisely used cramped set pieces, time jumps, and selective editing to create its tense mystery and head games; Heijningen adheres to the more modern preference for ‘bigger and better’ movie making – i.e., bigger set pieces and wider spaces. But again, spreading things out completely invalidates the strongest aspect of this concept, which is the terrifying feeling of being trapped in close quarters with something akin to a terrible virus (as Kate herself states at one point in the film).Skip to next paragraph
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The creature in Carpenter’s film was famously brought to life by old school VFX master Rob Bottin through practical effects like puppeteering and animatronics – but thanks to an overabundance CGI effects in this modern version, we once again have a hollow creation in place of a more believable, imaginative and original one. The most unnerving scenes of the creature are the ones where practical effects are still put to use, but these are few and far between. Still, to Heijningen’s credit, there are a few well-constructed sequences (see: the dissection scene or the ‘dentist’ scene – both direct echoes of Carpenter’s film), that manage to reclaim that great tension, if only for a few fleeting moments…
Another strong point of Carpenter’s film was that you were never truly sure who to trust, because even the presumed “hero” of the film, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), disappears and reappears and slowly starts to become as paranoid and unhinged as the rest of his crew. Kate, on the other hand, is clearly the protagonist of this horror tale, thereby limiting the delicious uncertainty and dread; she’s presented as the ‘cool under pressure’ type, who never once seems to lose her head or succumb to the rampant paranoia. Granted, not every movie damsel need be in distress, but as one of only two women stranded in the tundra, surrounded by potential threats, you’d think Kate would be a little less composed and rational than she is throughout the film.
Another very odd choice was to make the cast of characters (except for Kate and the amusing Norwegian workers) almost direct echoes of the characters in Carpenter’s film. Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are almost carbon-copies of Kurt Russell and Keith David’s characters from the original; Dr. Halvorson fills the creepy science guy role originally occupied by Dr. Blair; Eric Christian Olsen’s character Adam is the same skinny coward as Thomas G. Waites’ character, Windows; Paul Barunstein’s Griggs is reminiscent of Donald Moffat as Garry – and so on… It’s almost as if Heisserrer constructed the story according to that old ‘If it ain’t broke…’ adage.
And therein lies the biggest issue with this Thing prequel: it asks us to believe that the same sequence of events could happen to two groups of similar people, all within a short time span (a few days). While the outcome was always predetermined, the filmmakers behind this new chapter missed the opportunity to put their own unique spin on how these events played into that ending. Even the end credit sequence – which directly connects this film to the opening scene of Carpenter’s – feels like a heavy-handed contrivance meant to remind us (in case we forgot) that this was a prequel, and not a remake. But again, like The Thing itself, it’s hard to make that distinction just by looking. Luckily for the filmmakers, the imitation of a good movie still results in a fairly suitable (if flawed) copy.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
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