Wednesday 4 January 2012

The Thing (2011) - the spoiler-ific, twenty-point gripe-fest...

Alright, you can see my spoiler-free review HERE, but now it's time for the fanboy gloves to come off and take a closer look at this prequel/remake hybrid - beware: spoilers-galore ahead!

1) The inherent problem with prequels - especially when we damn-well-know it all went pear-shaped for the Norwegian Camp - is that there's no mystery for the fans of the franchise. Indeed, knowing the outcome, but not the specific details of how the horror unfolded at the Norwegian Camp is exactly why it's such a haunting part of John Carpenter's 1982 film.

2) Marco Beltrami's score feels disappointingly generic. He was never going to be able to match Ennio Morricone's excellent score for the 1982 film, but deary me, this score doesn't have anything about it.

3) John Carpenter's film has a large cast, just like this 2011 version, however the key difference is that the characters in the 1982 film were distinct despite their lightly drawn manner. The 1982 cast rehearsed together extensively, so a lot of the character work is unspoken ... meanwhile in the 2011 film they're just lightly drawn, and at times downright dull, uninspired, or out-right generic.

4) Early complaints about the film featuring a female character (Kate Lloyd) at the research station were idiotic. Not only were there women at these camps for decades prior to the 1980s, but so what if there's a female lead?

5) The first reveal of the spaceship within the ice is just as dull as our first venture inside it ... and you know what, the third act inside the spaceship is dull as ditchwater too.

6) The portions of the Norwegian Camp that we see (in a destroyed form) in JC's flick are pretty well recreated here. So kudos there.

7) The 'bad scientist'/'good scientist' schtick between Dr. Sander and Kate Lloyd is an eye-roller of a dynamic. It's cliched and you can see the third act face-off coming from a million miles away.

8) Prior to the film's release there was a preview scene - the one where Jameson stares at the ice block and one of the drunken Norwegians screams "boo!" at him from behind. Then the alien bursts out of the ice and shoots up through the roof - the scene was shite out-of-context and it's just as shite in-context. It doesn't make an awful lot of sense, and it just feels lazy.

9) The first kill - of Henrik - not only involves far too much squiggly-wiggly CGI, but it's far-too public (a common trend in this flick). There's zero stealth involved and then everyone of the surviving cast sees the monster with its own eyes. Premature, shall we say. In JC's flick the attacks themselves were rarely seen, and we only saw an attack when an infected victim was cornered and had no other choice but to 'go loud'. This increased the mystery and horror of who was infected and who wasn't. No such effort is made for the 2011 film.

10) The autopsy of the ice-block-creature is pretty good - Gillis & Woodruff Jr's practical work actually gets a proper airing (i.e. it's not replaced, or covered, by CGI). It's all nicely detailed (e.g. the translucent skin on Henrik's semi-absorbed face), but it lacks the ick-factor of Rob Bottin's masterful work, and Dean Cundey's slightly obscured photography, in the 1982 film.

11) The second attack (aboard the helicopter) - is yet again a case of CGI overload and lacking in stealth. What's more it doesn't make enough sense - the alien reveals itself once again, but in-so doing destroys itself, or does it? It's one of a few plot holes in the movie.

12) The discovery of the bloody fillings and shower is pretty cool, as-is the subsequent discovery that it's all been cleaned-up. However, Juliette transforming behind Kate, makes for yet another stealth-free, OTT-CGI sequence. Any tension or misdirection during this portion of the film was short-lived, to say the least.

13) Speaking more generally about the use of CGI, the designs are good, but the execution is poor. It's far too obvious and over-used, and what's more if you layer CGI over practical effects then you might as well have done the entire thing in CGI as none of it ends up looking practical. The same damn thing happened with Rick Baker's work on The Wolfman.

14) Too many scenes and plot points are all-too-familiar from Carpenter's film ... hence the ever-so-curious 'remake-that-isn't-a-remake-because-it's-a-prequel' vibe.

15) The initial creation of the two-faced creature - as so memorably seen (in a frozen state) in the 1982 film is pretty decent - but, yet again, the use of CGI covers any-and-all practical elements and spoils it. What's more, it's also a shame that they essentially turn this once-mysterious creation into a 'big scary chase monster' ... and, continuity wise, the body wasn't anywhere near-as burnt in the 1982 movie as it was here in the 2011 movie - especially on the split-face.

16) They claim to have paid close attention to what the Norwegians did in the 1982 movie, but where on earth is a sequence showing the team blowing up the ice to reveal the spaceship? Nowhere is where - instead, stupidly, the ship's engines appear to melt the ice and reveal it.

17) Which brings me onto this point - if the ship's engines were working, then why on earth did the alien ever leave the ship in the first place? Or does being frozen for 100,000 years repair broken engines? This is perhaps the largest plot hole of the entire movie and sums up the sloppiness of the entire third act.

18) As mentioned before, the third act face-off between Kate, Carter, and a 'thinged-up' Dr. Sander is dull, dull, dull. It's CGI overload time and as a sequence it lacks any suspense or thrills.

19) The confrontation, just before the end credits, between Kate and Carter doesn't make total sense. We see that he has an ear-ring in his left ear before entering the ship, then once they've dispatched Dr. Thing, she spots that he's missing the ear-ring and he checks the wrong ear ... so she burns him. Fair enough, but he seems to beg like a real human, never attacks her, and the look on her face seems to suggest that she's not entirely sure if he actually was infected ... or am I giving the film too much credit by thinking there was subtext somewhere in there? What's more - I wonder what happens to Kate Lloyd? Does she just decide to freeze-to-death and get covered in snow, so that the Outpost 31 crew can't see the two snow vehicles?

20) The sequence (during the end credits) that links the 2011 prequel to the 1982 original is the best part of the entire movie. It's a tad awkward that the dog - now an alien - remained totally hidden at the camp whilst the other alien(s) yomped around dumbly in the open, before escaping the camp in-full-view after the helicopter arrives. However, that awkward scripting aside, having Lars become the mad Norwegian with a rifle who gets gunned-down by Garry at the beginning of JC's flick is cool. The same helicopter and emulation of shots from the original gets all the right fan-senses tingling - but it's too little, too late. Weirdly, this sequence is the most prequel-like portion of the entire movie.

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