THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Thing (2011)
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
“It’s frightening to take the creature out of the dark so we can really witness the Thing’s nightmare inducing shenanigans.”
At first thought, remaking The Thing is stupid. But then again people do stupid things all the time. Like snort condoms up their noses. Or smoke meth. Or read TMZ. However, no law, no public pressure will ever prevent stupidity. It’s just a part of human nature.
Granted, remaking a movie isn’t stupid. Usually, it’s based on a smart decision – to make money. However, it’s stupid anyway to bitch about a movie remake like the Thing. Yes, I believe John Carpenter’s 1982 film is a flawless classic. It’s perfect. But we all need to remember that Carpenter’s film is a remake of the Howard Hawk’s 1951 film, The Thing From Another World which itself was adapted from John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 short story “Who Goes There?” Why not remake it? As long as the new film offers something new and makes it feel unique, go for it. Bring something new to the table, like the 2011 The Thing does.
Ok, let me back up. The new Thing isn’t technically a remake, right? It’s a “prequel,” which we all know is a wheel barrel load of donkey shit. How can you make a prequel to a thirty-year-old film? Well, yeah I guess you can, but it’ll never completely match the look and tone. It’ll never feel right (Star Wars, anyone?). This version of the Thing has the actors in 1980s clothes and mostly the Norwegian dudes sporting 80s hairdos (they should’ve forced Mary Elizabeth Winstead into a Tiffany-feathered wig and gave Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje the Lionel Richie perm), but everything is too crisp and clean compared to Carpenter’s. Maybe at least match the film? This version of the Thing would have been better if they had placed the setting 30-50 years after Carpenter’s. Why not? Why not keep the basic premise but do something shockingly new?
With all that said (sorry, I had to get that out) I dig this attempt for what it is. A standalone film that connects a storyline to another storyline. That’s really the only way to watch it. The movie looks great, the acting is solid, and the effects all work. In particular, Winstead and Joel Edgerton really stand out in the film. Winstead gives the movie softness, playing against the machismo of the Kurt Russell role (though obviously a new character). And thankfully, she avoided going the Lt. Ripley approach that nearly all genre female actors attempted to embody after Alien. Her character adds a sense of naivety and innocence that adds a new dynamic. There is a bit of repetitiveness with another autopsy sequence, another burning, and more snow, but f*ck it. It’s great being back in this world.
Now as for the actual creature, it looks good (though they should have avoided the CGI touchups. The helicopter sequence doesn’t look too hot either. My favorite sequence is when female #2 becomes the thing and goes on a rampage. It’s frightening to take the creature out of the dark so we can really witness its nightmare inducing shenanigans. Sure, Carpenter kept his Thing in the dark, but technology has come far enough along that there’s no need for it to hide in the shadows. After all, we know what it is. We know what’s coming. So give us what we want, and that’s what this Thing does.
If the film has a major flaw its that it suffers from the Superman Returns syndrome. It respected the source material too much. Perhaps they should have pulled an Evil Dead. Connect the past and the present, but don’t try too hard. However, by breaking up the boys club formula that defined both previous films, it creates an important difference that allows this movie to stand on its own two mutated thing legs.