'The Thing' review: Slavishly imitates the 1982 movie

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'The Thing' review: Slavishly imitates the 1982 movie

Post  weilim on Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:05 pm

The second rule of remakes is that, if you’re going to do one, you really need to have a reason beyond “Maybe there’s still some money in it. ” But there’s no other apparent motive behind “The Thing, ” the other ’80s film do-over this week.UGG Cardy Boot

Actually, the movie is being promoted not as a redo, but as a prequel to “John Carpenter’s The Thing” (1982) — itself a remake of the 1951 “The Thing (From Another World). ” But it’s actually — in style and content — just a rehash of the Carpenter picture.UGG Cardy

The 1951 film starred James Arness as a murderous plant man from outer space (“An intellectual carrot, ” one character mused. “The mind boggles. ”). Carpenter’s version smartly went back to the original short story, and featured a shape-shifting alien.UGG Greenfield

This new “The Thing” dutifully takes place before the events in Carpenter’s film. But everything about it — the action scenes, even the music — is so clearly based on what he did, it feels like a copy.
UGG Greenfield Boot
And a slightly cheap one at that.
UGG Mayfaire
Carpenter’s film had Kurt Russell in the lead and a strong supporting cast of character actors, including Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Dysart and Richard Masur. It also had a creeping sense of paranoia and an ending so bleak it would have made Beckett smile.
UGG Mayfaire Boot
Matthijs van Heijningen’s movie has Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead and a cast made up of roughly interchangeable actors — Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen and a grim Ulrich Thomsen. It has a few good moments, but there’s nothing to compare to the original.
UGG Highkoo
The best scenes come at the beginning, as the sense of dread slowly builds. A group of scientists out in the middle of Antarctica find a downed spaceship and bring its frozen alien home. Much to their surprise, once he defrosts, he’s quite lively. Then quite deadly.
UGG Highkoo Boot
Carpenter’s version skipped the discovery of the ship, which at least gives this film a chance to do something fresh (or just copy “Alien”). And the design team rises to the occasion by envisioning something truly otherworldly; there’s nothing about this craft that fits in with our earthly senses of technology.

But then the monster attacks, and the freshness goes stale.

Of course, for continuity’s sake, the alien has to look the same as he did in the Carpenter film, but why does the action — which makes use of a lot of exploding faces and blasting flamethrowers — have to, too? The film doesn’t evoke the earlier picture, it Xeroxes it.

That doesn’t make it unwatchable. With his fondness for wide-screen compositions, stoic masculinity and economic storylines, Carpenter is never a bad filmmaker to emulate; when it sticks close to that formula, Heijningen’s film is perfectly dependable.

But why settle for a copy when the original is even better? Like its alien star, the new “The Thing” mimics its prey slavishly — yet still can’t quite reproduce its spark of life.

Ratings note: The film contains strong language and graphic violence.

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