Monday, 5 December 2011

Review: The Thing (2011)

Rating: 15
Duration: 103 mins

The film industry is in free fall. A bold, yet unspecific statement for sure, but when talking about the unoriginality in film-making, it suddenly becomes applicable. Nothing, it would seem, is sacred. Not even the classics - with a remake (of a remake) of Scarface in the works amidst numerous others - are safe. Even the ones that weren't commercially successful are inexplicably becoming hot property in the remake-stakes, which leads us onto Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and his prequel of John Carpenter's classic, The Thing.

Providing you're familiar with the original, this new addition will strike as overly familiar  based on the trailer, thus seemingly pointless. For a prequel, the entire narrative feels spookily familiar to Carpenter's: the narrative plays out near enough the same, bar the beginning and the end, with some scenes simply replicating those we've seen that work far better with Kurt Russell, which begs the question: is this not more of a remake rather than a prequel? Lazily, it feels more like the former.

The script practically mirrors its predecessor aside from a team of scientists that discover an Arctic-buried spacecraft as a team of specialists are called in to assess the find before things inevitably turn ugly. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is drafted in to team up with existing personnel, including Carter (Joel Edgerton), as the extra terrestrial is taken back to base for analysis. Cue typical run-of-the-mill sequences intended to scare and make audiences jump, yet fails to capture the close-quarters tension to much effect. Nor does the setting ever make you claustrophobic with its poor execution and somewhat stale setting. Furthermore, the brilliant paranoia of Carpenter's classic is dispelled, instead substituting it for cheap horror that doesn't quite hit the mark at any point. 

Interestingly, the film attempts to reinvent the male dominance in the Russell and co horror master class, asserting Kate as a Ripley-type lead. Not only that, but the patriarchal casting that perhaps seems dated today now includes obligatory female characters that merely serve as an aversion to sexism. Ironically though, Kate is typecast as the invaluable, but sexually desirable team member who is essential to the  point of investigation. 

The Thing encroaches on the original rather than making any real attempt to innovate as a worthy addition. Aside from its overt decision to empower women and under-use Joel Edgerton in a supporting role, it plays out a generic horror film, offering little in terms of genuine shocks or jumpy moments. An effort to evoke terror never builds any momentum as we are subject to various filmic references such as the familiarity of Alien in certain locations and (oddly) Jurassic Park of all things.

VERDICT: To approach The Thing as a standalone entry is the best way to look at it. Inevitably those who have seen the original will feel vastly underwhelmed and more often than not disappointed. It's an average horror film at best as it mildly entertains, but seems confused as to whether it is indeed a prequel or simply a disguised remake.