John Carpenter is a filmmaker who I have a great deal of respect for. He knows how to work the system to his advantage to produce some truly classic movies. Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Escape from New York, They Live… the list of great films the man gave us is pretty impressive. Granted he’s also given us some less than stellar work as well, as is the case with any artist. One thing that I’ve noticed about Carpenter has been that his works attract and almost unnatural fascination from other artists looking to remake them. Rob Zombie did his take on Halloween, we got a less-than-inventive but still serviceable remake of Precinct 13, there was also The Fog with Tom Welling and rumors and rumblings of remakes for Escape from New York and They Live pop up on film blogs every other week.
With The Thing, we get what is essentially a remake as it hits a good number of the story beats from the 1982 original but also a film that is intended to be a prequel, focusing on the events that transpired at a Norwegian site that ties into the beginning of the original film with a crazed Norwegian hunting a dog from a helicopter. The marketing on this film is mostly to blame for how it will be received as most people didn’t really know going in what the movie was supposed to be, and the film seems to not know for sure either. The 2011 installment attempts to recreate the tension of the original but can’t seem to get a handle on it and so in places it attempts to go in the same direction that Cameron went with Aliens in ’86 by trading scares for adrenaline. There is a more action oriented pacing for a good deal of the film, where paranoia gives way to pandemonium and while it helps to differentiate this incarnation from the 1982 film it isn’t as overtly satisfying.
The cast does a good job with what they are presented with. Mary Elizabeth Winstead struggles to overcome the fact that she seems almost a little too young for the role but handles the emotional and physical parts of the character well. Joel Edgarton is equally effective, though that should come as no surprise to anyone who saw his work in Warrior earlier this year. The man is on his way to becoming a top talent if he can get a breakout role.
It’s not a bad film. In fact it’s pretty satisfying and works well as a lead-in to the original movie. The main issues are simply that it doesn’t have a consistent tone and the glaring shoddiness of some of the CGI. On this budget the creature effects could have looked a bit better and this is the most repeated criticism you will hear with the film no matter who you ask. The inventiveness of the creature effects is debatable, but the execution just isn’t all that clean.
There are worse ways to spend your time. Is it really any more of a shoddy cash grab than Paranormal Activity 3?