Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Thing (2011)

Merry Christmas! This movie has snow in it. It must be Christmassy, right? Right?!

Sometimes Hollywood cranks out really interesting, good movies. Other times they get the idea to take perfectly good horror movies and “remake” them in a way that, while not doing anything terribly different on the surface, is actually the Devil incarnate when you really think about it.

I mean, it's not a real remake. Okay. It's a prequel. I'll disregard the obvious fact that most prequels are festering boils on the face of cinema. It's a prequel to the fucking Thing from 1982, one of the scariest movies ever made by anyone. That's a pretty tall order. That's not just something you can throw together in an afternoon. But apparently some douchebags decided they could, and that's why The Thing (2011) exists!

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton

And there's your bedtime story, kids – a cautionary tale, of when Hollywood producers try to remake a classic movie but also simultaneously don't care. The punishment they get at the end is a plague of endless explosive, fiery diarrhea. Or that's what I'm telling myself happened anyway.

We start this off with a bunch of trucks driving to a base in a vast empty white wasteland, which is the same as the vast empty wasteland of the minds who thought this would be a good idea. Yes that was a cheap shot. I should probably actually review the movie instead of taking potshots, huh?

Apparently, just like in the original, we get a bunch of scientists doing scientist-y things in this arctic base I guess. The only difference is that one of them is a woman, played by Mary Elizabeth “Ramona Flowers” Winstead. The character is as bland as any other and has no personality, but she's a woman, and she has tits, so even though you can't see them under her bulky-ass jacket, that makes it worth the writers' time to put her in the film. Just the mere suggestion power is enough.

Not that a female character wouldn't be welcome in a good script, but in this one there's just no reason for it other than "hey! We need something different from the 1982 one!"

Not like the the dialogue is much better. Just listen to this. Or, read it, you know:

GUY: I was hoping to get an American newspaper.

MARY ELIZABETH: What information did you need?

GUY: I wanted to check on how the Cavaliers were doing.

MARY ELIZABETH: Oh, well I don't follow football.

GUY: They're a basketball team.

Amazing how insightful and interesting that dialogue is, huh?

They find the alien frozen in a block of ice at the base, I guess, and start trying to thaw it out. This sequence is really suspenseful since we don't know at all yet that these people are going to die and then the alien is going to get out and go to the other base where Kurt Russell is hangin' out. Nope. We're totally holding our breaths on that one!

Anyway, they examine the frozen alien back at the lab and we get some more boring-ass exposition as they try to figure it out. I was going over in my head while watching this exactly WHY this is so much worse than the first one even despite having the same basic traits. Sure, it isn't as well written, but why does this one specifically make me want to punch someone (usually the Hollywood exec who green-lit it)? Well, it's probably a lot to do with the fact that all this exposition where the characters are wondering what the alien is, is pretty much boring to us. We fucking know what it is already. There's no mystery for us.

So really all we're left with is shitty scenes where the head scientist who has a stick up his ass so far I'm surprised he isn't just a shishkebab at this point pulls Winstead's character aside and goes, “Don't contradict me, your only job here is to get that creature out of the ice.” Even though she was trying to help when she offered suggestions – but I guess being a fucking dick for no reason other than to swing your bloated ego around is cool. And I guess this guy just forgot that Winstead's magical main character powers make her automatically right about everything.

"I am the boss of everyone!"

There's also this other guy, who constantly looks confused or amazed at everything and all his dialogue is literally just pointing out the obvious and dumbing down the explanations for the audience.

Was Keanu Reeves not available? Did you really need this guy just to point out the obvious in your patchwork script?

If all of this was too serious and intellectual for you, don't worry. We have a party scene full of people playing banjos and dancing! What's that? Atmosphere and tension like the original had? Nah. Just throw in more banjo playing scenes.

Exactly what I wanted when I turned on a Thing remake.

So unfortunately, the party is broken up when one dude comes across the alien, which isn't as impressive due to the fact that it's all very poor CGI. More on that later, but seriously, just look at this shit:

The best gore scenes always look more like jigsaw puzzles being taken apart rather than actual human beings dying. It's just kosher.

Oh yeah. Totally worth making this movie at all when this was the type of monster design you went with, right?

So I guess some more very rote, boring “discovery” scenes plod along with Winstead and the other interchangeable jackasses discovering that the monster is replicating people and that it could be any of them. It's all very predictable and dull, again, because we know the story behind it. It's the same exact thing as the 1982 version except worse. How many different ways can I say this? Do I have to make a flow-chart complete with pictures to make this review interesting and make up for just repeating the same stuff over and over again about why the movie is bad?

Sure, a few people die, and you get some halfway-decent ambiance with the cold winter nights outside, but none of it is arresting. The formula is the same – We get a few gross-out CGI scenes, Winstead says something true about the monster, nobody believes her because she is a woman and the main character, and then the scientist leader guy says something arrogant while that other guy just looks bewildered and repeats whatever the scientist leader said. That's the whole rest of the movie. I dunno, man, that icepick lobotomy is starting to look pretty good right about now.

"Dammit, Angela; again? I told you I'm not into anthropomorphic spider-human hybrids! Now put your clothes back on."

Then we get a very lethargic, boring 45-minute climax in which everyone dies except Winstead and Joel Edgerton, because they were the best looking in the entire cast. Oh and we also get to see the really goofy looking spaceship straight out of a Saturday morning superhero cartoon.

I didn't know the rejected Tron: Legacy sets were so easy to steal.

Why bother even showing us the spaceship? It just feels like the writers went, “oh, this is too similar to the original! Better shoehorn in something pointless and ridiculous that doesn't even jive with the story!”

Then we get a really predictable, seen-it-all-before ending where Winstead gives Edgerton a big speech for the audience about how she figured out he's actually the alien in disguise because his earring was on the wrong side, and then kills him. Why would she bother explaining that to the alien at all? Just fucking kill it! It's not that hard. The idea that she would really take the time to say all this is just icing on the shit-cake of the rest of the movie Рsuch dumb fucking clich̩. Such soulless regurgitations of mediocre tropes.

Then because there is no God, we get the end credits interspersed with flashes of the remaining characters chasing after the alien after it transformed into the dog that runs into Kurt Russell's camp in the 1982 version.

I guess it's supposed to be a “tie-in” with the original one, but come on; was the audience so fucking mongoloid retarded that they needed to see that in order to “get it”? Were people so dumb that Hollywood really needed to spend thousands of dollars and make a shitty, boring movie like this to spoon-feed them the truth of what REALLY HAPPENED at that other camp when Russell's guys found it at the beginning of the 1982 The Thing?

Come on. The reason the original was so scary was that you didn't need to see everything that happened to those other scientists! The horror came from the freaky shit that went down when Russell's people started dying and getting paranoid – because not only did you get the complete shock and unexpectedness of that, you also got to imagine in your head the horrors that happened at the other camp where no one survived. That's what horror movies are all about. It's also the exact reason this movie doesn't work. The foreboding mystery and intrigue of what happened to that other camp followed by the explosion of terror later on was the core, basic story structure of that movie. The idea that some numbnuts went 'hey, what if we showed what happened before The Thing' goes directly against that and pisses right in its face!

The power of suggestion when you saw Russell and those other guys exploring the abandoned base and seeing the creepy shit in there and what not is so much better, more evocative and scary than anything in this hour and forty minute waste of time. The Thing (2011) is really one of the most pointless, valueless experiences I can remember having with a movie in, well, maybe ever.

The real cincher of this whole mess is what happened to special effects gurus Bob Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis. Apparently back when this movie was still being made, Woodruff and Gillis made a bunch of awesome practical effects for it, which probably wouldn't have made this great, but would have given us at least a few entertaining moments.

That is, until the producers nixed absolutely everything they'd done, claiming the effects Woodruff and Gillis made were “too much like an 80s movie.” I'll give you a second for that to sink in.

Okay. Done? Good.

Because that is just fucking insane. I mean, the effects we got in this movie were so shitty I'd rather just watch sock puppets pretending to disembowel each other and use my imagination. Too much like an 80s movie? What's next – is it going to be uncool to make Shakespeare adaptations too much like Shakespeare, and so you add in guns and some terrible modern acting to update it? Oh wait, that already happened. Have you no shame? No appreciation for great works of art?

It's very clear to me now how much Hollywood just hates horror movies. Lazy, boring, “we can just throw this together and no one will care.” That's what classic horror is now to Hollywood. Fuck that and fuck you.

And besides – this wasn't even that Christmassy. I'm so sorry I failed you on that front. This whole review is ruined now. I'll have to try again next time.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Woodruff and Gillis have taken their too-much-like-an-80s-movie effects and made their own movies, which will come out next year – Harbinger Down and Fire City: Interpreter of Signs.

Now those look awesome. I can't wait to see those movies. I mean they gotta be better than the crap I just reviewed today...not that that would be a huge accomplishment...

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