Thursday, 22 December 2011

"He could BE one of those THINGS!"

Note to Thing: Trim nails in future.
John Carpenter's "The Thing" is one of my all-time favourite films. It was the film that made me want a career in special effects (Okay, that dazzling career never quite happened, but it was enough to really inspire me). To this day, the effects hold up and have yet to be bettered. That might seem like a rose-tinted opinion, but to me, it's true. The sheer imagination on show is dazzling. But in some cases, it's also very subtle (Blair vs. Garry, for example). Carpenter's direction has never been better, and the cast is exceptional. As for Morricone's theme music... classic.

Adam and Kate: Winners of 'Most fanciable scientists 2011'.
Palmer, Fuchs and Norris: Ladies, please...

So here's a belated opinion on the 'prequel' to John Carpenter's "The Thing".


Deep breath.
Kate: Watching the skies...
Garry: Bennings was his friend.

Here we go:

Right. If we forget JC's version existed, this new version is very entertaining. It's got a great cast - some very talented actors on show, just a pity they don't get enough screen time. It's a 'respectful' attempt i.e. the film makers actually bothered to tie-in the prequel with JC's Thing. I left the cinema thinking 'That could have been a WHOLE lot worse'. See, this is a film that I used to dream of seeing, one day. Ever since I saw JC's version, I wanted more. I know, I know, be careful what you wish for...

The problem with the 2011 version is: The trailer.

Oh, so THAT guy's a thing...
Yep. Definitely a thing.

As any good fanboy does these days, I dissected the trailer. I simply could not wait to see this film. But it's fair to say, the trailer made no attempt to disguise who the thing was. So we see clear images of characters 'thinging out'. The whole point of these movies are - You don't know who the thing is.

Jonas: Give the man a hand...
It harks back to my post a few months ago about how films are marketed. The element of surprise was ruined. There was no mystery to any of it. The trailer simply gave too much away.

That said, the film makes little attempt to play 'guess who' with its cast of characters. Some characters are so thin, you don't even know who has just been killed because you never had time to get to know them. Even Bennings had a couple of scenes that set him up as a bit of a moaner, at least injecting him with some character traits. Simple enough to do without going off-course. Even Fuchs had a tragic element to his character.

Where for art thou, Juliette? Nevermind, I can see you're busy...
The MacReady/Childs relationship had a spark of antagonism. Carter and Jameson are a pale imitation in the prequel. In fact, the way Jameson meets his fate is so... so what, it's like 'was this the best way to kill a character? His death felt like a re-shoot; as if he was meant to do more, but someone changed their mind, too late into the process.

You never get the sense that Mary Elizabeth Winstead could possibly be a 'thing'. With Mac, you were never sure how far JC was going to push it. The story set Mac up as a big, red herring; with suspicion always on him.
This year's Mac.
Mac. Hair almost as nice as Kate's.

One vital ingredient which really beefed up JC's version was the sound effects. The noises emitting from Windows as he burns... the feeble, almost child-like wails added so much to the 'What the HECK is that thing?'... Windows vs. Palmer was a true vision of hell. As JC said in the commentary, if he himself witnessed this scene, he would admit defeat. Game over. The closest the new version comes to this scene is Adam's merging with Edvard-Thing. Other than that, there was no suspense and no surprises.

Adam: Takes good care of his teeth.
Edvard-Thing seeks close friend to join heads with...

Above all, the pacing makes the 2011 version a different beast. 20 mins in, the first thing is revealed. The beast itself never looks 'there'. The CG is good, but as with most CG, looks fake. It 'behaves' differently to JC's monster. But in fairness, the fact that the beast is all-too ready to reveal itself actually expands on JC's Thing-monster. 

The Thing is JC's film now plays like it has learned lessons from its first encounter with mankind; now it plans to takes things a bit slow and steady in order to win the day, rather than the somewhat just-woke-up and a bit pissed off 2011 monster.

Mac blasts Palmer, cos, like, he's a thing.
Bennings-Bar-B is a success.

Having read interviews with the writer, it seems some good ideas were cut. Lars was meant to be set-up as a butterfingered klutz, which in turn explains how he manages to drop a grenade in JC's version. That's actually a very funny and cool idea. Why it wasn't used, I've no idea.

Norris opens up for Doc; Defines 'Special' effects.
The sad thing is, there was so much potential with the 2011 incarnation. A great cast, a competent director... but in comparison, it's a fun joyride rather than a slow-burning classic. The abrupt, shocking, blunt violence is replace by cg tentacles, which is a shame. Having said all that, this is no AvP: Requiem.
Ruddy hell, it's Norris-Thing! 
Sander-Thing. Hmmm... Na. You're alright.

If you haven't seen it, know that it's not going to be anywhere near as good as JC's version, but it is well-worth watching for the performances alone. There are a lot of great character actors on show who deserve to be seen in a lot more bigger roles. And know this much:  JC himself was planning his own sequel a few years ago, still using Mac and Childs. How would he explain their somewhat severe ageing overnight? 'Extreme cold'. Now that would have been a terrible, terrible film... And that's coming from the man who made the classic.
Mac. Nuff said.
Kate. Wishing she had a beard like Mac
for those long winter nights.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Highlights of 2011

"What a year!", to use a cliched expression to summarise a year full of stuff.

Chris Jones featured heavily, or at least events organised by the man himself and his lovely team. My first introduction was 'American Independent's Day', back in April; a day spent listening to the wisdom of film producers Ted Hope and Christine Vachon.

Then in June, I attended the Guerrilla Film Maker's Masterclass weekend, which was an intense baptism of knowledge, which definitely helped me to see where I've been going wrong a lot of the time. Utterly recommend it - the next one is coming up in March, so if you seriously want to make films, be there. No excuses.

In October came the cherry on the cake - the London Screenwriter's Festival. Four days (inc. a pitching workshop day, run by Charles Harris) which included seminars with Edgar Wright, David Reynolds, Joe Cornish, and Stuart Hazeldine, as well as speed pitching to producers and hanging out with 300+ film makers. A fantastic experience; one that I can't wait to do again.

Elsewhere, trips to the cinema increased! Woooo!

The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (Best installment yet)
Thor (Loved it, though it lost some of its impact on DVD)
Scream 4 (Better than part 3, but still a missed opportunity. Good haircuts, though.)
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Too many 'of the's in the title. Didn't see any 'planet of apes'. They just took over a bridge. "Bridge Of The Apes.")
Super 8 (Spielberg wannabe, great emotional core, slightly rubbish Cloverfield monster's kid brother)
Tintin (Great old school rollicking adventure)
Arthur Christmas (Lovely kids film. Took my daughter, her first trip to the cinema. Aaaah.)
The Thing (A good attempt, respectful of Carpenter's version, not as good, easy to see why... an in-depth review will follow)

On the DVD front, here's a list of recommended viewing which scored at least 3.5 and above (out of 5!).

The Way
The Messenger
X-Men: First Class
The A-Team
Animal Kingdom
Rabbit Hole
True Grit
127 Hours
Gulliver's Travels
The King's Speech
Chico And Rita
Another Year
The Social Network
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Toy Story 3

And finally, notable offenders of 2011 (or DVD's released this year): Films which scored 1 out of 5 (or less!)
Larry Crowne
Bad Teacher
Attack The Block
Sucker Punch
Norwegian Wood
Miracle At St. Anna
I Am Number 4
Age Of Heroes
Arthur & The Invisibles 2
The Green Hornet
Easy A
I'm Still Here
Bonded By Blood
Jonah Hex
Knight And Day
The Last Airbender

Here's to next year: May it be full of great films, success and financial blessings (to pay for the house extension). Chin-chin!