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Anyone else with porcelain fillings? Or clean teeth?


The Thing
(2011)

Unnecessary, but nearly very good, prequel to Carpenter's classic. It was asking for trouble to tell the backstory of the Norwegian base as (a) we know it can't be that different to what Kurt and co experience and (b) it's the not knowing every detail that makes it so intriguing . Although the latter is exactly what Prometheus is doing, and I've been swayed to intrigue on that one.


First-timer Matthijs van Heijingen Jr does a commendable job directing; one of the criticisms I read was that the film sacrifices suspense and just gets into the action. I didn't find that to be so. While this isn't a slow-burn the way Carpenter's film is, I found it frequently edge-of-the-seat. Another complaint is the CGI, and there are a few egregious moments where attempts to enhance physical effects flat-out fail (I think all the ones that stood out involved characters’ faces). But for the most part the effects were extremely good, in particularly some of the fully mobile creature ones (there were a couple of moments where the Doctor Who’s The Lazarus Experiment flashed through my mind at the climax, though). I liked the idea that creature is not as cunning here as it will be in the American camp; it's learning.


Plot-wise, there's a fair amount of hoop-jumping to position the various characters in the places they need to be. While the hitting of the marks that create the destroyed base in the Carpenter film feel fairly seamless, elsewhere some of them aren't (the most obvious being the exposure of the ship as revealed in the 1982 film - why ignore that if you're trying to be precise?) A few of the choices that partially replicate scenes aren't original enough as a whole not to evoke unwelcome deja vu (the idea for the test is quite neat - one which suggests Childs was not a thing - but then having a flamethrower fail felt like a repeated call back too far). And, although it yielded a fair bit of suspense, the trip inside the spaceship showed up that no one making it had an original idea for what to show us. On that level it would probably have been best to leave it, although what we see at least doesn't serve up some shitty answers (such as, was it even the Thing's ship?) I also liked the end credits' linking up with the 1982 film (although the characters are the wrong way round, apparently); the decision to go to the ship for some wallop meant at least every i wasn't dotted and crossed on that score.


As for Winstead and Eggerton, it's a fair criticism that they shouldn't be there (and if the argument is that they wouldn't have made the film if it had all been subtitled with hairy Norwegians, I'd probably on balance say, "Well don't make it, then"). Eggerton's a bit too sub-Russell, but at least they don't copy all the latter's character beats, while Winstead manages to overcome the unlikeliness of one so young being foremost in her scientific field by giving a compelling performance.


I'd have preferred a completely new version (after all, we've had two more Body Snatchers since Kaufmann's) but this manages not to piss on Carpenter's if not quite justifying its existence.

***1/2

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