Tuesday, 20 January 2015

the thing (2011)

so i watched the remake/prequel of the thing and i didn't hate it.

although it's a remake in almost every aspect the film presents itself as a prequel, telling the story of the norwegian expedition that kurt russell and his mates find the remains of in the john carpenter version. i'm not going to do a plot rundown because if you haven't seen the john carpenter version of the thing you should really sort your fucking life out.

the prequel aspect actually worked quite well, in that the base looks really similar and some of the sets match like the room with the block of ice that the thing came from. the costumes and hair fit the period and i didn't notice any obvious inconsistencies, other than if you watched them back to back it would kind of be like watching the same film.

i thought the first half of the film was pretty cool. it was different enough to be interesting, and it actually harked back to the original howard hawks thing from another world in places (and yes, if you haven't seen the howard hawks version you still need to sort your fucking life out). but once the thing reveals itself it all goes a bit wrong. actually, wrong is probably not the right word, it's more that it felt like a missed opportunity, like they never quite captured the suspense and sense of mistrust that the original does so well.

but what makes this film work throughout is mary elizabeth winstead's performance and her character. much like the original, characterisation in this film is minimal so you never really find out where the characters come from or what makes them tick. i liked that, it was refreshing and it meant you never really knew any of the characters well enough to trust that they weren't actually an alien. but the one element that's played really well is winstead's paleontologist character being a woman in a man's world. there's a moment when the characters are discussing how to thaw out the creature and when she voices her opinion she's ignored, and then she's reprimanded for even having an opinion. this is balanced by the fact that there is another woman on the base so she's not the only woman in the world of the film. but the way she's treated fits the period and the environment and it really raises the stakes because she's the first to figure out what's going on but no one will listen to her.

then there's the fact that despite being one of two women, she's so outnumbered by the men and they're all so much bigger than her physically i couldn't help thinking there was a point to be made here. the carpenter version is a film about men mistrusting each other, and in many ways a closer modern remake would be something like tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. this film is about one woman mistrusting all the men.

let's take the alien out of the picture. let's say it's a film about a woman joining a team of men in an isolated area in the 1980s. would it play any differently? sure, there would be less flamethrowers and monsters and murders (probably) but would the tension and the mistrust be any different?

i don't know if it entirely works as a prequel, but i do believe there's more to this film than a carbon copy remake, plus it's cool to see a well-written female character be intelligent first and run around with a flamethrower second. for those reasons i think it's worth checking out.

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