Friday, July 13, 2012

Film Friday: The Thing (1982) & (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic in the world of science fiction/horror. It’s tense, it’s creative, and it’s solidly acted. In 2011, they remade The Thing. . . sort of. The remake is an ok film, but doesn’t hold a candle to the original, and it’s the “sort of” which becomes the real problem.

** spoiler alert **

Carpenter’s The Thing is the story of a small group of scientists at an American research station in Antarctica. As the story opens, an Alaskan Malamute rushes into the camp where the Americans are gathered. The dog is being chased by two Norwegians in a helicopter, who are trying to kill the dog. They fail and are killed in the process. After this, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart), fly to the Norwegian camp to learn what happened. Everyone at the Norwegian camp is dead, but MacReady and Copper discover that the Norwegians found what appears to be a spaceship in the ice, and they brought its occupant back to their camp.
MacReady and Copper return home with the alien, where they examine its body and discover that the cells in the dead alien are still alive. Moreover, these cells attack any cells they come into contact with and duplicate them perfectly. Soon it becomes clear that one or more of the Americans has been duplicated by the alien, and the group struggles with not knowing who is human and who is now an alien.

Although the critics hated this film when it was first released and it barely made its money back, this version has withstood the test of time, and for good reason. This version is tense, interesting and eminently rewatchable, and the reason is that the story isn’t about these scientists being chased by a monster, it’s about them turning on each other out of fear. Indeed, the monster is rarely seen in the film and it only exposes itself when it is discovered. It doesn’t run around stalking the other characters. Instead, they fight amongst themselves.
The heart of The Thing is its characters, who are all uniquely written and uniquely acted. Russell play MacReady in the mold of all antiheroes. He’s quiet, detached, and yet highly aggressive when needed. Besides him, you have a group of actors who are easy to tell apart – some are short and fat, some are tall and thin. Two are black, one small and one muscular. You have a hippy/UFO nut, an armchair warrior, a simpleton, an old guy, etc. They all dress very differently. They all wear their hair differently. They speak in unique styles, using unique words and phrases. They have unique personalities.

Indeed, their personalities are key. These people act like people who’ve been cooped up together long enough for personality conflicts to abound. They don’t all like each other, their quirks annoy the others, and they know that not each of them can be trusted in a crisis. All of this causes them to struggle to work together, which is what gives this story it’s true tension: waiting to see if someone is an alien is tense, but not knowing who to trust with the gun to shoot the alien is inspired tension.

And that brings us to the remake. If I’d never seen The Thing before, then this remake would have been a decent if forgettable movie. It’s not stupid or nonsensical. It’s well-enough shot, though it uses the shaky cam for no apparent reason. The story itself doesn’t hold together nearly as well as the original as there are too many “yeah, but” moments, but all in all, this is better than a lot of the indifferent garbage that passes for science fiction horror today.
Still, this film doesn’t hold a candle next to the original, and I think there are two specific and related reasons for this. The first is the cast. Whereas the actors in the original really stand apart, these actors and their characters don’t. There’s the chick (two actually) and the black dude floating around somewhere, but beyond that you’ve got 8-10 middle age white dudes. They are all the same size and shape. They have the same blondish-brown hair, all cut to the same length. They are all unshaven and wear the same clothes. And even worse, they are almost all Norwegians, so they all have nearly identical accents and inflections. You won’t be able to tell these people apart easily, nor will you catch their names.

Moreover, the main characters, Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dr. Havlorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and Carter (Joel Edgerton) are all outsiders, so this cast lacks the interpersonal relationships which drive the original. We don’t know who has gotten on whose nerves, who they have all recognized as a hothead or useless or as their natural leader, and we see no sense of any friendships. Because of this, this film is little more than a monster chase movie rather than a psychological thriller like the original.

Secondly, the main actors simply don’t compare to the originals. Kurt Russell brings an incredible intensity which tells you that he will make it through the film alive. That gives the film energy as you watch him struggle to overcome the hurdles in his way. It also gives you a shock when the film ends. By comparison, Winstead is a cutie, but you know this little girl would never survive ten seconds of a monster attack. She also never radiates leadership and she doesn’t even seem to know what she’s supposed to do -- she just looks pensive a lot.
Or compare Childs (David Keith), who was Russell’s foil in the original, against helicopter pilot Carter. Keith commands respect with his deep voice and his violent presence. He seems like a man on the edge, torn between wanting to lead and being terrified of this creature. He is tightly wound and ready to explode at any moment. Carter is a wimp who never really does anything, least of all challenges Winstead. The other foil they give Winstead is Dr. Halvorson, but he’s a wimp as well, and he’s snotty about it. He’s the type of whiner who sends sternly worded letters, not lead flying downrange.

So not only does the remake lose the interpersonal struggles which define the characters and make the original so tense to watch, but it gives you characters you can’t care about -- an indifferent girl with no heroic traits, a wimp, a jerk and some Norwegian red-shirts.

And all of this comes from the second failure. What failure? Well, I said above that this film was “sort of” a remake. As you’re watching this film the first time, you’ll notice that it basically tracks the original by and large. That makes it feel like a weak remake. But once the ending credits begin rolling, you are given a glimpse of how the story continues. This includes a new Norwegian arriving by helicopter, finding a survivor and finding a dog, realizing what it is, and chasing the dog in their helicopter. In other words, this is how the original opens and we are now led to believe that the remake is in fact a prequel which tells the story of what happened at the Norwegian camp MacReady and Copper find.

This is a mistake for two reasons. First, this feels like a gimmick since the entire film felt like a generic remake of the original. It feels like something that is tacked on to the end to give the audience something to take home, because the rest of the film had nothing to offer. Secondly, this forced the filmmakers into using the Norwegian camp as the setting, and that led to the problem of these characters being too alike. Then adding the outside Americans as the leaders feels fake, disrupts the personalities (if there are any), and probably seems a little insulting to anyone in Norway who watches this. All in all, this was a truly unwise decision, especially as it had no real payoff.

So I absolutely recommend the original and I think the remake is worth wasting some time on, but the remake ends up being a truly wasted opportunity because it failed to build on what worked so well in the original.

79 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, interesting bit of trivia here: the original includes characters named Mac and Windows. This was before either product existed. Cool.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - I missed both versions. The original is from my "dead" zone period and when you mention the lack of critical claim at the time, easily explains why. Still, I like your comments about how the real story is how the people begin to interact or turn on each other. In that respect, it kind of reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

As for the remake, it seems for years now, Hollywood has been trying to make up for years of abusing women by casting them in male roles. I know, I know, you have told me there is no NOW political agenda involved, and maybe you are right. But, I just can't shake the notion that there is a subliminal "we are going to continue to give you stories of women ass kicks in command and men as simpering wimps" until it becomes reality. Oh we still wan't to bring in the teen boys, so we'll make them "hot" also. "I am woman, and I'll make you snore."

Backthrow said...

I love the original and the remake pretty much equally. By that, I mean the 1951 original and the 1982 remake. The 2011 remake-remake, on the other hand, I have no time for.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I highly recommend the original, especially if you like Kurt Russell. He's excellent in this. But the thing to enjoy is just the characters and their interactions, not necessarily any horror aspect of this -- it's not scary.

The film does remind me a lot of "The Monsters Are Due On Maple" street in that regard, except it's done in John Carpenter's style. So there is a good deal of killing and some 1980s style gore -- nothing anyone will be shocked by today. There's also a sarcastic sense of humor to the gore. There is a scene for example, where they fry one of the people who has turned into a creature, and the guy's head comes off and morphs into a spider and tries to get away when the others aren't looking. You get this moment where they all look over their shoulders at this thing and have these hilarious "stunned" looks on their faces and you can't help but burst out laughing. It's that kind of film.

In terms of the NOW agenda, I think it's mainly a marketing decision, but there is some of that. And in this case, Winstead is truly miscast. She's just not believable as someone in this situation. On the one hand, she's lacks any strength of character which makes you think she won't run for her life. Plus, she's too flat and useless in any event and just can't bring any excitement. The original has none of that.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, LOL! Well said! I didn't even mention the 1951 version (which I truly love) because they've never really seemed that close as remakes to me.

But let me suggest that anyone who hasn't seen the 1951 version would be well served to do so. :)

tryanmax said...

FOILED! I just picked up a copy of John Carpenter's The Thing with intent to watch this weekend. You can guess what I had planned. Oh well.

AndrewPrice said...

LOL! Gotta be quicker than that on the internet! :)

You've never seen the original? I thought everybody had seen the original!

Did you see the remake?

tryanmax said...

No, I was planning to sit down with all three this weekend for the first time. Keep in mind, I was still routinely messing myself in 1982. My parents saw fit to take me to E.T., but I don't think The Thing would've seemed appropriate. Plus, due to it's success as a cult film, it doesn't just randomly air as often as other movies. Carpenter's film still commands DVD sales, and by golly, Universal is going to make those sales!

AndrewPrice said...

I think you're going to laugh when you see this film and realize that at the time, the critics almost unanimously decried its "gore." Ebert gave it two stars and used the words "barf bag."

There is nothing in the film that anyone would consider the least bit gory today, but at the time I guess that was the case.

Interestingly, Carpenter called this his biggest failure because he says it wrecked his career. The film didn't perform well ($19 million on a $15 million budget) and he says this derailed his directing career from becoming big time. It's ironic to me then, that this is probably his most loved film and still sells so well today.

DUQ said...

I love this film. Russell is great. Keith is great. The whole cast is great really. This is totally believable, totally tense, but not scary or stupid.

The remake bored me, honestly.

I haven't seen the 1951 version.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I enjoy it a lot. I can't count the number of times I've seen it. And I agree, for being an unknown or second-rate cast at the time, they do an excellent job.

Doc Whoa said...

Nice review! I concur. I know the original was horror and that Carpenter is considered a horror guy, but this always struck me as tense science fiction rather than horror. And as such, it's some of the better science fiction you will find.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I see this as science fiction and not horror as well. I understand that it is horror and it is meant to scare you, but it never quite fits that mold somehow.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Very good reviews, Andrew!

I'll second Backthrow and you in giving a thumbs up to the 1951 version (with Marshall Dillon as The Thing!).

I loved the Carpenter version. This is John Carpenter at his best and his music was great too.

Hard to believe it barely made any money. It's lightyears ahead the vast majority of scifi/horror films and very rewatchable.

Well written, well directed, well scored, well acted...what's not to like?

I think it compares well to it's contemperaries also. In fact, I would rather watch The Thing than Alien.
Both are good films but The Thing is still interesting after repeated viewings and the characters are more likable.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Not that Alien isn't rewatchable or interesting. Just less so, IMO.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The other foil they give Winstead is Dr. Halvorson, but he’s a wimp as well, and he’s snotty about it. He’s the type of whiner who sends sternly worded letters, not lead flying downrange."

IOW's, State Dept. Material.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I thought the blood test in the 82 version was kind of scary. Suspenseful, at any rate and probably not a good time to sip hot beverages. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben! I agree that this was Carpenter at his best. This story pulls you in fast and keeps you interested until it's over, even after you've seen it a dozen times. It's very rewatchable and is indeed light-years ahead most other scifi/horror.

I love the music. It's absolutely perfect. It's also very manipulative because it mimics a heartbeat and gets your heart rate up.

That's an interesting point about Alien. I would say that Alien is the better movie in terms of writing, direction and all the technical parts. It's easily a Top 10 picture and The Thing isn't. BUT... as you note, The Thing is more enjoyable on some level. I can rewatch Alien probably once a year without it getting old, but I could rewatch The Thing easily once a month without it getting old. And I can't tell you why that is? Maybe it is the more likable characters?

Speaking of that, the characters in the remake are simply not likable. I don't mean you'll dislike them, they're just not interesting enough to form any attachment to.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Winstead = pensive.

Yep, that pretty much sums up the 2011 version.
Pensive/wimpy/unbelievable/pensive...are they dead yet? Pensive...wimpy...

I reckon, compared to most syfy channel movies it's watchable. Once.

Pensively watchable.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Yeah, State Department material! LOL! Actually, he's your standard arrogant scientist stereotype -- he's rude and arrogant and tells people not to contradict him. But he's a wuss and presents no real obstacle. Compare that to Childs who basically tries to kill MacReady three or four times.

The blood test was one of those shock moments that makes you jump out of your chair. It was so well done that you absolutely never saw it coming. Even today, knowing it's coming, I still find that a tense moment. But the film isn't scary in the sense of blood drenched creatures chasing unsuspecting people down dark hallways. I'd say it's tense, but except for a moment or two of shock, it doesn't try to make you hide your eyes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That's a good way to put it: jump out of your seat tense but not scary.
It was also, afterwards, a funny scene. Then it got tense again. LOL!

Good analysis on Carpenter's hearbeat music. It keeps you on edge (as if the characters and story weren't engrossing enough, LOL)!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I actually have had no desire to watch the remake a second time. Usually I can (and will) watch anything a second time, just to see what I missed. I haven't felt like it this time because there was nothing to miss and the film didn't hold my attention enough to really think I'll make it through the second time.

I think her character is horrible. She basically stands around in scene after scene doing nothing except looking pensive. I think she does maybe three things throughout the movie that were proactive. She's not even bright enough to warn the others about the things she sees. And the few things they give her, like coming up with the fillings test, felt fake to me because they had the others mis-react. They should have been happy to have some test, instead they decide they want to kill her? And then when she doesn't die, the one guy actually says, "now she's the leader." That's HORRIBLE writing. That's a writer who has no idea how to make the character look like a leader and so has to tell you, "ok, you need to see her as the leader for this to work." Blech.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Actually, he's your standard arrogant scientist stereotype -- he's rude and arrogant and tells people not to contradict him."

My mistake. UN IPCC material, LOL.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I've always been a fan of Carpenter's music because he always does that. He plays with your heartbeat to get you excited. It works really well too.

On the tension v. scary, the best thing Carpenter does is always mix in moment of comedy to reset you constantly. That means he doesn't need to keep scaring you even more each time because he's not building a constant emotional plain. Instead, he's taking you up and resetting you, taking you up and resetting you, etc. That works really well to keep you excited and interested. His work is really a study in manipulation.

AndrewPrice said...

Yep, those guys! LOL! Actually, that's a stereotype I get sick of -- the arrogant professional who talks down to everyone and has no other skills to back it up with.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

1982 Thing: Tense

2011 Thing: Pense

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, LOL!

Doc Whoa said...

Ben, I love that -- tense, pense. LOL!

Doc Whoa said...

I think Carpenter was a genuis at making really watchable movies. He never had anything I would call genius or that stood out as one of the greatest films, but all his efforts were solid and I continue to enjoy each of his films, even the bad ones.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur, Doc. Even that vampire one with Bon Jovi was watchable.

However, the vampire one with James Woods was better.

Come to think of it, I can't recall any Carpenter flicks that was a stinker.

Doc Whoa said...

Ben, Yeah, even that one is watchable. I can't think of any I don't rewatch once in a while and a lot of them I rewatch a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, That is Carpenter's genius. He's a bit like McDonalds in that regard. Their burgers aren't the best burgers in any category, but they are really good and I would rather have them than other people's stuff most of the time.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew: I was thinking more like Taco Bell with the Doritos taco shell but your point is well taken. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben and Doc, Nothing comes to mind as a true stinker. Ghosts of Mars wasn't great and the vampire thing wasn't great, but I still watch them. I love a lot of his earlier work -- The Fog, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, Big Trouble In Little China... all fantastic. I've seen them all dozens of times.

AndrewPrice said...

One area where he has failed, by the way, has been in the remakes. None of the remakes of his films has been good.

Taco Bell! Yummy.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I have a solution to that problem.

Have Carpenter make the remakes of his films, LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

You know what Ben? That would work. I don't know if he's trying to discover new talent or if he's just retired, but the people they keep getting to do these remakes just aren't good at it. Check out the remake of The Fog sometime if you haven't. It's CGI nonsense.

ellenB said...

I haven't seen the remake and don't really intend to, but I enjoyed the Russell version very much.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, There's no real need to see the remake. It's not a bad film, it's just not an interesting film and it doesn't add anything. If you're happy with the original, stick to that.

Backthrow said...

Re: the music (which I like) in Carpenter's THE THING... watch the opening credits again (or check IMDB); it's by Ennio Morricone (a.k.a. 'The Maestro'), not Carpenter, albeit done in Carpenter's synthesizer style.

BIG MO said...

Andrew - Ah, "The Thing". Great movie from a time when directors knew how to build suspense and ramp up the tension without needing a lot of gore.

You said something back at 11:44 about the remake's characters not being likable. You're right: The remake fosters no vested interest in the audience to want the characters to survive--or die.

It's not as bad as Stallone's "Daylight," where most of the people Sly tried to get out of the tunnel were so unlikable that I kept grumbling, "Just leave 'em to drown and save yourself!"

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Now that you mention that, I did notice that recently and completely forgot because it sounds like Carpenter's work. In any event, it is excellently done.

And Morricone is tremendous! He's easily one of my favorite film composers.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I agree. This was definitely an era where the storytelling was expertly done to keep you getting more and more excited as the film progressed.

And a comparison to the remake makes that point crystal clear. In the original, the tension builds frame by frame until you're truly excited about what is to come. In the remake, there is a tension-free build up followed by a prolonged chase scene with no highs or lows.

I agree with you too about the audience not vesting in the remake characters. I frankly didn't care if any of them lived or died. They just never interested me. They give you nothing that lets you identify with these people, they give you nothing that makes you sympathetic, and they give you nothing to make you feel like this danger is meaningful to you. It's a bit like reading that two people were in a car accident in some other country -- you understand the tragedy, but you can't "feel" it.

Kenn Christenson said...

Maybe they should have given the 2011 film to a top Norwegian director and shot it all in Norwegian.

Probably would have been a much better film with a different culture's take on the story - it is supposed to be from their point of view, after all. Plus, if you're Norwegian - you'd have a better handle on how to differentiate the characters than someone who didn't grow up in the culture.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, It probably would have been a heck of a lot more interesting if they had done that!

But instead, they gave it to Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, who is Dutch and appears to be a director of television commercials. I don't really see any other credits on his resume except a short film which won him some awards.

And all told, he doesn't do a horrible job from a technical standpoint. It's just a truly bland film. It's just like everything else you see coming out of Hollywood these days.

Kenn Christenson said...

Yeah... those commercial directors... :)

Kinda sounds like "Prometheus" - technically excellent - but no "beef."

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, That seems to be becoming the story of modern Hollywood -- great to look at, but boring to watch. What amazes me in this example is that they had excellent source material and yet still ended up making a truly uninspired, bland film.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, On commercial directors, talent is talent and you can find it anywhere (plus people need to get their start somewhere). But it strikes me that whatever talent he had for commercials translated into him directing a very straight-forward, completely uninspired, "commercial" (in the sense of generic-Hollywood) film. I see nothing that he did which any other director couldn't have done.

T-Rav said...

Jeez, tryanmax! Even I've seen the original!

The Thing was not a movie that truly frightened me--if I'd been in that situation and realized one of the people was now an alien, then it would be different. But I don't know, this one just never got to me psychologically. It's a very good movie, though; certainly very suspenseful, and it grossed me the heck out. That scene you mentioned where the guy's head detaches and....ack, it still gives me the willies.

By the way, since it hasn't been asked yet, what's your opinion on the final scene?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I've never found The Thing to be frightening either. I think it's more just a good science fiction film with a tense premise.

I love the ending. I don't think he could have come up with a better ending, frankly. It leaves you with a solution (they will both die) and yet it also leaves you with the ambiguity the film created and the question of how could we trust anyone if this were real.

If you mean, do I think they are human? I know Russell is. And I think Childs is as well, though I have no evidence either way.

What do you think?

LawHawkRFD said...

I thought Carpenter's remake had the right nihilistic tone. I loved the original version with Ken Tobey and James Arness (as the giant carrot), but it had little to do with the original short story, Campbell's Who Goes There? Basically, it was a 50s monster movie. Carpenter's version got a lot closer, and I thought the acting was very high quality. I have yet to see the third version, though it doesn't sound like I should rush out to get a copy.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I concur!

You won't hate the remake, it's not a horrible movie by any stretch. But you probably won't remember it once you turn the television off. It's just kind of there, which is too bad because they did have such potential in the source material.

(He was a carrot, wasn't he? LOL!)

T-Rav said...

Andrew, it certainly has a very haunting quality to it.

I honestly don't know. Russell's character, I agree, is definitely human. But I have seen a lot of speculation that Childs isn't, based on that time he was missing--plus, some people have said that if you watch carefully, MacReady's breath can be seen in the air as they're talking. But not Childs'. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.....

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, "haunting" is a very good word for it. It definitely leaves you with a really creepy feeling.

I could totally see that, with Childs being a thing. He vanished when they needed him and then suddenly showed up without a real excuse. So it's very believable he's been taken over. I didn't notice the breath thing, but I'll have to go back.

Still, for me, it's just a matter of "come on, this is Childs, there's no way that dude is going to get taken over!" But that's not really proof.

Either way though, it's a solid ending.

By the way, apparently, Carpenter was asked to film a happy ending just in case the audiences didn't like this one. He did, but it's never been shown.

ScottDS said...

I haven't seen the new one but I recall most of the reviews which more or less echoed your opinion: "It was supposed to be a prequel but it's basically a remake."

Since I'm not much of a horror guy, I was in no rush to see the Carpenter version but I stumbled across it on Netflix a year ago and I thought, "Why not?" I was surprised by how efficient and "not flashy" it was. There was a logical progression and things just happened. No fanfare... just a bunch of guys in the wrong place.

I think one of the problems with movies today - and I know I've brought this up before - is that every movie is expected to be part of a franchise and set up a mythology. I have no problem with world-building. In fact, I encourage it. But take Prometheus for example. It was unsatisfying and the creators may have gone into it already assuming there would be a sequel so there was no effort made to wrap up anything in this one. To quote another critic, "Remember when movies used to be f---ing self-contained!"

I also have no problem with mythologizing but with many of the great movies we grew up with, the mythologizing was usually done by fans and critics and usually after the fact.

Having said that, I had no idea how many familiar faces were in this movie! Richard Dysart is someone that I know has been in a million things but... and this'll sound weird... I think when we're younger, there are certain actors from previous generations who show up in our favorite movies and that's how we know them. (How many kids who watched The Muppet Movie knew who Orson Welles was?)

For me, Dysart will always be the barbed wire salesman in Back to the Future Part III: "If peddling this barbed wire all across the country has taught me one thing, it's that you never know what the future might bring."

Also, I believe this movie had one of the great laserdisc retrospective documentaries. It was ported over to DVD but they split it up for the Blu-Ray and turned it into some "interactive" viewing option. I hate when they do that.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - Dysart was in a million things. The role that has stuck in my mind is his t.v. portrayal of Leland McKenzie, senior partner in the law firm in the series L.A. Law. The, I saw him as a villain in Pale Rider. Of course you would see him later in his career, not recognize him by name, but know he had been in a million different things.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

It was the voice that tipped me off. For me, he's one of the quintessential "Hey, it's that guy!" actors. :-)

Individualist said...

I have missed both movies but I will say this ...

When if ever has a remake ever been as good as the original. Hollywood would be much better off paying writers to create original works.

Though I have not seen either movie the MO is all too familiar.

Take a movie that was good, update it to have a minoirty, a women and a gay guy if it did not before, take generic tropes and play out the same script.

We are becoming the Elizabethian audience of Shakespeare going to see the same plays over and over.....

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This:

I also have no problem with mythologizing but with many of the great movies we grew up with, the mythologizing was usually done by fans and critics and usually after the fact.

is exactly the problem. When they made movies in the past, they made them to tell the best story they could in the hopes the audience would enjoy it and pay to see it again and again. Yes, people knew about sequels, but they were rare so no one worried about catering to a sequel.

Somewhere that changed. Now every movie is meant to be a franchise with 3-5 more movies coming if the first one works, so they write them differently. Rather than giving you a complete story, they give you half a story. Rather than wrap things up naturally, they intentionally create loose ends. They inject needless subplots that slow the film just so they can be used in later films. It's a huge mistake.

This film is crawling with recognizable people. Dyshart, absolutely. Also Brimely did a ton of oatmeal commercials for years after this. TK Carter was all over film. Donald Moffatt (Gary) showed up everywhere as well. And of course Keith and Russell.

As an aside, Carpenter is one of those directors who has given many famous people their break into films.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's the role that sticks with me too for Dysart.


Scott, "Hey, it's that guy" -- I know exactly what you mean. I've got a couple dozen of those who I can't really name, but the moment I see them or hear them I suddenly remember their entire careers.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I agree with you, except we know this is about marketing. By taking an existing property, they hope to capture both the new audience who is already primed to see the latest monster film PLUS the audience from the original. It's cynical, but that's what you get when you turn art into business.

T-Rav said...

I don't mind sequels/franchises in and of themselves. Done right, they can be transcending epics with a lasting impact in the culture (see also Star Wars, Indiana Jones). I only wish that Hollywood would make movies without planning for a sequel, and stop using those as a crutch to compensate for a dearth of quality films. Speaking of which, I heard yesterday that they are planning a sequel to that stripper movie, Magic Mike. GAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I agree and I think that's the real problem. Sequels are fine in and of themselves, i.e. there's nothing wrong with the concept.

But when they set out to make sequels before they've even made the original, the thing they do to set up the franchise twist the films and make them unlikable.

Koshcat said...

I haven't seen the new movie but I really love the original version. Since I never saw the 1951 version, original in my eyes was the 1982 one. The movie is great entertainment. I hadn't seen it for awhile and like another poster saw it on Netflix. My wife had never seen it so we watched. Better than I remembered. No boring monologues about how so and so lost his only son Billy to a roving band of conservative zombies. No political commentary. You were placed into this group without much background. Therefore, they had to use good writing to allow you to put in the background.

Compare this to the most recent Transformers movie. It has great effects but SO BORING. Were are they finding these writers today? Walmart bargain bins?

My final comment is that the 1982 movie was very well written, acted, and filmed. It didn't NEED a remake. Directors and studios who make bad remakes should be tortured until they admit guilt. Thumb screws? Iron Maiden? Maybe the Rack? Any will do. I pray that there is a special place at least in purgatory where these people will be punished for their sins against humanity. BTW, I never planned to watch the 2011 version and after this review never will, at least purposely.

Koshcat said...

There is a stripper movie named Magic Mike?

Patriot said...

Maybe they should make the American/British version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo" because the Norwegian one was so bad......NOT! What is it with the Norwegians these days...? Putting out good movies, good tech gadgets, and babes of course. Hmmmm....Norway......once the Lizard King has been re-elected that might be my next destination. All I'll have to worry about there are tatooed Goths and alien Things.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, LOL! I agree entirely. Films like this don't need to be remade and they should torture people who make bad remakes. Absolutely.

And I don't understand how so many remakes turn out so poorly in any event? It's not hard to grasp what made the original work and repeat that. It's like they aren't even trying.

I agree completely that the original (which I also consider the 1982 version as the 1951 version is simply too different to be considered the same movie) is very well-acted, well-written and well-directed. So they don't need the effects they need today to keep the audience -- the audience comes and stays for the stories and the characters.

In fact, I would suggest that the existence of modern CGI effects has caused modern film writing to collapse as movies are now written around CGI fight scenes and are meant to be as simplistic as possible so as not to scare away audiences.

AndrewPrice said...

And yes, there is a movie about a male stripper and it's called Magic Mike. Don't ask me why or how, but it exists. And I hear from T-Rav that they're making a sequel. Arg.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I haven't seen many personally, but my understanding is that Norway is turning out some great films these days.

ScottDS said...

Andrew, et al -

I'm not interested in Magic Mike, but I can safely say it made a lot of money at the box-office thus far (all things considered) and pretty much all of my female friends went to see it. If their Facebook comments are any indication, they enjoyed it.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, To put it bluntly, chicks dig that sort of thing. ;)

ScottDS said...

By the way, on a slightly related note, the San Diego Comic-Con is going on as we speak. Apparently, there was a 10th anniversary Firefly reunion panel (time flies!) ... and on the other side of the convention center, they were previewing the Star Trek: TNG Blu-Rays to a packed crowd.

Man, I wish I could be there! (Then again, it's too crowded and Hollywood has pretty much co-opted the whole thing. I could do without the Twilight moms and their tweens!)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I get your point, but that is one of the more contradictory thoughts I've seen in a while! "I wish I could be there, but it would suck." LOL!

ScottDS said...

Just sour grapes on my part. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

You ever notice that nobody worries about sour raisins? Just saying.

T-Rav said...

That's because raisins are pressed and de-juiced grapes; hence, they can't get sour. See how that works? ;-)

Sadly, I know about stuff like Magic Mike. At least it proves that, whatever they want to pretend, women are sometimes just physical in their attractions as those of us with a Y chromosome are. Too bad.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Wait a minute, raisins are just de-juiced grapes? Why didn't anyone tell me! ;)

Yeah, I have long noticed that women are just as sexual as men, they just find it easier to hide these things... because we men are stupid and nonobservant.

Edward said...

I'm going for John Carpenter's (1982) film 'The Thing' because this film has the better Special Alien Monster Puppetry Effects and Better Special Makeup Effects thanks to Rob Bottin's best work, and the actors are great especially one of the good guys like Kurt Russell.

Rob Bottin did the remarkable work on these real special effects like the films 'Total Recall,' 'The Thing,' and 'The Howling.'

Seriously, I think the Movie Directors should make ten to twenty more 'The Thing' sequels; only they should take their time making lot more monster puppetry fx and more than plenty of air-bladders, special makeup effects; and hire new good prefessional actors who are a little elderly, maybe have them way thirteen other people change into monsters and come up with the good story plots.

AndrewPrice said...

Edward, I think the effects are fantastic in the original. They're even better than the CGI stuff today.

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