Prequel Talk -The Thing

Posted: June 16, 2010 in Movies
Tags: , , , an rabid fan of John Carpenter’s early 80’s sci-fi horror classic, Universal’s prequel has my interest piqued.  While I remain hopeful that the cast and crew find someway of delivering an experience just half as good as Carpenter’s, I have my doubts…to put it lightly and delicately.  Over the last decade or so Hollywood has shied away from niche audience experiences and generally speaking  has produced movies that are safe, sanitized, shallow, and hollow enough as to appeal the broadest possible audience. Finding a movie with any emotional or character depth is a very rare thing these days and that fact alone makes me appreciate Carpenter’s nearly 30 year old effort all the more.

In addition to the production of childish, campy, and disappointing new films over the last decade, Hollywood has also produced a large number of remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings. Most of the criticisms aimed at these”remakes” by critics and fans are well deserved and spotting or predicting another stinkfest is becoming easier by the year and by release. While I agree with the majority of criticisms I do not share with these people the opinion that well enough should be left alone. The Thing was/is such a great story and presented so well that I’d love nothing more than to see more of it, albeit from capable hands.  It’s popular these days to be anti-computer graphics as well but I’m not one of those individuals either. While there’s some merit to leaving well enough alone and to approaching special effects from a more “natural” standpoint, I have no problem with either being done/used so long as they’re not gimmicks and are warranted or help enhance a story.

When it comes to Carpenter’s film the characters and story are the focus.  There’s no camp to be found and the actors and screenplay succeed at taking extraordinary events and presenting them as real world events.  The Thing feels more like you’re watching something horrific and real unfold than it does a movie. Carpenter found or perhaps knew right from the get go the correct pacing for the story.  The Thing is listed as a sci-fi horror film and make no mistake it is, but it’s more a character drama than it is anything else, even if it’s not listed as such.

Unless you’re the casual once a month or so movie goer than you know that character driven stories and drama no longer exist. At least not in the purest sense of those words.  Drama these days is either omitted from movies completely or is accompanied by light humor or distractions that take a lot away from central plot points. Character development in modern cinema has been retarded by things like camp, useless romance, or by a complete lack of back story during preproduction and writing.  While Carpenter’s movie didn’t ignore or even downplay the sci-fi and horror elements of the story it instead put character and drama at the forefront of his story.  I don’t care what genre you’re talking about but when there’s good character development and character driven plots it almost always produces a fantastic experience.

In addition to The Thing I’m also an avid fan of Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Battlestar delivered drama and character driven plots just as The Thing does and so when I read that Moore would be penning the script for The Thing’s prequel, well needless to say I was excited.  If there’s anyone out there who can delivery on storytelling the way John Carpenter did with The Thing it’s Ron Moore. Unfortunately however there’s much more to a movie than just its writers.  Producers, directors, actors, etc are all part of the movie making process and when there’s a weakness in any one of those areas or jobs you can be sure a movie will suffer for it.  Ron Moore may have written the greatest screen play in the history of cinema for next years prequel but unless there’s a capable director, cast, and producer it’s possible that this “unbelievable” script could turn into a laughable yet infuriating movie. Moore really isn’t the concern for me however when it comes to the crew responsible for this movie.  First there’s Eric Heisserer one of the scribes responsible for the abysmal A Nightmare On Elm Street remake.  Was that movie pretentious and terrible because of his involvement?  I don’t believe so but like they so often say, “no single raindrop believes it’s responsible for the flood” so he likely played a part in that movie’s torridness.  There’s then the case of director Matthijs Van Heijningen’s involvement.  I have to be fair and admit I’ve never seen one of his movies but from what I was able to dig up on him online, he’s a terribly inexperienced director. Some of the casting choices too make me feel as though this prequel will fit in quite nicely with movies like the Nightmare remake, Transformers, etc.  I tend to think of these movies and others like them as “90210 meets such and such”.  Aesthetically pleasing flavor of the month actors put into a movie for no other reason than to give the film popular appeal.

Movie studios of today are after the quick buck and are rarely if ever interested in building a franchise or a huge following.  They’re also no longer in the business of producing mature movies that take themselves seriously.  There are so many obstacles in the way of this being a great movie it’s hard to imagine it as anything but “90210 meets The Thing”.  Personally I’m remaining cautiously optimistic though I’m not expecting anything but crap from this movie. I believe that in order for it to be a success, it at the very least must deliver a story much in the same manner as did Carpenter’s film.  The moods, atmospheres, acting, and score in that film must be somehow mimicked (not copied) if not improved upon and I don’t think the cast and crew involved with this movie are capable of that.  Hell, that kind of movie many not even be what Universal wants otherwise they might have tasked more capable people with the job.  1982’s The Thing is a movie and story filled with dread, ominousness,  and a bleak outlook whereas I believe the new film will be more akin to a modern slasher film with plenty of gratuitous, meaningless gore for no other reason than to earn itself a R rating. The females in the cast also make me believe there will be some type of romance in the film.  This is the last thing a movie like this needs nor does it deserve it. I believe there’s talented people in Hollywood and other parts of the world who are capable of delivering the type of experience that the first movie gave us but I don’t believe they’re working on this film.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to the trailer so that I can either begin looking forward to the film or loathing it.

Update: I have just read on a number of different websites that Eric Heisserer was brought in to rework or rewrite Ron Moore’s script.  If this is true, no trailer needed, I can begin loathing the film now.  This film is being handled and made by untested, untalented hacks.  I’d be willing to bet my left arm that Moore’s script was to smart and far to serious for both Universal and for those heading the project up so they brought in Heisserer to dummy it down, make it more “fun”.  Shame…..a real shame.

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