The Prequel Thing That Could Have Been

There are few horror movies more iconic than John Charpentierit is The thing. While its nihilistic tone and grotesque use of special effects contributed to a box office thrashing and even worse critical reception, it has since been hailed as one of the genre’s finest achievements, with a number of its once-controversial elements re-evaluated with widespread success. Today, it’s one of the most watched, referenced, and parodied films ever made, and it’s hard to think of a single aspect that hasn’t made its way into popular culture. It’s the only thing that stops Halloween to be the runaway pick for Carpenter’s best work, and while this debate shows no signs of concluding, it ultimately doesn’t really matter. Both are fantastic films that offer their own unique experiences, and while the dark tone and even darker ending of The thing are far from to everyone’s taste, those who can adapt to his style will have no doubt as to why he is called horror’s greatest master.

Unsurprisingly, this has set the bar quite high for anyone who wishes to be associated with it, an obstacle that Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. was fully aware of when the offer to direct the 2011 follow-up came to his door – the rather boring title The thing. The unknown director was set to debut with army of the deadthe spiritual successor of Zack Snyderit is dawn of the dead, but studio trepidation had seen the project canceled months before it was supposed to begin filming. After watching his big break sink into the ocean with no chance of rescue, he called his agent to see if anything else would be nice enough to honor his presence. He casually asked what the current state of The thing property was, as it was one of his favorite movies, and he discovered to his delight that Strike Entertainment was already plotting a script for a revival. He presented his ideas to the producers Mark Abraham and Eric Newman, and in January 2009 he was confirmed as project director. A pretty impressive turnaround.

How to redo a classic that is itself a remake?

But that still left the problem of how to make a successor to something that had spent thirty years solidifying its reputation as an undisputed classic. Since the idea of ​​remaking such a renowned film was out of the question (ironically given that it was itself a remake), Heijningen Jr. suggested making the new film a prequel – a concept that Abraham and Newman had already considered. It’s easy to see why they took this approach. By making it a prequel to the Norwegian Antarctic research station whose encounter with the titular creature sets off the events of the original film, Heijningen Jr. and company could put their own spin on the material that would temper accusations that it’s not than a soulless remake, while allowing them to replicate the overall tone and plot structure that made Carpenter’s film so successful. It would certainly be a bold move to tie directly into such a revered film, but if it paid off, Heijningen Jr.’s film would earn a highly esteemed place in horror landscapes alongside its older sibling. . Now there was nothing left to do.

RELATED: How ‘The Thing’ Got Paranoia From A Nation Divided

In the beginning, things were quite simple. Heijningen Jr.’s goal was to make his version of The thing a throwback to the old days that eschewed the trends set by contemporary horror films, and by all accounts Universal Pictures supported that choice. At a time when cinema was turning to digital photography, Heijningen Jr. and cinematographer Michael Abramovich are committed to shooting on 35mm, giving the film a tangible quality that blends perfectly with Dean Cundeyover the original (while giving it a more organic feel that suits a story where the nature of humanity is a central plot point). On top of that, Heijningen Jr. decided to take a more methodical approach to the material by minimizing his use of quick editing (allowing the tension to develop more naturally), and prioritizing practical effects over CGI whenever. as possible (making sure the actors would give better performances because they had something to work on on set). It’s clear that Heijningen Jr. wanted to pick up where Carpenter left off, and while his filming methods weren’t clear, his decision to constantly refer to the original as if it were the irrefutable guide on how to make a movie certainly would. Abraham described Heijningen Jr.’s laptop as containing “a million” screenshots of Carpenter’s film, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t consult this precious treasure to make sure everything – from the way an ax lodged in a wooden doorway to the number of grenades used by scientists to defend themselves – would line up perfectly.

How ‘The Thing’ 2011 changes from ‘The Thing’ 1982

Not that that meant Heijningen Jr. was just filling in the blanks about the misfortunes that had befallen the Norwegian base, then calling it a day, the film instead weaponizing its prequel status. Most people watching will already know that it doesn’t end well, but not the characters in the film, and that sense of dread that pervades from minute one is an appealing reversal of Carpenter’s film where the thin flicker of hope still shone in the distance. At the center of this carnage we have Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a recent Columbia University alumnus with a hell of a lot of graduate work whose protagonist role represents another key diversion. The 1982 film had an all-male cast (assuming we’re not counting Adrienne Barbeau as the voice of the chess computer), providing Carpenter with the perfect platform to critique and examine the notion of masculinity in a genre that often fetishizes such concepts. However, a combination of changing times and the original already said all there was to say on the matter would make it difficult to repeat, so Heijningen Jr. chooses not to bother. Winstead does a solid job in the role, and her refusal to shed her scientific mind and become just another badass or (heaven forbid) a damsel in distress makes her an effective lead who’s far more just a copy of by Kurt Russel RJ MacReady.

The prequel replays the ending

Unfortunately, things didn’t stay perfect. As is often the case, the studio didn’t know what it wanted until it looked the opposite, resulting in a series of reshoots that saw its release date pushed back by six months. While common corporate language like “improve[ing] existing footage” or to help “make things clearer” were distributed to allay concerns, it soon became clear that a large portion of these reshoots were devoted to creating an entirely new ending. Originally, it was supposed to end with Kate descending into the alien spacecraft and discovering the frozen body of its pilot, who died 100,000 years ago when the ship crashed on Earth. Further examination would reveal the ship to be a research vessel that studies alien races, as well as a single broken containment pod that presumably housed the titular Thing. The implication is that the pilot crashed the ship in an unsuccessful attempt to kill it, resulting in footage that mirrors the sense of eerie mystery the American team felt while exploring the Norwegian base in the film. 1982. Unfortunately, the studio found it too confusing and ordered to replace it with a more action-packed finale, and although Heijningen Jr. incorporates this into his film more easily than other reprise endings, it will always leaves you wondering what could have been.

Practical effects have been replaced by CGI

However, the most controversial change concerns the special effects. Despite how proud Heijningen Jr. and his team would pride themselves on using practical rather than digital effects, Universal was concerned about making the film look dated and demanded that it be replaced almost entirely by CGI. Since principal photography had already been completed and further shots were out of the question, it was left to the good folks at Image Engine Design to rely on the work done by Amalgamated Dynamics , and in a fairly short time too. The results were (to put it politely), bad. The CGI looked poor in 2011 and absolutely terrible now, and their prominence throughout the film means it’s a problem that never ends. It’s hard to be scared when every five minutes will make you wonder if you didn’t accidentally put The Scorpion King instead, and that alone robs the film of the palpability that Heijningen Jr. was so desperate to achieve.

Why Universal would remove the practical effects in a follow-up to the most famous practical effects horror film ever made – effects that still look fantastic forty years later, let’s not forget – is anyone’s guess, and that served as the most vocal critic. when the film opened in October 2011. This backlash was further compounded after behind-the-scenes videos revealed snippets of the truly gruesome effects Amalgamated Dynamics had created, including the Split Face creature which looked even more terrifying than its 1982 counterpart. This sequence prompted calls for the release of the “pilot version”, since dubbed, and while there was a time when such requests were the cinematic equivalent of dead air, the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League gave such campaigns a taste of real power. Whether or not Heijningen Jr.’s original version will see the light of day remains to be seen – though it’s worth noting that Universal hasn’t given any indication of whether it intends to release it – but it would be nice to see what nightmares it had planned.

Still, it’s worth remembering that the abundance of CGI was far from the film’s only criticism. Despite Heijningen Jr.’s wish to do something more creative than just a remake, it seems his undying love for the original has resulted in the exact opposite. While there is just enough additions to counter claims that this is a remake except in name (despite the misleading title), most of the runtime still feels like we’re watching the same story in the same place in Antarctica with the same themes of paranoia and mistrust. A director’s cut is unlikely to fix these issues, but it would fix the most glaring problem and allow viewers to assess the film on its own merits rather than all the talk focusing on one issue that wouldn’t have never even had to happen. Heijningen Jr. The thing is a film made with love, and to have its vision marred by people failing to achieve a crucial part of what made the original so successful is a travesty. Hopefully the day will come when we can see it.

The Prequel Thing That Could Have Been – GameSpot