?The Thing? Blu-ray Review by Neil Gardner

The Thing - Prequel comes to Blu Ray and DVD.

Usually I try not to judge a film by pre-release internet gossip and hate, but in the case of ?The Thing? there is a serious case of ?the elephant in the room?. In this instance, the elephant is 30 years old and has flailing tentacles and a penchant for killing people in nasty ways. So let us address the issue?is ?The Thing? (2011) a remake or prequel to ?The Thing? (1982), and does it do the original justice? Internet haters will tell you this is a pointless remake/rehash/re-burn of Carpenter?s much-loved original. And indeed, there are countless scenes in the new film which either homage or rip-off the original, depending on your point of view. Do these scenes make it any less a film? Well, surprisingly, as an avid fan of JC?s original, I find myself saying no?I really don?t care that they are similar to the 1982 film. In many was it feels much more like loving homage than plagiarism. They aren?t the same scenes, but they do look and feel similar, but then that is no surprise since the film-makers were trying to achieve that very end, a loving tribute to the ?82 edition, while telling their own story. And here is the crunch?this is not either a prequel OR a remake?it is both!

The new film aims to tell the backstory to why the Norwegian science base was found destroyed at the start of JC?s movie, and why a huskie was being hunted, and just who these people were. Since it is the same alien, in the same environment, of course there will be similarities in how it kills and the ways that the humans fight back. Antarctic bases would naturally have similar equipment, and scientists would think along similar lines when considering ways to fight and detect the creature. I actually think it is in the prequel storytelling that the film-makers have achieved something original and exciting. As a fan of the 1982 original I was fascinated by the destroyed base and the strange corpses. And now we have the backstory, and the loving ways that the new film leads up to each of the old film?s reveals are testament to the new crew?s love of the old movie. For me, the two films work very well together and should not be considered and ?either/or?.

That dealt with, let?s look at ?The Thing? as a Blu-ray movie. The picture quality is superb, with the contrasting bright white Antarctic vistas and dark, moody interiors displaying well. This is a movie that makes strong use of light, both off-screen and on (the vivid colours thrown around the sets by flares, torches and flame-throwers are superbly handled.) As usual though with HD and Blu-ray, sadly the CGI effects don?t always come across so well, with the annoying return of occasional matte issues where the CGI doesn?t blend with the physical world very convincingly. Fast movement of the CGI effect, or layered fire effects tend to suffer the most. It is not as bad as some recent HD TV shows (who might as well have had an anime artist draw thick black lines around everything!) but it is something of a bugbear with me?surely we have the computing ability to fix these issues by now? Maybe it is just cost-cutting?

Let us look at the other big issue when thinking about ?The Thing??the monster effects. In 1982 the effects were ground-breaking and heart-stopping. While they look dated today, we can still recognise and appreciate the genius and beauty of these physical effects. Surely any new ?The Thing? would be over-reliant on CGI, and therefore lose the honesty and beauty inherent in physical monster fx? Well, the new movie does use CGI, yes. Sometimes it is subtle, to build up layers of fire or add to the monster?s capabilities, and sometimes it is in-your-face, such as a crashing helicopter. It is nice to be able to report that the film has tried to use traditional physical men/women-in-suits for as much of the action as possible, augmenting the shots on film with CGI. In fact, an old acquaintance of mine, Alec Gillis, is head monster-wrangler on the film, and as usual his in-camera work is superb. But that said, the monster (in all its various guises) doesn?t have that punch or true body-horror that the JC original had. This may be the passage of time, and seeing so many more body-shock movies?there is little here we haven?t seen before (the Hellraiser movies in particular), but at least the interactions with the actors has some weight, the monster never comes across as a ?plugged-in? CGI afterthought.

As for the cast, it is nice to see so many Europeans in an American film, and while Mary Elizabeth Winston?s character is no Ellen Ripley, she does a good job as the centre of the film. One massive gold star goes to the script-writers who kept the storyline free of any romance or love or sex, etc? I?ve been asking for years why no movies ever dared remove romance and relationships from the plot entirely?but here we have that rare beast. Thank you! While most, if not all the characters are instantly forgettable (and interchangeable) it is fun working out which one will die next (and how!) The end gets a little confusing with too many similar-looking men with beards running around, dying, returning as monsters, dying again. And just what happens to our heroine is anyone?s guess.

Throughout though, the Blu-ray experience is a good one. A strong image backed by an excellent audio track. A little less ?monster screaming? would have been nice, but who am I to say how much a metamorphosing alien monster would scream? All in all, this is a good looking film that will keep you entertained. It ties in with the original very well, yet tells its own story. It is a little forgettable, and does nothing for the evolution of sci-fi horror. But it is a refreshing slice of old-school cinema, told with passion and love by its makers.

Not a lot of extras on the disc, but you do get a couple of not-too-short documentaries/PR fluff. Both go behind the scenes, one looking at how the new film ties in with the original, and the other a more general behind the scenes with some interesting stuff about using fire and stunt people.

I would be very happy to have ?The Thing? sitting on my Blu-ray shelf alongside ?The Thing? ? which will I watch more often? Possibly the original?but then I now have the choice of a semi-regular ?The Thing? double-bill, and THAT is an exciting prospect!

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