Jackson Leverone at the blog The Horror Reviewer, has posted some very intriguing thoughts on the 2011 The Thing, which I reviewed earlier in the week.
He suggests, basically, that the movie’s flaw is in storytelling, in the depiction of the actual monster.
In “The Mischaracterization of The Thing in The Thing (2011),” he writes:
“Many complaints have been made about the 2011 film’s use of CGI over practical SFX. That debate aside, I see a shortcoming in the storytelling. The monster in the remake lacks desperation. In the original, the Thing is relatively weak. That is why it hides in the guise of something familiar. Against a group, the monster tends to lose fights. It only transforms to attack a lone victim, or to defend itself when cornered. The Thing is very careful, which is what makes it so frightening in the original. It knows what to say and how to act to gain your trust. And because its stealth is its greatest asset, it only transforms as a last resort. The transformations are defined by their irrationality: on screen, we see a perfectly ordered human body devolve in an instant into a writhing, gory chaos.”
I recommend the entire piece at Horror Reviewer, as it provides a fascinating analysis of the monster’s behavior, and how it has changed from the 1982 Carpenter film.
I’m posting this piece today in part because I can’t stop thinking about The Thing (2011). A reader here, Cannon, wrote a lengthy, meticulous six-part comment after my review, and by and large, I find his arguments in favor of the film’s quality persuasive.
Most trenchantly, Cannon writes a bit about the sub-textual importance of featuring a woman as the film’s lead character in an otherwise (mostly) male environment. I complained about this facet of the prequel as unrealistic given the context of 1982 Antarctica, but I have become increasingly convinced that Cannon is correct, and my outlook was too narrow and not deep enough.
“It is here that the film toys with our expectations, as we take for granted that, because she’s the female lead, everything Kate does is the de facto right way to handle the situation. As it plays out, there is something vaguely, indirectly disturbing about her character.
Consider how she’s able to turn three of the men, Lars, Peder and Jonas, against the other four, Colin, Adam, Edvard and Sander, when checking their teeth. The movie is careful not presume that her theory is entirely full-proof, as even Sanders at one point objects that there are “too many variables,” and he may be right. Yet, as the scene progresses, notice how the first three men become increasingly obedient to Kate while she herself becomes aggressively dominant over everyone in the room. In his native language, Edvard, not with admiration but dread, says to Sander, “She’s clever …and now she’s in charge.”
Indeed, a key observation is made that Kate has attained a kind of unquestionable mother-knows-best sense of order and, regardless the merits of her rationale, has the power to decree each man friend or foe, human or monster. All at once she becomes a Columbia grad crucible of sorts. This aspect of her character reaches its apex during her final scene with Carter when she torches him for being the thing. In their commentary director Heijningen Jr. and producer Eric Newman mention an alternate version of the scene where it’s confirmed that Carter really was human but was burned alive all the same. It might have been ballsier had the filmmakers gong that route but, then again, it may also have been a little too on-the-nose. Perhaps it’s best left ambiguous that Kate was possibly presuming too much based on limited science or was downright imagining what wasn’t. Or perhaps the idea is more interesting metaphorically — how even the voice of reason can ultimately become judge, jury and executioner.”
I must confess, I find Cannon’s thesis compelling, and accurate to the details of the film’s narrative. It tracks. Also, my friend and another great thinker, Le0pard13 also noted in the comment sections that The Thing in the 2011 film initially resembled ” a vagina with teeth.”
Okay, let’s couple these two pieces of information. A woman gaining power over men, becoming “judge, jury and executioner” by din of her sexuality, and a monster that looks like a “vagina with teeth.” Is form echoing content here more than I understood?
Given this connection — Kate as a vagina with teeth, almost literally — I’m suddenly wondering if the new The Thing charts the sexual dynamics of human behavior as much as the original gazed at 1980s feelings of alienation, isolation, and paranoia in the warm-up to the age of AIDS. If this is indeed the case, then I have grossly underestimated the quality of the film.
Yet by the same token, I’m also rather taken with Jackson Leverone.’s reading of the alien’s behavior, and its general discontinuity with the original Carpenter film.
So I’m right back where I started: Sensing that there is more to The Thing (2011) than meets the eye, but also that, on some level, it still fails to succeed. One thing is certain: The Thing (2011) is no cheap knock-off, no fiasco, as many critics claimed. It may not be the masterpiece that Carpenter’s film was, but in twenty years, will we see this “thing” better? Cannon and Jackson Leverone. are certainly helping me see more clearly.