Tag Archives: The Thing

Director | John Carpenter, Part 2: The Studio Quartet

With the summer 1982 release of The Thing, John Carpenter finally fully arrived in Hollywood; he’d made a studio picture. And he didn’t come alone. He brought cinematographer Dean Cundey, who shot all of he and Debra Hill’s films, and at least three from Escape from New York: editor Todd C. Ramsey, co-producer Larry J. Franco, and star Kurt Russell. The Thing would start an entirely new chapter in Carpenter’s filmmaking. Even with some of the same “pieces,” cast or crew, this period would be very different from what came before.

Four films, one for Universal (The Thing), one for Fox (Big Trouble in Little China), and two for Columbia (Christine and Starman), comprise this period of Carpenter’s career. Two with aliens, two with Russell and Cundey, two with famous composers, two with Carpenter and Alan Howarth composing, all with Franco involved to some degree. Carpenter ambitiously mounts these productions, occasionally with mixed results, occasionally with goodness, occasionally with horrifying brilliance.

Kurt Russell finding a quiet moment amid the screams of THE THING.
Kurt Russell finding a quiet moment amid the screams of THE THING.

That horrifying brilliance is The Thing. It’s one of Carpenter’s only two remakes. The Thing From Another World already showed up in Halloween, a movie playing on TV during some of that film’s action, and Carpenter had started paying director homage to Howard Hawks productions with his second film, Assault on Precinct 13. Hawks produced the original Thing.

The Thing is a different film for Carpenter in terms of budget (two and a half times Escape from New York’s $6 million) as well as producers. He doesn’t have comrade Debra Hill standing offside producing, he’s got David Foster and Lawrence Turman, a team of mainstream Hollywood guys. With the exception of this film, their best work was always apart (i.e. The Getaway and The Graduate separately, Short Circuit 2 together). There’s also an Ennio Morricone score: orchestral, Gothic and terrifying, not the traditional Carpenter synthesizers. The film’s screenplay (written by Burt Lancaster’s son, Bill; his only other credits were a couple of the Bad News Bears movies!) moves the action from Another World’s Arctic airbase to an Antarctic research station. While the film’s initially sci-fi discovery, it soon moves into a horrifying ordeal.

A scene from THE THING, directed by John Carpenter for Universal Pictures.
The Thing (1982). ★★★★. 2008 review

The Thing is a serious, depressing, exciting, exhausting film. Carpenter’s direction is phenomenal–he’s doing people in claustrophobic, dangerous situations, which he’s done before, but never like The Thing. There’s not much else like it. Cundey’s photography is magnificent, whether he’s doing the talking heads scenes or the phantasmagoria. The film’s Rob Bottin effects are breathtaking; Carpenter knows how to direct the effects, knows how to integrate them into the narrative, knows how to get the actors to work with them. It’s probably Carpenter’s best film. The scope of it, the subtle mix of genres, that Morricone music threatening throughout. It’s so good.

Russell discovers remnants of the Swedes' discovery.
Russell discovers the remnants of the Swedes’ discovery.

Still, if there were one John Carpenter film I thought would never catch on, it’s The Thing. It’s beyond gory, it’s hostile in its despondence, there aren’t any women; sure, it’s brilliant, but no one seemed to notice in 1982–it got terrible reviews and was a box office disappointment–and I never thought they’d come around. When I saw it at fourteen, I immediately convinced my dad to watch it before I returned the VHS rental. He’d never seen the film (thanks to those bad reviews) and The Thing is one of those movies you want to share. Or at least you did, but now everyone’s seen it. And they’ve seen it widescreen, which was impossible in the eighties and difficult in the nineties (there was a letterboxed laserdisc). It actually may have gone too far–I remember seeing someone tweet a day couldn’t go by without a random guy trying to telling someone else they just have to see The Thing.

Still, everyone should see The Thing.

Roberts Blossom tries to warn young whippersnappers Keith Gordon and John Stockwell about CHRISTINE.
Roberts Blossom tries to warn young whippersnappers Keith Gordon and John Stockwell about CHRISTINE.

After The Thing, and its disappointments, Carpenter headed to the relatively safe world of the Stephen King adaptation. Christine, released in 1983, is from before Stephen King adaptation ubiquity, but only just. Carpenter brings back Harry Dean Stanton for a supporting part (he’s the only actor from a previous Carpenter film–Escape from New York) and Alan Howarth to collaborate on the score, but otherwise it’s an all-new cast and crew. It’s also an all-new studio–Columbia–and a cast of teenagers (or actors playing teenagers) in a high school movie. Sure, it’s about a killer car, but it’s a killer car in high school. With a soundtrack of fifties pop hits; well, except Bad to the Bone. There’s a lot of undeniable personality to the film, problems or not.

Keith Gordon stars in CHRISTINE, directed by John Carpenter for Columbia Pictures.
Christine (1983). ★½. 2012 review

The film’s beautifully made–Carpenter might not have Cundey shooting it, but Donald M. Morgan does a fantastic job on the cinematography. Christine looks phenomenal, both in the setup, suspense, and special effects; though the first half is better directed than the rest, mostly because the material’s better. Carpenter’s got a weak lead in Keith Gordon, but a solid everyman in supporting star John Stockwell. Carpenter also does get one of Alexandra Paul’s best performances. Maybe not an amazing achievement, but an achievement nonetheless.

The machine of a dream, such a clean machine, With the pistons a pumpin', and the hubcaps all gleam.
The machine of a dream, such a clean machine, >With the pistons a pumpin’, and the hubcaps all gleam.

For a Stephen King adaptation, Christine has had a relatively successful reputation. It’s not a genre with many standouts, technical or otherwise, which does put Carpenter’s contribution ahead by default. When I first started hunting down Carpenter films to watch, Christine was always on the “last to see” list of his pre-nineties work. Technical accomplishment and acceptable Alexandra Paul performance aside, it’s still just a Stephen King adaptation. One with a not-entirely undeserved okay reputation to this day.

The smiley, happy people of John Carpenter's STARMAN.
The smiley, happy people of John Carpenter’s STARMAN.

Carpenter’s next film, again at Columbia, again with Morgan on photography (and Marion Rothman also returning from Christine on edits), is his most “Hollywood.” Well, his most successful “Hollywood” film. Not because of content (a space alien clones himself the body of recently deceased blue collar dude, Jeff Bridges, much to the surprise and consternation of the widow, Karen Allen) or the setting (crossing the country from Wisconsin to Arizona), but because of the production backstory. Michael Douglas produced the film, Bridges and Allen both should’ve been bigger stars at the time (1984) than they were, an uncredited Dean Riesner spent years rewriting it for various directors. A lot about the film–starting with the casting of Raiders of the Lost Ark star Allen and American Graffiti co-star Charles Martin Smith–makes Starman seem like grown-up, mainstream, grounded sci-fi from the Spielberg or Lucas stable.

Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges star in STARMAN, directed by John Carpenter for Columbia Pictures.
Starman (1984). ★★½. 2014 review

Much like Christine, Carpenter (and Morgan) do a fantastic job on Starman, but again the script just isn’t there to support them. Carpenter does a lot of work with the actors–it’s the only love story in his oeuvre–and he navigates the film to something of a success. The script problems, seven rewrites or not, are just too much to overcome. The set pieces just don’t fit with the film Carpenter ends up making, even if they are memorable–“yellow means go very fast.” It’s almost like he doesn’t know why he needs them; they’re so at odds with the way he’s plotted his films to that point.

There’s also a wonderful score from Jack Nitzsche.

On the run through scenic America, or: John Carpenter on location.
On the run through scenic America, or: John Carpenter on location.

Starman’s legacy is probably Carpenter’s most troubled. It was relatively successful on release, very much so on VHS, yet it appealed far more to the Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen demographic than the John Carpenter. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment never even got around to rereleasing it domestically with a Carpenter and Jeff Bridges audio commentary (from the UK release). Instead, they put it off until the blu-ray release; market research must’ve determined there wasn’t much “double dipping” potential for Starman. However, it does seem like the film enthusiast prejudice against the film–John Carpenter doing a sci-fi love story with a super cute Jeff Bridges–has fizzled. Unfortunately it’s been more out of disinterest than anything else. Starman is a perfectly solid eighties movie. It doesn’t transcend its problems, which makes it difficult for a rediscovery.

Kim Cattrall and Kurt Russell have found some BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Wokka wokka.
Kim Cattrall and Kurt Russell have found some BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Wokka wokka.

Carpenter’s final studio film of the eighties–Big Trouble in Little China is a bit like old home week. Kurt Russell is back in the lead, Dean Cundey is on photography, Larry J. Franco is producing, Alan Howarth is back. It’s also the only time Carpenter made a film released through 20th Century Fox. And what a film. Russell’s an obnoxious truck driver who bumbles his way into a magical Chinatown gang war. He’s got Victor Wong and Dennis Dun as his sidekicks and Kim Cattrall as his love interest. Of course, Russell’s also an idiot and it takes all of his compatriots to save the day. There’s magic, martial arts, fistfights, stolen semis, magic–wait, I already said magic. More magic. Lots of magic. Lots of humor. Lots of martial arts fisticuffs.

Kim Cattrall, Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun and Suzee Pai are in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, directed by John Carpenter for 20th Century Fox.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986). ★★★. 2014 review

I was never much of a Big Trouble fan growing up. I saw it in pieces on HBO at friends’ houses, I’m sure I watched it on VHS at least once, but I never cared for it. I had a problem with absurdist humor for a long, long time, but of all Carpenter’s mainstream efforts–leaving something utterly hostile like The Thing out of consideration–it’s the most successful. Russell’s hilarious, Cattrall excels through his idiocy, Dun and Wong are both good. Villain James Hong is awesome. There’s also quite a bit of technical achievement, between Carpenter doing a lot of fight scenes and then he and Cundey’s ability to mix harsh reality, ornate Chinese decoration, American stupidity, and special effects. Big Trouble is from 1986–twelve years after Dark Star–and Carpenter’s only gotten better with how he handles humor. It’s finally accessible. So long as the viewer is ready for a buffoon “hero.”

Even though Big Trouble in Little China was such a box office bomb it sent Carpenter back to independent filmmaking, it almost immediately found a rather big audience through home video and pay cable. Just because I didn’t like the movie as a kid didn’t mean most people agreed with me. Fox even gave it a nice two disc special edition DVD–now long out of print–back in the early days of catalog DVD. More recently, however, it does seem like the least regarded of Carpenter’s popular films. Maybe not in terms of people undervaluing it, but definitely in terms of overlooking or just forgetting its existence. Even though the brand has gone through an unexpected resurgence in the last few years, along with occasional remake talk, it hasn’t led to more appreciation of the film itself.

What's that? Oh, some more BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA! (Wokka wokka).
What’s that? Oh, some more BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA! (Wokka wokka).

Looking back now at this period of Carpenter’s films, it’s depressing. Things weren’t clicking. But at the time, if you’d just discovered him with Halloween and Escape from New York, you’d have been thrilled. The Thing is a peak, one very few filmmakers are going to reach. Christine’s good enough for a studio horror programmer. Starman’s interesting enough for a misfire. Big Trouble works its ass off to great result. Sure, there would’ve been bumps, but Carpenter ends this period on an uptick. He’s figured out how to make a studio picture by Big Trouble in Little China.

Of Carpenter’s four studio films, two made money, two didn’t. The better two didn’t. If it had been the other way around, who knows? But it’s the end of Carpenter’s significant output as a director. Not as a filmmaker, but definitely as a director. So how can’t it be depressing.



[Stop Button Lists] Film School in a Car, Lesson 01

Audio Commentaries discussed…

  • The Thing • 1998 • John Carpenter and Kurt Russell • Universal Home Video
  • Sabotage • 2008 • Leonard Leff • MGM Home Entertainment
  • A Night at the Opera • 1987 • Leonard Maltin • The Criterion Collection
  • The Passenger • 2006 • Jack Nicholson • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • The Bride of Frankenstein • 1999 • Scott MacQueen • Universal Home Video

I can’t remember the last time I watched an audio commentary. Wait, no, I do remember. I watched the commentary track on Swamp Thing. I can’t remember if I watched both of them, but I definitely watched the Wes Craven one and realized I don’t like Craven’s commentaries (since he had so little to say about the film) and I really don’t like Sean Clark as a moderator. Doesn’t seem like a single person commentary track should have a commentary track.

And I had listened to Jim Wynorski’s Return of Swamp Thing commentary. But I’m not sure if I listened to anything in between. I used to listen to commentary tracks all the time, then I stopped. I can’t remember if it had to do with the quality of commentary tracks nose-diving as every DVD added one or if I just focused more on watching more movies. Initially, it was probably the former, then gave way to the latter.

When I started recording commentary tracks for “Stop Button Favorites,” one might think I would have gone back and listened to commentary tracks I loved to try to capture it. Nope. I did not start listening to commentary tracks again until last week, after recording four commentary tracks, after reading someone on Twitter talking about how they were great for commutes. And, between a ninety minute commute (round trip) every day and multiple runs a week, I’m running out of podcasts.

A little context on my audio commentary fixation–I collected them. I bought old laserdiscs, turned the commentary tracks into VCDs, sold the laserdiscs off on eBay. For years. In addition to the commentary tracks I have on blu-rays and DVDs and HD-DVDs, I have a box of VCDs with nothing but commentaries. So there are a lot of listening choices.

A scene from THE THING, directed by John Carpenter for Universal Pictures.
A scene from THE THING, directed by John Carpenter for Universal Pictures.

But I had just gotten The Thing on HD-DVD (for a second time; at least this time it was only fifty cents) and it has the wonderful John Carpenter and Kurt Russell commentary track from the Universal Signature Collection LaserDisc. In the late nineties, before DVD, we LaserDisc aficionados used to get to dub our discs onto VHS for friends. Twice (flipping the disc at least once, usually more) because people wanted the commentary tracks. John Carpenter commentary tracks are amazing. I fell off after LaserDisc, never getting around to Starman. I’ll have get to that one.

By 2007 or so, I’d stopped listening to commentaries (save those Swamp Thing ones); response to them frustrated me. It didn’t seem like people were listening to better understand a film (or film in general), they were listening to them to “understand” why they should like a film. There was a discussion on a forum about how Miami Vice’s commentary made people like the film. I hated that idea. Why bother critically thinking about a film if you aren’t going to critically think about its commentary track.

So I knew I wanted to only wanted to listen to films I’d already seen, already had a solid thought about. Obviously, watching a film alongside a commentary is rather helpful, but I don’t have time for that dedication. Not for everything.

And it hasn’t been much of a problem. While I remember a lot of The Thing, I saw Sabotage months ago and could still follow Leonard Leff’s fine. I’ve never been particularly well-read on Hitchcock’s filmography (even when I was seeing a lot of Hitchcock), so hearing about the “thriller sextet” was cool. The discussion of the editing was similarly awesome.

Harpo Marx, Allan Jones, Chico Marx, and Groucho Marx star in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, directed by Sam Wood for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Harpo Marx, Allan Jones, Chico Marx, and Groucho Marx star in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, directed by Sam Wood for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Leonard Maltin’s commentary for A Night at the Opera, on the 1987 Criterion Collection LaserDisc, was either the first or second commentary track I ever heard. My dad got a LaserDisc player either in ’88 or ’89 and we had to go to the dreaded Blockbuster to rent LaserDiscs. Night at the Opera was one of the first two rentals. I’ve never forgotten Maltin’s anecdote about Harpo going back to get harp lessons as an adult and discovering he’d learned it all wrong as a kid so he just stuck with what already worked. I just didn’t remember it was Maltin doing the commentary. That Night at the Opera commentary track, first heard when I was ten or eleven, contributed a great deal to my holistic interest in cinema. It was particularly interesting to hear now, having just watched Opera and A Day at the Races, as Maltin discusses the former’s superiority.

But, given there are only so many audio commentary tracks out there of films I’ve seen, won’t I run out if I only listen to the ones for films I love. I recently watched The Passenger, after many years of it sitting in my collection unwatched (from back when there was only a R2 release). Since then, there’s been a special edition, complete with star Jack Nicholson doing a commentary track (about thirty years after the film’s release). And that Nicholson commentary track is rather interesting. And full of humility, which one doesn’t really think about Nicholson. He’s a natural storyteller and there’s something about hearing him get lost in the film viewing (which often happens to me during my own commentary track recordings). It didn’t change my opinion of The Passenger, but it does make me even more irate at that Wes Craven Swamp Thing commentary.

Maria Schneider and Jack Nicholson star in THE PASSENGER, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Maria Schneider and Jack Nicholson star in THE PASSENGER, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Still, I had some interest in The Passenger; it’s Antonioni, after all. And Nicholson doing an audio commentary. Bride of Frankenstein, however, I went into trying almost hostilely. I liked the film as a kid, but never as an adult. Scott MacQueen’s audio commentary–which declares Bride the perfect horror film–is shockingly awful. MacQueen makes director James Whale sound like a disagreeable drama queen (quite literally), more concerned with manipulating the censors than making a good movie. Maybe it’s just MacQueen’s voice, but his remarks sound stilted and way too prepared. There’s no enthusiasm, no distraction. During the long silences, it doesn’t sound like MacQueen’s watching the movie, just waiting it out before continuing reading his notes.

Obviously, I’m not the target audience for a Bride of Frankenstein commentary track (I’d forgotten what a low rating I gave the film and had to reread my post) but still… if it is the “perfect horror film” (which is ludicrous; this commentary track was recorded after 1974–i.e. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a film I can’t even watch, was extant), shouldn’t MacQueen be excited about it? Maltin and Leff, the other film historians, couldn’t keep their enthusiasm contained. When it comes to Bride, I sometimes wonder if its perceived greatness hasn’t become its greatness. So what else to talk about except details to reinforce and validate that perception.

The best part of the Bride commentary is when MacQueen gets contradictory. Towards the end, his conclusions in tangents often don’t work with his thesis; he’s too wrapped up in filmmaking trivia.

And it’s xenophobic. And MacQueen makes awful puns.

Ernest Thesiger and Colin Clive star in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, directed by James Whale for Universal Pictures.
Ernest Thesiger and Colin Clive star in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, directed by James Whale for Universal Pictures.

But did I learn anything from it? Sure. A purely positive “scholarly” commentary is hideously useless. Then again, Bride is a Universal Home Video release, not a Criterion. MacQueen got his check for being positive, which is an interesting concept. Of course, Leff was far better on Sabotage, but Universal seems fairly desperate to sell their catalog. To be fair, their restorations are often gorgeous. But their approach to commentaries is questionable.

Much as I would like to continue, I do think there needs to be an upper limit to these Lists posts and we’re getting close to it.

Next time I do a “Film School in a Car” post, I know for sure they’ll be some John McTiernan. Not sure what else yet. If you have any commentary suggestions, please do let me know.

[Stop Button Lists] John Carpenter on LaserDisc, 1994-98

John Carpenter films, 1976-82, released on LaserDisc, 1994-98

source: LaserDisc Database

When I was fifteen, it was a very good year. It was a very good year for John Carpenter fans. Maybe more than his fans, it was a very good year for his reputation. He was coming off Memoirs of an Invisible Man, his most mainstream film in eight years and it had bombed hard. But in June of 1994, when New Line Home Video released Escape From New York on LaserDisc in a collector’s edition, as well as on VHS with a “director’s special edition,” which had some of the same features. But was also pan and scan.

I was vaguely familiar with Carpenter. I had seen and liked The Thing (after years of hearing it was terrible), I had seen and liked Starman (it was a family favorite), I had seen and did not like Halloween (after years of hearing it was the only good slasher movie), I had seen and did not care for Big Trouble in Little China (if you had a friend with HBO in the late eighties, you saw Big Trouble a lot), I had seen and did not care for Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I was, in my younger days, quite the Chevy Chase fan.

A scene from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, directed by John Carpenter for Embassy Pictures.
A scene from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, directed by John Carpenter for Embassy Pictures.

One of the guys at the video store sent me home with the Escape From New York special edition VHS. I was back the next day to buy it. I think with scrounged together pennies. I made my mom and sister watch it with me either that night or immediately following. I loved Escape From New York.

And I started seeing other Carpenter films, so by October 1995, when I had moved from “special edition” VHS tapes to my own LaserDisc collection, I bought The Fog sight unseen. And I watched it. Probably twice in a row, the second time with the commentary. And it got me to appreciate Carpenter’s filmmaking. I would have shown the Fog (on LaserDisc in its glorious Panavision OAR) to my friends. I might have even made my sister watch it. I loved The Fog.

Then came Escape From L.A.. Wait, what? A fifteen years late sequel. Kurt Russell, on a second career high, got to bring back Snake Plissken. He and Carpenter palling around for the Escape From New York commentary got their wheels spinning. I saw it opening night. And I loved it, which is really embarrassing because it’s terrible.

A scene from HALLOWEEN, directed by John Carpenter for Compass International Pictures.
A scene from HALLOWEEN, directed by John Carpenter for Compass International Pictures.

That November–I guess Criterion couldn’t make it happen for Halloween–they released a special edition of Halloween. CAV LaserDisc. The film was now legitimized. And I’d seen it a few times. And I still didn’t like it. Whenever I finally bought the LaserDisc (not at release), I had done so for the special features. I wanted that Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis commentary. I knew his commentary tracks were awesome.

(Halloween is still my least favorite Carpenter film of this era, even if it is better than The Fog).

Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston star in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, directed by John Carpenter for Turtle Releasing.
Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston star in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, directed by John Carpenter for Turtle Releasing.

In February of 1997, Image released Assault on Precinct 13, which I think I saw right away and hated the cover art for the LaserDisc. I tried transferring the commentary and effects track to Sony MiniDisc. I was a commentary fiend back then. And, of course, I loved Precinct 13.

Carpenter didn’t disappear–I couldn’t wait for Vampires, which teamed him with James Woods, another of my nineties enthusiasms–but I did have to wait. Its distribution was a nightmare of looking through “Entertainment Weekly” or maybe reading “Dark Horizons” hoping for good news. But it was a time for appreciating old Carpenter, not new.

And then, in August 1998, Universal Studios Home Video released The Thing in a Signature Collection LaserDisc release. Universal made some great LaserDiscs, but usually of popular films. The Thing had been a box office failure. But Carpenter was draw on LaserDisc–his Panavision composition can’t be pan and scanned well. All these special editions with the great commentaries would introduce Carpenter to a whole new audience–the casual home video consumer, trying out the new DVD format. All these LaserDisc special editions soon became early DVD special editions.

A scene from THE THING, directed by John Carpenter for Universal Pictures.
A scene from THE THING, directed by John Carpenter for Universal Pictures.

These films–and these LaserDisc releases–forged Carpenter’s ironclad reputation as a filmmaker. No matter how many Children of the Damned or Memoirs he made, no matter how crappy remakes of his films got, no matter how many times Anchor Bay released Halloween on DVD, Carpenter’s reputation leaped out of the hole Memoirs dug. No one liked Memoirs. Even with awesome special effects as CG-appreciation became a mainstream fixation, no one liked Memoirs. I’m sort of scared I liked Memoirs in the theater now, because I remember renting it on VHS and I have no idea why I would have done such a terrible thing.

These five Carpenter films still get all the hype–they’re still the ones in the public consciousness, whether through remakes or awesome new Shout! Factory blu-ray special editions. The commentary tracks usually make it over too, which is fantastic. Not quite the same thing as Criterion putting out Halloween and forcing it into the film enthusiast consciousness (complete with a reassuring clip of Siskel and Ebert explaining why it’s okay to like Halloween), but the content is out there for people to discover. It’s just the community isn’t there, which is too bad.

As for Carpenter, he just put out an album, Lost Themes. I love it.

The Thing (2011, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.)

The big problem with The Thing, besides it being pointless (though it needn’t be), is its stupidty. While van Heijningen is a perfectly mediocre director, he doesn’t know how to add mood or make something disturbing. Some of it probably isn’t his fault… I can’t see him caring about the addition of Eric Christian Olsen’s third wheel in the romantic chemistry between Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton, for example. It’s just the filmmakers in general. They aren’t bright.

For example, who casted Olsen as a smart guy in the first place? He’s clearly not smart. Poor Winstead and Edgerton try–and Winstead can sell the scientist pretty well–but they’re stuck in a terrible cast. Ulrich Thomsen’s mad scientist belongs in a Roger Corman knockoff.

The filmmakers seem to understand they shouldn’t be telling the story of some Norwegians in English, but whenever the Norwegians panic, they speak English. That detail seems somewhat nonsensical.

If The Thing were a traditional sequel or prequel (i.e. coming within ten years of the original), it might concern developing the original’s mythology. But coming almost thirty years later, with zero participation from the original filmmakers, it’s not… it’s a potential (and thankfully failed) franchise starter.

It could have been neat though, since it’s essentially a remake of the original Thing from Another World in terms of plot. Sadly, it’s not neat. It’s terrible and cheap.

Eric Heisserer’s script is asinine.

Watching it, I just felt bad for Winstead. She’s too classy for it.



Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.; screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on a story by John W. Campbell Jr.; director of photography, Michel Abramowicz; edited by Peter Boyle, Julian Clarke and Jono Griffith; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Sean Haworth; produced by Marc Abraham and Eric Newman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate Lloyd), Joel Edgerton (Sam Carter), Ulrich Thomsen (Dr. Sander Halvorson), Eric Christian Olsen (Adam Finch), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Derek Jameson), Paul Braunstein (Griggs), Trond Espen Seim (Edvard Wolner), Kim Bubbs (Juliette), Jørgen Langhelle (Lars), Jan Gunnar Røise (Olav), Stig Henrik Hoff (Peder), Kristofer Hivju (Jonas), Jo Adrian Haavind (Henrik), Carsten Bjørnlund (Karl), Jonathan Walker (Colin) and Ole Martin Aune Nilsen (Matias).