PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE UNITED
a review of the film ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’
There is no doubt about it that the ‘X-Men’ film series is definitely one of the most unsure of all the Marvel film series out there. Spiderman has been consistent in its mythology in both film adaptations, and though the Fantastic Four was not very welcomed, it did maintain a logical timeline of things.
But X-Men seems to want to take things into a different mix. How so? Though Bryan Singer directed both X-Men and X2, he did give up the reigns to Brett Ratner for X-Men: The Last Stand, which is regarded to be the lowest film on the series. In doing so, certain style choices radically changed, as well as character goofs, deaths, and other mistakes that quickly made the X-Men series go from “top of the class” to questionable.
This change led to the producers to decide that maybe continuing from the Last Stand timeline may not be the best idea, which brought around what I consider to be the best X-Men movie of them all, X-Men: First Class, which instantly brought around a new and fresh look on the series.
Sure, before First Class we had X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I’d rather not talk about that. Not only is it a bad X-Men film, it is a bad film in general and should be overlooked by all means necessary. The team behind it probably thought the same thing, which is most likely why The Wolverine is set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand as the unofficial sequel (but official at the same time if you stayed in the credits for that pretty astounding post-credit sequence).
Now we have come full circle. The prequel origin stories have introduced all we should know about the infamous “X-Men”, as well as we have the stage set up for pure hell to rain down on them. I mean, isn’t that what The Last Stand was introducing, the fact that mutants may not be around forever? In any case, hell does rain down on the “X-Men”, and the result is pure genius filmmaking and powerful storytelling.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is directed by Bryan Singer, and is written by Simon Kinberg, with a story by Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, and Simon Kinberg.
Days of Future Past cleverly is a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, and The Wolverine, tying all the timelines together into one, super massive story which may feel overwhelming at first. Hell, the opening sequence is enough to confuse anyone, but stick with it, over the course of the two hour and eleven minute film, everything is explained. Kinda.
Like any film trying to reestablish itself as a top-notch franchise, Days of Future Past leaves a lot of questions unanswered with the intention of coming back to them later on down the road, and it even raises new questions. This is good, because it will ensure another film from the series, while promising some pretty interesting things to happen.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, there are some continuity things that this film suffers from. It’s not the story’s fault, it’s Bryan Singer. Though I know quite a bit about the “juicy stuff” from behind the scenes on a film set, I do not know why he didn’t return to direct The Last Stand. What I do know is that things got out of hand.
Firstly, in all six films (now seven), William Stryker is constantly changing his age, from being an old man in X2 to slightly younger in X3 (and alive even), to being far too young in Days of Future Past, and even the funniest of them all- already knowing Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Other than that, Dr. Bolivar Trask changes ethnicities, height, and age in two films (being African American and old in The Last Stand and old and white in Days of Future Past, which is set close to thirty years before The Last Stand takes place).
But that is the beautiful thing about this film. It jumps around two different time periods gracefully, and while all that is happening, all the continuity errors of the previous films are slowly wiped away. If you watch Doctor Who or even Back to the Future, you are aware that the past can be changed, and in doing so, the future can be changed as well.
So consider this film Bryan Singer hitting “reset” on the series and taking things back into his own hands. By the end of the film, there is a new timeline established, one where all the characters are alive (spoiler, but hey, you should have seen it by now), and where things are normal again.
Well, kinda normal.
What is the film about? Well, apparently because of Erik and Mystique, Mystique has grown to be dark and sinister, the path that we saw her on when X-Men was released so many years ago. But something happens, she kills Trask and sets into motion a series of events that take close to forty years to happen, leading to the eventual introduction of the Sentinals, the one thing the X-Men cannot fight. The Sentinals grow sour and start killing everyone and everything, until they are all that remains. This is bad, so the remaining X-Men team up and sent Wolverine’s conscious back to the 1970s to find, and stop, Mystique before she can kill Trask and destroy the entire world. Easy? Not at all, because this is around the same time that Erik and Charles are at war with each other, and they can only find Mystic if they work together.
This all leads to quite possibly the best X-Men film we’ve ever had, easily setting the bar high for all future films, as well as all future comic-book movie adaptations. Why? Because the film combined visually astonishing action sequences with touching moments of dialogue, all wrapped around a cheesy look-back to an era where the world was both at war with itself, and in love with itself.
The story starts of “slow” (if you can call it that), establishing the characters and story, while giving us the details we should know coming into this new world. But once they find Mystique in Paris (a scene which easily will go down as remarkable cinema), the world starts to fall apart for each character. The pace in the film jumps up as each event, each moment, each breath, destroys friendships and kills innocent people, all leading up to Trask and the start of the war (forty years earlier than intended).
To put it bluntly, Bryan Singer has outdone himself and presented both film watchers and comic book readers the most rewarding film of the summer.
Due to the sheer size of the cast, I will refrain from commenting on each of their performances. Instead, I will look at it as a whole. Together, they work wonders. I have never seen an ensemble action film cast work together so flawlessly, giving each other their moments to shine, while stealing the stage at the same time. Michael Fassbender as Erik and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier definitely stand out as their tensions boil from anger to romantic friendship (we are all thinking it), while the likes of Nicholas Hoult as Hank/Beast definitely works wonders all on his own. A special note for Evan Peters as Quicksilver though, because out of all the X-Men in the film, he is the one who was overlooked. He brought a quirky sass to the role, delivering a smart and sophisticated and emotionally torn performance, as well as bringing together a scene of pure magnificence (the kitchen break-out for those wondering).
The cast has worked wonders, and it would be too much to ask them to work together again soon. I mean, we can’t have too much of a good thing, but we don’t want it spoiled.
If you are wondering who is in the cast, I’ll list them now.
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Erik, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique, Halle Berry as Storm, Nicholas Hoult as Hank/Beast, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, Peter Dinklage as Dr. Bolivar Trask, Shawn Ashmore as Bobby/Iceman, Omar Sy as Bishop, Evan Peters as Peter/Quicksilver, Josh Helman as Stryker, Daniel Cudmore as Colossus, Bingbing Fan as Blink, Adan Canto as Sunspot, Booboo Stewart as Warpath, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Famke Jenssen as Jean Grey, Lucas Till as Havok, Evan Jonigkeit as Toad, and James Marsden as Scott Summers.
While on the topic of the cast, it lists Anna Paquin as Rogue, even though she is briefly seen in the film for just a few moments. A rumor was abound that they scrapped all her scenes before filming began, but rewatching the first trailer for the film reveals something different: They did film her scenes, but removed them from the final cut. This is proof that an extended cut of the film is out there, and it is even better than the current cut of the film. Bryan Singer was worried about pacing, but believe me, her scenes would have been amazing even if they did “slow” the plot down a bit.
So if you like action movies, dramas, sci-fi films, Marvel movies, superhero films, Hugh Jackman naked, time travel, or one hell of a good time, then do watch this movie. If not, give it a try, you will be glad that you did.
And for those who stayed during the credits and caught sight of what they showed post-credits wise, then you know this to be true: X-Men: Apocalypse will be amazing, and quite possibly even better than this film (though that will be tough to do).
RETURN OF THE KING
a review of the film ‘Godzilla’
Godzilla. The name has become as well known as James Bond has, and like Bond, the king of monsters has gone through various facelifts to keep up with the changing tides. Starting back in 1954, the film series has gone from horror to comedic action and back, only to earn a not-so favorable name in more recent years. This time, however, things are different, and the king of monsters proves a point that most films need to take note on: less is more.
Godzilla is directed by Gareth Edwards, and is written by Max Borenstein, while being based on a story by Dave Callaham.
In 1999, Roland Emmerich released the film Godzilla, to which he received negative reviews and an actual hate following to what many considered was his parody of the monster film franchise. To defend him, it is just simply a film that follows in his natural directing state of a comedic action film which large special effects and nothing too much going on besides that. When the film didn’t perform as well as they had hoped, it seemed the king of monsters would be dead.
That was, until a few years later, Legendary Pictures decided to create a short film for IMAX which followed Godzilla’s rampage. After years of delays, the film was ultimately cancelled and left in production hell (a place where few films make it out of). Now, something sparked in this short film, and, coupled with Gareth Edwards’ explosive debut film Monsters, Legendary Pictures felt it was time to reawaken the beast.
Let’s talk for a moment about Gareth Edwards. Here we have an independent filmmaker who specializes in special effects. He made a film called Monsters in which I sought out before I watched Godzilla, and to be honest, it was an incredible film. It helped me understand a bit about his directing style and visual taste, but it also helped me understand a lot of Godzilla as well. Many people have strong negative feelings about the recent release, but to understand why he made the choices he did, you must go back to the earlier part of his career. There is a reason why he was chosen out of all the director’s available, and it’s that reason why Godzilla is such a perfect film.
Gareth Edwards doesn’t care too much for cosmic style destruction unless there is a force behind it. Sure, Godzilla is a force and is reason enough, but what I mean to say is that Edwards cares more for the human emotion and reaction to such forces. If a building is blown up in a terrorist attack, it might progress the plot, but it has no meaning behind it except it is exciting.
So there are a lot of moments in Godzilla where the focus is pushed away from the destruction caused by the beast and towards the humans being affected by it. In this way, the film is given a lot of heart and spirit, something most big budgeted disaster movies miss entirely. Unfortunately, it is also the reason most people don’t like this film and actually have the gall to call “trash” filmmaking.
To focus more on the human characters with the overshadowing beast running around destroying stuff is not only a bold move, it’s the best move to do. In the entertainment industry, if you stand in, you aren’t being an innovator. Edwards created a new style of disaster/monster movies by introducing a human element that allows us, the audience, to connect more heavily to the characters and feel their sorrow and loss.
That is why Gareth Edwards was chosen for the film, and it’s the reason why this film is so perfect. Now, there are some faults in it, but they are so small compared to what is done correct in the film that it’s easy to ignore them, or simply just look past.
This brings me to the next point of discussion: A large complaint is the lack of Godzilla in a film about Godzilla. Let me bring up the film Jaws for a moment. Now, the lack of the shark is due to technical malfunctions, but the end result is actually something very terrifying and wonderfully exciting. The lack of the shark introduces multiple layers of fear and terror, something that Godzilla plays on for a large part of the film. In the two hour run time, we see roughly twenty or less minutes of the beast, and of those twenty minutes, we hardly get full shots or views of him.
This is mostly to have our imagination play tricks on us, also to make us believe he is real when he is, in fact, not.
With so much done right in the film, is there anything done wrong? As a friend pointed out, there is a lack of character development done on some of the characters. I feel Joe Brody is nicely developed and is given sufficient reason for the tasks he is performing, starting with the tragic loss and ending with the world going to hell. Ford Brody, as well, is given a full development cycle.
Though, we did agree, Elle Brody was hardly touched upon. Her character started to become developed at the start of the film, but towards the middle and end, her development arch seemed to have come to a stop. There are many things they could have done with her during the final scenes to emphasize the terror and destruction on a human level, but they chose not to, which is a bit of a let down. As previously stated, this is something that can be easily looked over, but not something that should be repeated in future films.
Godzilla also is a nice study in the Hitchcock “time bomb”, a phrase that is used to describe a slow build in suspense that leads up to an explosion or twist. Now, the explosion is a metaphor, but occasionally it can be a literal explosion. An example of this would be during the Hawaii sequence where Ford is on the airport tram. The power goes out, only to come back on a few minutes later. One light turns on at a time, heading out to the runway where, when the final light turns on, there is a giant leg attached to a giant beast. Boom, the Hitchcock bomb has exploded, only to add in the given suspense of, “oh no, the tram is now forced towards the beast”.
The slow build-up also works on a larger scale, as the film gradually builds up to the shocking and absolutely amazing San Francisco sequence. If a person doesn’t like the film, what they can agree upon is how solid the final scenes of the movie are. If needed, you would be able to separate the final scenes from the overall piece and still have a strong film in your hands.
To me, Gareth Edwards made a masterpiece of a disaster/monster film, a gamble that was rightly taken by Legendary Pictures, and paid off very well.
Bryan Cranston plays Joe Brody, a role that at times feels like the complete opposite of the role most grounded in our memories, that of Walter White. Joe is a loving man who is torn from the inside by tragedy and harsh loss, only to find out that he has the key to save the world, but nobody will listen to him. This sort of sorrow is nicely portrayed by Cranston, who proves yet again that acting is second nature to him.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Ford Brody, a role with not a whole lot going on in it. His real driving force is his need to get back to his wife and son, but apart from that, he seems to do things spur of the moment and without much meaning behind it. Taylor-Johnson, though, makes it feel natural as he plays a charming man who ultimately just wants to save the world. His most charming scenes are with children, and that one scene on the bridge with the soldier. Taylor-Johnson can do action scenes as well, which is proven in the San Francisco sequence as he combines his charms with his ability to be an action star.
Also in the film is Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a role that is there most of the film, but a full arc isn’t developed in the course of the film; Elizabeth Olsen plays Elle Brody, a motherly role which suits her just fine; Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham; and Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody.
So if you like action films, disaster movies, monster films, dramas, Godzilla, creatures, Bryan Cranston, or a great summer film, then this is the movie for you. If not, try to check it out, you might just end up liking it a whole lot.
Oh, and one last thing.
When this film was made, a sequel was not in mind. Now that it’s made a massive amount of money, a sequel has been announced. Though, in the slight chance that a sequel would be made, they wanted to be sure they had content for the next film. Keep an eye out for the Easter Egg for what the next film would focus on. It’s very hard to miss, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s when Joe and Ford Brody are together.
A HERO’S PERIL
a review of the film ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’
this review does contain spoilers
In 2012, Marc Webb and Sony Pictures started the Spider-Man mythology over, prompting confusion from fans as to why that was. The original trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi, was set to crossover into the Fantastic Four series, and with that being reset as well, one can only wonder what Marc Webb had in mind. In starting the series over, he stopped the crossover from happening and changed the game entirely on the Spider-Man series.
In a way, it was much needed.
Christopher Nolan took hold of the Tim Burton-started Batman series and started it over from the roots and with a more realistic style, starting a very successful film trilogy. Director Zack Snyder did the same with 2013’s Man of Steel (though realism was far from what they aimed for), so it was only fitting that Peter Parker fell into the same treatment.
So with The Amazing Spider-Man, the world got to see Peter Parker all over again being just what he is: a teenager. That was two years ago, so how far has he come, and what else has been going on in the heroes life?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is directed by Marc Webb, and is written by Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Pinker, and Roberto Orci, with a screen story by James Vanderbilt, while being based on the comic book series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
When Sony Pictures restarted the Spider-Man mythology, it unfortunately meant starting over at the origins of the hero. This meant that The Amazing Spider-Man was more of a repeat of all the information thrown at us in the Sam Raimi adaptation which was surprisingly very good. There were key pieces of information that was different, such as more emphasis on Parker’s parents and more build-up towards Oscorp and their nefarious activities. The relationship between Parker and Gwen Stacey was also established and destroyed as well when things got sour, leaving us on a mighty fine note.
Now that the origin story is over, and all required material is touched, it’s time to see where Marc Webb can take us into the Spider-Man mythology and how far he can push Parker. This is where things get extremely interesting, carving the way towards an interesting super-hero film.
A mass majority of people who saw the film simply just watched it and didn’t understand it at all. A smaller majority of the people who watched it understood what it meant and what it means for the future of the franchise.
This film may look like the main focus is the villain (or in this case, the multiple villains), but it instead takes focus on the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey. Things are challenging with them as Parker struggles from PTSD, which is not uncommon in Marvel territory as Tony Stark struggles from the very same thing. But for Parker, it’s difficult because he is a minor just graduated from high school. Mix that with his alter ego under constant attack from government officials and press, Parker has a challenging life that makes any romantic connection with Gwen a battle.
Add to the mix that Gwen has been accepted to a school in a different country, and here you have the real plot of the film. Does Parker give up being Spider-Man and pursue Gwen abroad, or does he leave her and pursue saving New York City from the life-threatening disease known as Oscorp?
Another major complaint of the film is that it is “too crowded”. My question is, in what regards is it crowded? Are there too many characters? Too many villains? Or is the film too condensed, thus giving it the feeling of being crowded?
To answer all of those questions will be quite simple. There are a lot of characters. Hell, they introduce Harry Osborne, as well as Harry’s father. They also bring in Felicia Hardy, as well as a slew of security officials from Oscorp, not to mention they also introduce important scientists and even Electro.
Which brings me to the next topic of discussion: Are there too many villains? No. Not even close to being too many villains. To resolve the “too many characters” and “too many villains” debate, I will talk about the following. The film is set into chapters within the plot, each one a different stage in Parker’s life and relationship with Gwen Stacey. First you have the opening where they are fully in love. This is where we have the Rhino attacking NYC. After Parker breaks up with Stacey, we then lose her family as characters, as well as the Rhino but introduce Electro and Harry Osborne. Once Electro leaves, we get the Green Goblin (or Hobgoblin, depending on who you talk to). The film passes off each character and trades them off so that the film never feels crowded or rushed. Each character gets proper amounts of development and screentime, making it quite wonderful for those who are a fan of character development.
In fact, let’s talk about Electro for a moment. Never since Loki have we had a villain who we could care for on such an intimate level that it actually pains us to watch them fight and get fought. We first meet Max Dillon as Spider-Man fights the Rhino (a scene that is equally awesome as it is comedic). We see that he is alone in the world and seeks attention from everyone, so when Spider-Man saves him, naturally he clings to his hero. It turns to obsession though, fueling his descent into madness which comes full circle once he dies (and later comes back to life). The real sympathy comes from the fact that he doesn’t know what is happening to him, causing him to accidently hurt people and become the villain. In every definition of the word innocent, Electro is just that. He is forced to be the villain, and his hatred of that fact is what fuels him towards super-villain status.
The film also creates a villain out of Harry Osborne who, out of being betrayed by Peter/Spider-Man, decides to hunt him down and kill him. Marc Webb has then successfully created two well-rounded villains for Spider-Man to face off against. Unfortunately, Electro is killed off, and before Green Goblin can show full potential, he is taken care of.
But wait, that’s odd. Why introduce him so late into the plot? If The Amazing Spider-Man is Spider-Man’s origin story, then this is the Green Goblin’s origin story. We were given a taste of how creepy and wonderful he can be, but before he went full psycho on Spider-Man, he was put behind bars. That doesn’t mean he’s done with, in the same regard that we aren’t done with Doctor Connors yet either. We’re being introduced, instead, to the members of the Sinister Six one at a time.
(for the eagle eyed members of the audience, you’d know that we met all six members of the Sinister Six)
So in fact, the film is not crowded, people are just very hard to please. The comedic tone of the film mixed with the extreme sadness and powerful score are very close to the source material of the comic book of which it is based. This means that the films are getting closer and closer to a blend of what comic book fanboys and film lovers want: a true comic book film. Now, this was far from, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Now, the plot was going all over the place, and that I agree with. The pacing is just fine up until the very end of the film where it rushes to try and come to a close. The re-introduction of Rhino would be just fine if it didn’t end as soon as he was brought into the mix. It was important to see Spider-Man come back to his old self after the tragic loss, but it left us hanging in a bad way.
That is really the only complaint I have for the film. It did a good job in telling what it wanted to tell, and it showed us some pretty amazing stuff.
Andrew Garfield plays a more comedic and sassy Peter Parker/Spider-Man in this film, one who also shows the pain of extreme loss and the heavy weight of being a super-hero teenager. The ability to juggle both at the same time is a wonder for Garfield, who is more than just a normal Spider-Man.
Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacey who reaches the arc of her character development and also has one of the most tragic deaths in a recent Marvel film. In all honesty, what recent Marvel movie is bold enough to kill off such a great character in such a way? (and keep her dead) Her full acting ability is touched upon in the film as well in the scenes that she is in, combining smart intellect with crushy teen-girl delight over Spider-Man, eventually leading to her being cold towards Parker. When her arc reaches the end, we’ve seen her do all she can, giving a strong performance, one that will be hard to top when the next leading lady comes along in the series.
Playing the heartbreaking Max Dillon is Jamie Foxx. Foxx adds small details to the role that make it just as hard to watch him become a villain, such as the talking to himself to the way he fixes his hair. His death scene/transformation into Electro is also equally as hard to watch because it is someone who is completely left out being forced into a seat of super power. We saw this previously in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, where Selina Kyle is tortured and abused her whole life, only to be murdered and forced into the seat of power. Only difference is that when Selina Kyle became Catwoman, she knew exactly what she was doing. Foxx as Electro will be known as the definitive version of the character, thanks to the wonderful acting ability he has.
Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osborne, a character we don’t really want to like, but end up liking him, only to find ourselves hating everything about who he is. His descent into madness is greatly done and enhanced only by the make-up he dons to look more decrepit. There is no doubt that DeHaan will go far in the film industry, especially with the power he holds when on screen.
Colm Feore plays Donald Menken, a ruthless head of security; Felicity Jones plays Felicia Hardy; Paul Giamatti plays Aleksei Sytsevich, a role that he went above and beyond to make perfect; Sally Field plays Aunt May, another heartbreaking role in the film which is hardly touched upon.
This film isn’t perfect, but it is damn close to achieving what the Sam Raimi series couldn’t – true heart.
So if you like comic book films, Marvel movies, action films, dramas, mystery films, Andrew Garfield, or X-Men, then do watch this film. If not, then you may want to wait, because you may just not understand it yet.
The Thing From Another World (1951)
The Thing (1982)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing From Another Time Period compares the 1951 film against the 2011 film in an in-depth essay.
The Thing From Another Time Period
A comparison of time
There once was a time when films seemed to focus on creating monster films solely, and in doing so, the whole studio system became a monster in itself. The ideas became absurd and outrageous to the point where giant rabbits walked the Earth while miniature women terrorized their normal sized lovers. Mixed into the mess of the new “creature feature” genre was a 1951 release entitled The Thing from Another World. This was released during an odd time in film where censors were still barring content and holding it back, something that soon began to work backwards a mere decade later with the bringing about of George Romero and an even more bold Alfred Hitchcock.
‘The Thing from Another World’ is based on the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. and follows a reporter as he tracks the progress of a military expedition to the Antarctic tundra to uncover something buried in the ice. Taking a more tame and dialogue based approach, the film builds up the idea of a creature, or thing, out in the ice that can take your life at any moment. The suspense is built up through intense dialogue. As Leonard Maltin writes, “Tense direction, often credited to producer Howard Hawkes, excellent performances, eerie score by Dimitri Tiomkin…” The film essentially upholds a very staged feel by the lack of close-ups and actual camera movement, something still being observed a mere forty years after actual camera motions were starting to becoming implemented.
In 1982, John Carpenter remade the film and changed the title to ‘The Thing’, but based it on the same source material as before. With it, he brought new technology into the mix. Only sixty years later from the release of ‘The Thing from Another World’, the world was given an accurate remake of the 1951 cult classic. While Carpenter did remake the film, he changed the story entirely to make it more of a sequel than anything, but in 2011, a proper remake was brought about. To showcase the change of censorship and stylistic choices, it would be wise to look at two films from two different time periods, specifically two films that are essentially the same.
What does that mean? Take a look at the 1951 film, then watch the 2011 film and take note at the drastic differences in what is allowed to be shown. The studio system at the time the 1951 film was released was still upholding the strict production code that looked down upon screen kisses, gender bending, and especially violence. So it is no surprise that in the 1951 film, the most violent thing to occur was the Thing hitting a scientist in the chest and knocking him through the wall. Though, it can be argued that the most violent section would be when the Thing was lit on fire, it was hardly focused upon and not a great deal was made after it.
While watching the 2011 film, the most violent section would have to be debated upon. It could be when the lead female, Kate Lloyd, watches as her friend is absorbed into a creature while his face splits open, but yet, it could also be when a man, Edvard Wolner, splits in half. All of that is besides the point, because that right there shows just how different those two films are, though they are the same story.
The difference in violence is key to the whole thing, seeing as audiences in the 1950s, even earlier, were a lot less exposed to violence. News reels and “actualities” showed wartime footage, but highly edited and censored footage so as to not upset or disturb audiences. When films got progressively more violent in the 1930s, audiences typically liked it, but there were limits still put into place. In the 1920 German expressionist film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, the film showcased violence in an artistic way and found ways of killing people through the usage of shadows and quick cuts. In 1929, Luis Bunuel made a jump in style with the film ‘Un Chien Andalou’ which opened to a scene of a woman having her eyeball cut open. Though it was shown, it was not necessarily agreed with. Audiences were still virgins to extreme amounts of violence. So when ‘The Thing from Another World’ was released in Los Angeles, it shocked people at just how terrifying it was, though it was lacking in actual violence.
Does this mean that violence detracts from a film and from the story presented? Viewing the 1951 film, it is agreed upon that the film is quite terrifying, but yet, it has an awful lot of dialogue. The 2011 release opened to mixed reviews, most stating that the digital effects are what brought the film down, but those who viewed it can oppose such statements. It upholds the same powerful message and suspense, but the violence only adds to the overall story. The obsessive amounts of gore tells the viewer that danger is imminent and better brings Campbell Jr.’s story to life the way he would have wanted it told. The violence also allows the story to dwell into the plot of the Thing being able to shapeshift in violent and gruesome ways. This would have been extremely frowned upon if it had been released in 1951.
Why? Morals had to be kept up, that is the simple end of it all. So violence isn’t an issue between the two films, but what can be said about the technological advances between the two films? That is sixty years worth of improvements, so something must have been done differently. And that is only partially true. Within the 1951 film, the only parts in major need of digital mastery or effects would be when the soldiers explode the crash site, the burning of the Thing, and the final confrontation. During the final confrontation, one of the scientists comes up with a plan to electrocute the Thing with so much electricity that it burns up and, hopefully, turns to ash. This is done with what seems to be an overlay of electrical streaks to the original film to give the illusion that the Thing is in the midst of a powerful electrical shock when it is actually not. For the time period, this was a major advancement and a spectacle, but now, it is seen as amateurish in quality and is overlooked as such.
There are many moments in the 2011 film where new digital technology has assisted. While the film was made with actual sets (mostly) and props (mostly), a large part was digitally animated in during post-production. Things such as when Kate Lloyd burns the Thing in the car, or when she is chased in the storeroom, were done digitally. There are moments, however, that aren’t done that way, but unfortunately, those scenes were later removed from the final cut. One of which shows one of the scientists screaming while his mouth slowly tears from his jaw, and his arms rip apart as he grows larger (something which can be done easily with puppetry). The difference in technology between the two films is massive, yet in a way, not that different. Sure, there are CGI (computer generated imagery) creatures running around in the 2011 film, strip that away and you have two of the same.
The advances in cinema technique also help play a major role in the 2011 film, giving suspenseful moments more “oomf” by showing less of what we would wish to see. The 1951 film has more of a thematic feel to it, almost as if the film was just recorded from a stage production and music was later added to give more of a cinematic touch. The difference in technique is crucial as certain moments in the 1951 film were lost due to the lack of creativity on their part with the placement of the camera, while in the 2011 film, the close-ups of the various cast members helped to showcase a longing feeling of dread and anticipation, something that translated well into the audience as soon the viewer started to feel the claustrophobic anxiety of being locked in an Arctic base with a shapeshifting alien.
When the 1951 film was released, there was the growing fear of “being red”, something which quite simply means, the American viewer was frightened that his or her neighbor would suddenly convert religions and political standings to follow the Soviet leader Karl Marx (or Marxism if you prefer). So a heavy theme in ‘The Thing from Another World’ was a playing part in bringing the “Red Scare” to the Hollywood studios as a topic of discussion. What if you could create your own perfect race of humans by sacrificing your own blood?
While modern audiences are scared of no such thing, filmmaker Matthijs van Heijninger Jr. had to find other ways of scaring people. Of course, this goes back to the shapeshifting anxiety which is so dominant throughout, but yet, he also plays on strength as a factor, as well as a “brawns” approach. Those who were weaker tended to last further into the film than those with actual muscle (something that can be observed by the fact that the last three characters surviving can’t properly hold an axe without hurting themselves). This helps bring a steady realism to the mix as not all heroes are muscular. Since the Thing has the ability to shapeshift, there must be a way to find out who, or what, it is. In the 1982 film, the theory was brought into the mix that it hates fire, so a blood sample lit with fire would defend itself if it is hosting alien genes. In the 2011 film, a more “brawn” approach was taken up as they searched for metallic filings in teeth and piercings in ears. If a character didn’t have either of those, they were thought to be the Thing and were taken care of.
Since 1920, there have been a set of “rules” that have been observed but not necessarily taken down or put into play with each film. But they were there, and they were being used regularly. These were guidelines of the characteristics of certain character types. The lead male was generally a “manly man”, while the female was overly feminine. It can be observed quite easily in the 1951 film ‘The Thing from Another Planet’ with how each character acts. All the male characters are tough and very masculine, while all female characters cower at the thought of the Thing seeing them. And since the film was brought about in the midst of the “creature features”, the film took a more scientific approach to finding the Thing. While the 2011 film used metallic filings, this film used a Geiger counter to detect the radiation amounts within each person on the base. Science was very highly appreciated during this time period, and since then, it has dwindled away from the front attention in films, unfortunately.
Though the differences may seem grand when first looking at it, both films are equally grand pieces of cinema. Each film is powerful and holds a message deep within, though it may not seem like it does. It is going to be interesting to see if this film is redone later down the road with better technology, and to see if the feeling (and message) changes at all, as well as if it will show what the future generations believe. And to those who hear my voice, heed this warning: Watch the skies.
Maltin, Leonard. “The Thing from Another World(1951).” Turner Classic Movies. AFI, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2848/The-Thing-from-Another-World/>.
Ebert, Roger. “The Thing.” Roger Ebert.com. Ebert Digital LLC, October 12, 2011. Wed. 11 Feb. 2014. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-thing-2011>.