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Caffeinated Clint : Where’s the The Thing gone!?

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Over the past few days I’ve received many an email asking why Universal’s “The Thing” – prequel to John Carpenter’s icy blockbuster – has been removed from the studio’s 2011 schedule.

For those not keeping up, the film was due to unspool April 29 but has since been removed from the studio’s schedule altogether – a worrying “TBA” next to the title.

The studio has brought forward “Fast Five”, the fifth in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, to park in that April 29 slot.

So what gives?

Well, firstly – the obvious : Universal considers “Fast Five” more of a ‘sure thing’ than “The Thing”, which is a prequel to a 30-year-old film that cinemas biggest attendees, the teenagers, would likely never have heard of, let alone seen.
“Fast Five”, on the other hand, is a cash-cow franchise that the, say, under 30’s have grown up with. It also boasts a very bankable and appealing cast in Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson.
“The Thing”, on the other hand, features two talented but hardly household-name actors, Joel Edgerton (“Animal Kingdom”) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”).
In addition, “Fast Five” is more of an audience-pleasing popcorn movie – the kind of film perfect for Autumn/Summer, whereas “The Thing” is a bleak horror film – sans 3D.
But mainly, I’m guessing you’ll have to be quite versed in the world of Carpenter’s “The Thing”, and be somewhat of a fan, to enjoy the new prequel – since it connects like an adaptable toy train-set track to the earlier film.
I can tell you which film I’d rather see, but then, I’m of the age group that grew up with and has since returned time after time to “The Thing”. The biggest multiplex going demographic likely haven’t – well, maybe a few with taste have.

Is that the reason though? Cold Feet?

Doubtful. Even a film that doesn’t track well still usually sticks to its originally planned release date – after all, as far as the studio is concerned, the sooner they’ve finished with it, the better; they can wipe their hands clean of it and carry on with the next hopeful.

Is it because the movie is bad?

This is what everyone’s thinking, I know… but it’s not true. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read the script and it’s insanely good. If you loved Carpenter’s film, you’ll love this. In some respects, this movie – right down to the title – might be even more loyal to its parent flick than “TRON Legacy”. I’ve read interviews in which the cast say that after this film comes out, particularly on DVD, it’ll work as a great double with the original because of how much they not only look like each other and link to each other, but how similar the tone and pace is. Reading the script, I got that feeling – I almost felt like I was reading pages that were cut from Carpenter’s original film. It’s very, very solid stuff – well, the script was. And from what I’ve heard, the film is just as good.

Does it mean a studio still has more confidence in an inferior product that’s got bigger names and an all-pop soundtrack? Of course it does. And I’m sure the 23-year-old marketing head’s enthusiasm for a two-hour MTV music clip starring Vin Diesel and a GTX, and his lack of enthusiasm for anything grittier and story-centric, has played a part in all this. It’s the nature of the business.

But the real reason “The Thing” has been delayed?

It isn’t finished.

Uni have been riding director Matthijs van Heijningen’s ass, egging him on to hurry up and finish it for weeks to meet the release date. Thing is, van Heijningen is an artist, he works to his own schedule, and will only hand in his piece when he feels it’s finished. And that’s exactly what’s happened here. The filmmaker doesn’t want to hand in an unfinished film that could’ve played and performed better had the effects been polished, some scenes been trimmed and some music been fine tuned. I’m sure he’s won no fans at the studio for demanding more time (They hate that and usually refuse…ask Joe Dante, who was forced to hand in his film “Explorers” half-finished, because the studio demanded it early), but he’ll definitely earn the respect of the filmgoer – particularly those waiting so anxiously for this movie – who will likely appreciate hearing that the film’s going to be a lot better as a result of the postponement.

As a friend on the production told me today over email, “”The Thing” hasn’t been a troubled production. It hasn’t endured weeks of reshoots. It hasn’t chopped and changed directors. It hasn’t been edited a bunch of more times. It hasn’t tested badly. So why are people comparing it’s release bump to “The Wolfman”?”. Truth be told, the only reason that was on and off Uni’s schedule was because it was shit, and they knew it. “The Thing” is letting off nothing but positive vibes and will continue to do so, right up until it’s release – rumor is, they’re saving it for Halloween – late 2011.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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