It seems as though every movie ever made has been remade or given a sequel or two. With the vaults empty Hollywood has found a new way to build franchises. No, they have not hired writers to come up with original ideas, rather the new craze is to produce prequels. George Lucas got the ball rolling with his unholy Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but this year’s X-men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes proved how exciting the ride could be even if you know in advance where you are headed.
The new movie The Thing is a worthy companion of the prequel genre. It takes place immediately before the 1982 John Carpenter movie by the same name. The 2011 version ends exactly where the 1982 version began. The 1982 Thing had Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley and a bunch of other schmos trapped in Antarctica dealing with a gruesome shape changing alien. The new volume follows the same exact formula as its predecessor (or is it successor?). A gross monster right out of Fangoria magazine attacks people on an isolated polar base one by one. Not only is there excessive violence, but also unlimited paranoia as the alien could be anyone.
You couldn’t call The Thing clever as you could with the prequels of X-men and Planet of the Apes, but it is efficient. It makes you jump out of your seat several times and creates an interesting enough world that you want to rewatch the original. I’m curious to see where this prequel mania could take us. Will we soon see Pretty Girl where a teenage version of Julia Robert’s character is made insecure by her father which leads to her working in the sex trade?
One movie I was glad Hollywood never remade was the German classic Run Lola Run. Perhaps the reason it went untouched was that in the confines of two hours it remade itself three times. The movie shows three different alternate routes the fluorescent haired Lola took to get her criminal boyfriend, Mani, the money he needed. The director, Tom Tykwer, never allowed a dull moment. Even when the two main characters laid in bed talking over a cigarette it was riveting and intense.
Tykwer made a couple other great movies in The Princess and the Warrior and Heaven, but he was then seduced by Hollywood. Like many other foreign directors who made masterpieces in their home countries, Tykwer’s Hollywood foray was sabotaged by the weight of celebrity actors or the fogginess of a second language. And so I was very excited to see Tykwer’s new movie 3 was in German without any faces seen on the cover of People magazine.
Unfortunately the return to freedom proved too much for Tykwer. While he shows himself to be an innovative director (at one point the screen is split in three and a multitude of scenes overlap at the same time while you are still able to follow exactly what is happening), by letting his freak flag fly too high, his storytelling lost the finesse he had in Run Lola Run. Somewhere muddled in 3 is a movie about how a German heterosexual couple separately fell in love with the same Metro-omnisexual swinging man. 3 tried to relay the message that the new evolution is an open-minded humanity willing to have sex with anyone regardless of gender.
It’s not a new idea. David Bowie sang these themes in the early seventies (which I suppose is why they play his Space Oddity several times in the movie). And while I always dig listening to Ziggy Stardust I don’t want my eyes anywhere near the movie 3 ever again. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea if Tykwer’s next movie was a prequel on how Lola got her hair color such a bright shade of red.