Last week, there was a date shuffle by Universal on two of their upcoming films.  "Fast Five," the newest installment in the "Fast and the Furious" series, moved up to April 29, 2011, and "The Thing," the prequel to the John Carpenter 1982 horror classic has now simply… moved.

It's easy to speculate about the reason behind a date change, but in this case, it's as simple as one film being ready and another film not being finished yet.  HitFix learned in the last few weeks of plans for upcoming additional photography on the film, and when we contacted Universal for clarification on their plans for the film, producer Marc Abraham was the one who called me to explain.

Everything he said confirmed what we'd already heard, that the filmmakers have a cut of the movie and that they are now hoping to use this next round of photography to enhance existing sequences or to make crystal clear a few story beats or to add punctuation marks to the film's feeling of dread. 

I've been an advocate for years for films just building in an additional photography period from the very start, a period after you've cut the movie to ladle on the gravy if you can, and to solve problems the right way if you have to.  Abraham has been producing since "The Commitments," and he's a guy who seems very direct about what he's doing with this picture and what the expectations are.

It's important to remember that on the John Carpenter version of "The Thing," there was a year of post-production necessary to create the iconic monster sequences, and in many cases, they had no idea how they were going to accomplish any of that while they were shooting the film.  Rob Bottin's work was an act of faith up till the moment it actually started cutting into the film, and there was nothing easy about the magic that Carpenter captured in that film. 

Abraham spoke about how confident he was in the work by Matthijs van Hijningen Jr., the film's director, and how proud he is of his cast, including Joel Edgerton and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  He knows how important both the monster moments and the connective character material are to the film working, and they're looking at everything right now to make sure they've got what they need. 

One moment he mentioned specifically is the first major encounter with the Thing in this film, and I'm sure that's something you scrutinize carefully.  It sets the tone for everything after, and you have to sell to the audience right there that the Thing is real, that it's got a physical presence, and that it's a menace.  If they want to tweak that moment until they feel like they've got the exact right version, that sounds like time and money well-spent.

Overall, though, this doesn't sound like the additional work motivated the date change, but rather the date change giving them room now to do whatever they'd like to do to get the film finished just right.  Abraham wants this to be a film that is embraced by both the hardcore skeptical Carpenter fans and the audiences that are fresh to the property, that have never seen the original, and is well aware how hard that's going to be to get right.

At least some of the cast is involved in the additional photography, including Winstead, and there is ongoing effects unit work going on involving the Thing and the creature crews at Amalgamated Dynamics, with certain things still scheduled to be shot.  It's expected that the film will still be ready early next year, just as it would have been, and now it's just a matter of finding a date that works for the film, and that gives it a little bit of room to breathe. 

Abraham seemed unconcerned about the release date, and more concerned with conveying just how serious he is about giving Heijningen all the support he needs to make something worthy, something that honors Carpenter's "The Thing," and that really rattles an audience.

I'd love nothing more than for them to get it right.  Here's hoping they use this time they've got right now and the upcoming work to make this something special.

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