Before I start my review…
I would like to officially tell the fucker(s) who decided to call this film THE THING to suck a dick. This is perhaps one of the more idiotic titles I have seen in some time. By attempting to couch it as “respect” for the original, you have in fact punched it in the face. Would you make a prequel to THE TERMINATOR and call it THE TERMINATOR? Would you make a prequel to THE GODFATHER and call it THE GODFATHER? No. If it’s a prequel and not a remake, then it needs either a new name or it needs a sub-title. THE THING: A QUEST FOR A FUCKING CLUE or something to that affect. All you are doing is creating confusion in the market place. Somewhere, somebody is going to pick this thing up thinking they are getting Carpenter’s masterpiece and end up with this day old cheeseburger instead. Nice work you dumb bunch of bastards. End of statement.
We now return to our regularly
I have been tracking this film since it was announced. Carpenter’s THE THING is a masterpiece but I always thought there was a possibility to tell the story of the Norwegian base that MaCready and Dr. Cooper found. There was a promise of an incredible discovery followed by an obviously violent struggle. If you put that in the hands of the right filmmaker, you could have a decent flick. I think Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. understood, conceptually at least, the environment Carpenter crafted in his film, but I am 100% positive he wasn’t the right director. 2011’s THE THING is the definition of mediocrity wrapped in a familiar world.
Set three days before the events in 82’s THE THING, Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited to help a group of Norwegian scientists (and three Americans… we can’t have this whole thing subtitled) who have discovered an alien in the Antarctic. While attempting to pull a blood sample from the alien it escapes from its brick of ice and brings all kinds of hell to the remote outpost. Horror ensues.
The main problem with this film is that outside of the discovery of the alien, it follows the exact same narrative as the Carpenter picture (even going so far as to having the equivalent of the blood test scene). When it does have its unique moments, it falls flat on its face. One of the many things that Carpenter’s film did so well was to create a sense of isolation that severely limited the options of everyone at Outpost 31. This film gives the crew two transports and a helicopter. The original kept The Thing hidden for most of the film. This version has The Thing actively hunting each member of the base. The original ended with ambiguity. This one has an ending that is ridiculous and unnecessary. It’s almost like van Heijningen Jr. didn’t trust his own instincts enough to fully liberate himself from Carpenter’s story structure. He needed to make this his own film and he didn’t, and neither did screenwriter Eric Heisserer. Instead they relied on someone else’s formula and when they tried to get clever it didn’t work. Like my 7 year old trying to tell his own knock knock joke. Always a nice attempt, but it never works.
From a performance standpoint I think the only person who shines here is Joel Edgerton who has the Kurt Russel/MacReady type of role. He is tough, determined, and could have a pretty strong career in this type of action role. Everyone else ranges from slightly annoying to sleepwalking through the film. I have read a few people who dug Winstead in the role of Kate, but I found her using the exact same expression whether she was hanging out with the crew, working a blowtorch, or making a discovery that would make most of us shit our pants. It was just flat. I like Winstead, her work in SCOTT PILGRIM Vs. THE WORLD hits me in the geek bone but damn, she just didn’t have what it takes for this.
This film does have its moments though when it really is cool. The look of the entire film honestly gave me goose bumps. It looks exactly like it jumped out of 1982. You can almost smell MacReady’s whiskey coming downwind from Outpost 31. The effects are also really well done. Yes, there is CGI throughout but they also use practical effects and the blending of the two is seamless. This never looks over-processed or phony. Add a score by Marco Beltrami that has hints of Ennio Morricone’s haunting theme and you have a film that looks and sounds flawless.
This film is worth seeing. Just go in, as I did, expecting a by the numbers sci-fi film with some cool tie-ins to a beloved classic (stay through the beginning of the end credits) and you will be mildly pleased. It just never feels unique or original. Carpenter took a chance when he remade THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and he created his own classic. van Heijningen Jr took a chance by making a prequel, he created visually appealing mediocrity.
VERDICT: See it… then pull a double and watch Howard Hawks’ version followed by Carpenter and Russell teaming for another badass masterpiece.
If you don’t own Carpenter’s film it’s streaming on NETFLIX right now. THE THING FROM ANOTEHR WORLD is now in public domain and is all over youtube. THE THING (2011)…fuck I hate writing that… hits theaters today.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,