The Thing

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The Thing
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Universal Pictures
Opens October 14

John Carpenter should approve of this reasonably respectful and tough-minded prequel to his 1982 The Thing. There in Antarctica, you'll recall, Kurt Russell and company encountered an alien with infectious/shape-shifting powers, making all parties justifiably paranoid about who was human and who was hidden monster. This time around, we're at the Norwegian base where the frozen—but not quite dead—beast is first discovered. Young American scientist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) helps dissect the 100,000-year-old ice mummy. That is, of course, a bad idea, and the carnage begins about 20 minutes in. Mr. Thing has a crabby carapace and pincers, and he employs the same sprouting tentacles to spear, suck, and genetically graft onto his prey (aided considerably by CGI). But though he's smart enough to pilot the giant flying saucer, he's only slightly more cunning than the two-dozen disposable bearded Norwegians (Lars, Sven, whatever) chasing through the snowy night. Sharing a producer with the '82 version, this Thing is capably helmed by a Dutch director of TV spots, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., who matches the look and period feel of Carpenter's thriller (one character brandishes a slide rule), and brings the same blue-collar sensibility (bosses suck). But as written by Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5), the new Thing lacks much wit or self-awareness. It's more of a "final girl" formula film, but on ice. Still, why did it take 29 years to create this solid double-feature? And will they unfreeze Russell for a trilogy?

 
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4 comments
Jonbanx
Jonbanx

For me the most exciting and yet the saddest part of this prequel was the most overt homage to Carpenter's masterpiece in the final credit sequence. As the Morricone score sets in and the the surviving Norwegians chase after the wolf replica in a helicopter, I felt exhilarated by the beautiful rendering of the scene, and sad that the previous ninety minutes had failed to live up to an epic epilogue. The character's were mostly bland and uninteresting, so there was no emotional investment in them before you see them picked off. Also, what was the point of introducing a female heroine just to make her androgynous and bland?

The CGI effects were patchy at best. There were a few decent moments but by and large you were well aware of the monsters' artificiality plus nagging doubts about internal logic of the shapeshifters. Not only were Rob Bottin's pre CGI effects supremely grotesque he had thought about the Thing's actual behaviour; 'Since the Thing had been all over the galaxy, it could call upon anything it needed whenever it needed it'. In Bottin's world a human replica is being bothered by a doctor using a defibrillator on it - so its chest becomes a mouth and bites his arms off; following a dousing with a flame thrower the only surviving part of the body, a severed head, escapes the only way it knows how - by sprouting legs and running away. All very disturbing, but also functional. In the 2011 prequel we have the ludicrous spectacle of the Thing merging to human heads onto a lumbering insect-like alien body for seeming no purpose other than to explain the charred remains of a two-headed creature discovered by the Americans in Carpenter's original. All very clever, except surely that the Thing shapeshifts into a form most suited to it's purpose, be it hunting or fleeing? This cumbersome creature's only need of a second human body serves only to justify a discovery in the original film while abandoning the internal logic of its own.

I don't thing The Thing 2011 is disrespectful as such, it as afterall eager to please us whilst doffing its cap to Carpenter. The problem is it forgets to forge an identity of its own in the process, the sequences which helped make the original so unforgettable were the atmospheric shots and the teasing build up of tension throughout. A chilling shot of Carpenter's lone wolf is worth a thousand of van Heijningen's two-headed monsters.

Benedictgillkd
Benedictgillkd

Hopefully you didn't leave when the titles started, because there was more to see. Lars is the link to the 1982 movie. He made it back to the pretty much destoyed Norwegian compound and was there when a rescue helicopter (Norwegian) lands. Suddenly the dog (the Thing in the 1982 movie) runs out and heads across the ice full speed. Lars gets in the helicopter and gives chase, shooting at the dog. At this point, start your DVD of the 1982 Thing. I think the guy would have known which ear was pierced, therefore he was a Thing.Maybe Kate was left alive to appear in the next sequel?

Tamike1jackson
Tamike1jackson

I thought it was a really good movie. I have a few questions though, was the guy who was missing an earring (forgot his name) really "the thing" or did she burn him because he picked the unpierced ear? Also, the 2 other guys, I think Lars was his name. It never showed what happened to him and the other guy who slit his wrist or neck...I'm just confused. And what happened to Kate????? I hate that that wasn't explained!

Jonathan Buttall
Jonathan Buttall

There really wasn't a reason to make this film. The Carpenter film was a near perfect horror film, following much of the them line from the original story ("Who goes there", short story). This was in great contrast to the 1950s version of the film, with it's cold war setting.

The previews make it look more like a direct rip off than a prequel, and so I repeat; it should not have been made, the Carpenter film was a stand alone accomplishment.

 

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