The Thing (2011)

Ok, let’s start this by clearing up any mis-conceptions about the name. It’s called The Thing. It’s not a remake of the 1982 classic directed by John Carpenter, it’s a prequel. But yes, they named it The Thing, the exact same name of the movie it’s supposed to be a prequel to. Which is very telling of the approach to the rest of the film, it’s basically a copy. Hmmm, I see a theme already…

Oh, the irony that is just oozing out of this, this, thing.

Anyway. Here’s the scoop. This movie is supposed to be a prequel as I mentioned. If you’ve seen the ’82 version, you know that there’s a team of Norwegian scientists that come across an alien spaceship and life-form locked in the frozen Antarctic wasteland. Said scientists dig up alien life-form to check it out and claim glory. The alien thaws, escapes, and terror ensues. Just a reminder, the alien life form clones any hosts it can find by taking over cells and replicating the host cells it absorbed. So, it copies cells and looks like whatever it copies.

Much like this film.

I had read how much this followed the original but I was genuinely shocked at just how far it went. To the point where there’s even a very MacCready-esque dude (chopper pilot and all originally played by Kurt Russell) that takes over with a flame thrower at one point. I don’t know if the unoriginality is conscious or not, either way it’s like buying a knock off that is a little shinier but is ultimately a lame imitation of the original.

Other stuff this film rips off from the ’82 version – the pacing, the timeline, hell, the POSTER. Even the editing style is mimicked.

The effects are updated to be digital but surprisingly came off less scary to me. The first alien iteration is pretty interesting and a bit terrifying at first. After the creature’s initial introduction and subsequent demise, it melds into the familiar shapeshifter we recognize from the sequel. Ultimately, Carpenter’s creature is scarier. This new version looks CG at times and without the dark edge atmosphere that John Carpenter is so good at crafting, this version looks too slick and commercial. They even rip off John Carpenter’s music for parts of the soundtrack but simply can’t capture that special thing (get it? thing) that he brought to his version.

The end of the film ends where the sequel picks up with one key character strangely just sort of going away in a manner that doesn’t make sense. It’s almost like the writers and director went “wait, she’s not in the sequel, sooooooo, how about she just sort of wanders off or something?”.

The characters are another weak point. The 80’s version had interesting characters with distinct personalities along with a strong cast that included Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, and Richard Dysart. This version has Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a number of other actors that most people have never heard of. They’re ok, but their characters are bland and cookie cutter, no real stand outs here. Even Winstead comes off just ok and a little forced and unnatural at times.

Ugh. Just another remake not trying to be a remake but not trying to be original either. Hollywood’s just getting really freakin’ lazy at this point…

reviewed by Sean McKnight