[Movie Review] The Thing (2011)

Those Norwegians dug it up.

I mentioned previously how much I love remakes/reboots and the like. Chris Nolan is one of the few directors I trust with material like this along with Zach Snyder and James Gunn. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. is no Zack Snyder and neither of them are John Carpenter.

So, where does that leave us?

That leaves us with a film that thankfully the producers pushed for when Universal thought about remaking The Thing. Don’t do a remake, do a prequel.

Exactly what happened at the Norwegian camp?

I’ve read two drafts of the The Thing (2011) one was an 118 pager and a 109 pager. The good news is the first act in both of them made it into the movie while parts did not. Acts Two and Three are the same on paper and screen.

The problem with Carpenter’s remake of Howard Hawk’s 1951 The Thing from Another World is everyone hated it when it arrived. And, over the years, it became a cult classic so much so people have aped it, Dark Horse picked up the rights to it back in 90’s when they had every single movie adaptation under one house and told the tale of what happened afterwards, if you don’t remember it don’t feel bad, the covers were the best thing about the entire series.

The problem with a cult classic is everyone remembers it all so how the hell do you bend the rules since the Carpenter gave the audience enough of an info dump while ratcheting up the tension and paranoia just enough that pretty much everything was covered in the first movie.

Except the ship.

The movie begins aptly enough with the Norwegians in search of this radio signal they been tracking which oddly enough sounds like the same SOS special effect from Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine. One thing leads to another and the classic UFO saucer from Carpenter’s opening credits makes it appearance in time for the credits to melt onto screen.

The problem with this movie is the fact it has homages from the first one, the scripts had a few direct quotes but those were tossed and instead a few iconic scenes were left in. A few reviewers have said that this movie doesn’t allow itself to breath and I agree. For a one hour and fifty-five minute movie it felt too rushed.

Our cast of characters are introduced one at time, Kate played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a graduate student in paleontology when she is swept up to investigate a find in Antarctica. If those feels like the beginning of Jurassic Park you are not too far off, the problem is Ulrich Thomsen playing Dr. Sander Halvorson is as dull as dishwater and has the ego the size of Nebraska is no John Hammond.

The trip out to Antarctica is quick one, enough to introduce pilots Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and loadmaster Paul Braunstein then it’s off to the glacier, find the UFO and dig up the survivor and cart it back to camp.

All in ten minute or less.

Scenes inside the UFO where the casts tries to figure out what happened to the creature appear in the 118 pager but not the 108 pager and judging from the interviews from director van Heijningen, the studio said get things moving by the 18 minute mark so that deleted scene along with the garroting/wrist cutting scene goes to the DVD.

The good news is, Halvorson’s ego decides to do what’s not in either of the scripts: And that’s drill into the block of ice and take a sample. It’s brief moments like these that actually help this movie because you cannot have tension without someone being a prick.

The monster escaping from the block and hiding in the camp is one of the better scenes since: It’s an alien! It’s hungry. It’s gonna bust up the camp! Yay! Did I forget to mention this movie was Rated R? Right it is. Bring on the alien eating people!

Unfortunately, Joel, Adewale and Kristofer Hivju are introduced and never used to their full potential since the camp is full of red shirts and two red skirts and none of them stand out like the original cast did. So much so, Ulrich Thomsen and Trond Espen Seim’s characters sound and look the same.

At least with the crew in Alien you knew who was who, but as the survivors dwindle down to Kate, Joel and The Thing it’s time for the grand finale inside the UFO.

Mary handles her Ellen Ripley role quite well since her Ramona role in Scott Pilgrim was more damsel in distress in act three after two acts of strong will. The showdown between herself and The Thing reveals nothing new about the character unlike in the end of Aliens when the Queen is shown, I half expected a conversation with Halvorson-Thing but unfortunately nothing comes of it.

The Thing itself alternates between practical and CGI. For the most part the practical works early on until the designs don’t work in anyone’s favor. I’ve never been a fan of CGI, Alien 3 did that in for me right quick and the CGI Thing needed more work.

In closing, is it a good movie? So long as you haven’t seen Carpenter’s, yes. If you enjoy science fiction/horror movies this right up your alley since we haven’t had a good invasion of the body snatchers themed movie for quite some time. It’s a little too loud at times and needs to slow down to let itself breath.

If you’ve seen Carpenter’s then there are enough plot holes to drift a Star Destroyer through. The upside is it’s nowhere near as bad as the Star Wars prequels.

I recommend waiting through the credits since the closing scene with the helicopter and the dog worked well enough for me as a bridge between the two movies.

Last tidbit, if anyone is interested in reading a lovely short story by Peter Watts told from the Thing’s point of view, check it out over at Clark’s World.

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