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The Thing (2011)

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Concept: We won't remake the Carpenter classic The Thing (1982) because it wouldn't be as good, and doing a sequel would be difficult without Kurt Russell, so…

It's Antarctica 1982. Three Norwegians in a Snowcat are looking for the source of a signal they've picked up. Two of them have just finished telling a rude joke when, crash, gosh, a spaceship under the ice.

A US lab, 48 hours later. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is recruited to go to see a 'structure' and a 'specimen' frozen in the Antarctic ice. Before too long after she arrives, the latter is awake, running around doing what Things do best and no-one trusts each other.

What's good: It moves nicely along. It doesn't feel long before we're into the action, and once we are, it is well paced. The editing style, reminiscent of Thing (1982) rather than the more frantic modern style helps.

The 'test' scene in Thing (1982) is a complete classic and the one here can hold its head up against it.

There's clearly been an attempt to keep continuity with Thing (1982). Sometimes, it works very well – the conjoined headed Thing – and sometimes it feels a little forced – the axe.

The acting is fine, no-one does anything unbelievably stupid, and it was good to use so many Norwegian-speaking Scandinavian actors for their bits.

What's not so good: The effects. Despite the possibility of doing anything, unrestricted by having to do physical stuff on the set, there's no 'wow' / "You've gotta be fuckin' kidding" factor at all. They're also a bit dry looking (Thing (1982)'s wetness being harder to do in CGI) and Thing blood doesn't behave like it should.

The characters are not as well drawn, and some feel like Thing fodder rather than individuals.

Despite the efforts to maintain continuity with Thing (1982), it fails to include the two things we do see this lot doing there, via video tape: standing around the spaceship in its crater and, later, blowing it up! In contrast here, for all but the end, the spaceship is under the ice.

One of the most memorable images when the Thing (1982) characters visit the Norwegian camp is a frozen corpse of someone who has committed suicide. It's part of the rising tension there: a sign of just how bad things (and Things!) are. The suicide is skipped here and we see the end result, but not the awful drama of the event.

Other continuity issues include having a Russian base within 50 miles – the same distance as the US base – and the whole idea of an American team turning up here without the nearest US base knowing about it. I haven't counted the number of Norwegians, but if you do, it's supposed to be ten.

The makers acknowledge that, partly to provide a contrast to Kurt Russell's MacReady, Winstead's character is in part modelled on Alien's Ripley (because there is only one model for a female heroine in a SF action film, right?) and it sometimes feels like Thomsen is channelling Ash from the same film.

The ending. Not the two Norwegians setting off trying to stop the Thing-dog escaping, but what happens to Winstead? She's left in a Snowcat close to the spaceship, nowhere to be seen in Thing (1982). It's almost as if the makers hope to make a second prequel …

Music: It's ok, but the use of Morricone's 'Humanity' theme at the end reminds us that, once again, Thing (1982) was better.


Overall: It could have been a lot, lot worse and I think it's clear that it's the best remake / adaptation of a Carpenter film, but that's not saying much.

Does it work as a prequel? It does its best, but there are always going to be problems. When a character is introduced as not speaking English, we know they will survive to the end. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to be at the start of Thing (1982).

Does it work as a stand-alone film? I am probably not the best person to ask, but I suspect not. The ending is unsatisfactory in this context, for one thing.

So a film that doesn't really work for people who haven't seen Thing (1982) or for the people who have and love it. That leaves those who have and didn't think it was great. No wonder US box office receipts look so-so.

TL;DR See it with low expectations, and you'll be happy

Film: 3/5
DVD: ?/5

Written by Ian

December 4th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Cinema

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