Antarctic explorers have discovered an alien space craft. Doctor Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) brings a team in to investigate, which includes graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The team removes the ice-encased creature from a glacier and brings it back to camp. They soon discover that the alien isn’t dead. It has simply been waiting. Now everyone is suddenly in a fight to survive as the alien wreaks its destruction.
Sound familiar? We have actually heard this story a couple of times before. In 1952 the great Howard Hawks produced (with his friend and co-director Christian Nyby) “The Thing from Another World.” The film is considered a sci-fi classic now, and not a cheesy one either. Hawks is known for his sharp, fast dialogue. The film is a bit of a talker, a thinking man’s sci-fi scary film. The acting was good too. One of my favorite scenes is when they discover the alien craft under the ice. The explorers, standing on the ice, form a circle in the perfect shape of a saucer. Good stuff. But alas, when one watches the movie today, it doesn’t quite hold up when it comes to real horror.
Then along came John Carpenter. Carpenter remade “The Thing from Another World” in 1982 as “The Thing.” The film wasn’t received especially well at the time. But now, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is considered by many to be his best work. The film holds up very well today, and it’s a bit of cult classic.
Now Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. in his first feature film has remade the story again. I enjoyed this new version, though it can’t really stand up to its two predecessors.
The makers of “The Thing” (2011) have called it a prequel to the 1982 version. For me, the only thing prequel-like was the final scene during the end credits (and which aptly sets up the beginning of Carpenter’s film). The rest of the film was effectively an update of the previous two movies. In fact, many sequences seemed like virtual copies from the 1982 film, and some of the original music was re-used. One twitter user (@devincf) commented: “The Thing must be feeling such déjà vu throughout John Carpenter’s The Thing.”
The special effects-created alien seemed real to me about 70% of the time and a fake CGI distraction the rest of the time. Similarly, the filmmakers opt for lower-brow jump scares in the film. Jump scares typically utilize abrupt and loud sound to, well . . . make audiences jump. The technique has been used effectively since forever, but it has evolved to be a lazy version of a thrill. (When the material itself isn’t thrilling, throw in a loud bang and audiences will jump, every time.) I much prefer to be creeped out, to be freaked out or to be genuinely thrilled. That was one of the dubious charms of Carpenter’s movie. When audiences watched the creature effects in the 1982 film, they were freaked out. It was gory, but we asked, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” There’s none of that in this remake. Instead, you’re simply bombarded with the monster. There’s no subtlety, no mystery, no art and little of the same nail-biting intensity that Carpenter achieved.
I liked the fact that the movie’s protagonist is a female (Winstead). I would have liked it better if she had a personality. I enjoyed the cast portraying the Norwegian workers, most of whom did have personality. Thomsen also makes a good evil doctor with an ego problem.
I don’t want to be too negative on the film. For a movie of this genre, with a relatively low budget, “The Thing” is enjoyable. I would call it good but not great, medium-grade entertainment. Of course, one can’t help but compare the movie to its two predecessors. Such a comparison yields that Carpenter’s film is the best of the three. Will we be talking about 2011’s “The Thing” in 60 years? in 30 years? Probably not so much.
2011, rated R, 103 Minutes, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Rating 2 out of 4 stars