The Thing (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Thing (2011)

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Did you ever watch the John Carpenter classic The Thing and say to yourself, “Gee, this is pretty cool, but I wonder what the deal was with those Norwegian guys that all died off camera?” No? Me either, but clearly someone just had to know and so now we have The Thing....again.

Researchers in the Antarctic discover a 100,000 year-old spaceship and a frozen alien body. Everyone's pretty jazzed-up about it, that is until the alien thaws out and starts ripping people up. To make matters worse, it seems that the alien has the ability to create perfect copies of whoever it kills, and it might very well be disguised as any of the quickly diminishing group of scientists who are trying to keep it from reaching civilization. Wait a minute, haven't I heard this story before?

Well, yes. In addition to being a prequel to Carpenter's film, the 2011 version of The Thing is also somewhat of a remake. Most of the plot feels like it was lifted directly from the '87 script. Someone disappeared for awhile and no one trusts them anymore? Check. The guy you thought was locked in the tool shed had tunneled out? Check. Flamethrower doesn't work the moment you need it? You better believe that's a check!

It's supposed to be sort of a remake as well as a prequel, so I guess they wanted to have some throw backs to the 1982 film. As a “remake,” that's fine, but as a “prequel” it completely ruins the viewer's immersion. Are we supposed to believe that nearly identical events transpired at both facilities? Really? I know, I know. What else could they do? There's only so many things you can do when you're stranded with a shape-shifting alien at the South Pole. But that's my point. If they just wanted to remake Carpenter's film, then why not just remake it?The biggest problem with the film is that it just feels unnecessary. In Carpenter's 1982 version, the destroyed Norwegian base served its purpose of instilling a sense of foreboding in the audience. What happened to these people? What did they find in the ice? How did they die? Well, the film already answers the basics of those questions: The Thing happened. The specific “hows” and “whys” aren't really that important, or, as it turns out, interesting. It's especially bad for anyone who's watched the original because you already know what's going to happen (If you haven't, get on that. You've only had 20-some years to do it.) .

Then there's the way in which the actual Thing is presented. Heijningen ditches the subtlety of Carpenter's film in favor of snarling tooth-beasts. Where as the 1982 kept you guessing as to who might be something less than human, great advances in digital special effects ensure that you'll see the titular Thing jump someone every other scene.I have to give the special effects some credit, though. The kid in me loved seeing all the gruesome details of the Thing as it morphed from something human into a mass of tentacles and fangs. The CGI was actually pretty good and there were plenty of scenes where the monster transformations were well-lit so that you could see every disgusting detail. Unfortunately, this took away from a lot of the horror.

The horror and tension of Carpenter's film was that you rarely saw the monster, and when when you did see it, it was half in shadow, or on fire, or the camera was more focused on the actors' reactions. In Heijningen's film, we get plenty of of good, well-lit shots of the Thing as it struts around and eats people.

The 1982 version made the transformations scary, whereas the 2011 version invites the audience to marvel at just how cool their special effects look. And despite the number different Things running around by the end, they seemed to fall into a couple of basic designs. By the time the "Boss Monster" showed up I was convinced this was a giant commercial for The Thing: The Videogame.

Story Time: Back when I was really into Star Wars, I read a few books of short stories about background characters from the Star Wars universe. I don't mean characters like Chewie or R2D2, I mean “random blue alien with less than 5 seconds of screentime” characters.  I loved them at the time, but they didn't really add anything to the Star Wars universe aside from explaining who this or that alien was. I loved them because I loved Star Wars and wanted to know more about the universe, but ultimately it was just a bunch of filler and an excuse to sell more toys.

The Thing (2011) is a lot like those stories. You'll watch it, you'll probably find parts of it cool, but at the end you'll just be left asking “Did I really need to see this?” No. No I didn't.

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Posted by Jacob

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  1. It’s no great thing, just a better Thing than expected. It’s not incredibly scary but has the same tense and paranoid feel that the Carpenter version went for, and it works in a way. The problem is that on own it’s own, it doesn’t really work. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

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