Film Review – The Thing (2011)

And therein lies the huge problem with the film. I already felt a sense of familiarity because of the continuity set up, but the fact that they use a lot of the same structure and plot points of Carpenter’s movie contradicts the fact that this is not a remake. And I guess technically it’s not, but it is the most unoriginal prequel ever. It’s like they took the plot of The Thing (JC), added a girl, sped things up, had more monsters and bigger effects, took out the subtext, and called it a new movie. Want specifics? I have a list. (SPOILERS!)

*A gruff, somewhat rebellious, helicopter pilot features heavily in each film.

*The person who takes care of the dogs is different from the other guys. In The Thing (JC), he doesn’t talk much and only wants to hang out with the dogs. In The Thing, he doesn’t speak English (which is weird because he seems to understand every word Kate says to him) and is a laborer. All the other guys at the camp are scientists.

*There are guys who get locked up in an outbuilding and escape though the floor.

*Guys get delayed out in the snow, and the rest of the team doesn’t know if they should trust them or not.

*A flame-thrower malfunctions at a crucial moment.

*A blood test gets sabotaged.

*They bring everyone together in one room to test for being an alien.  This test is actually pretty clever in that it is somewhat inconclusive and creates more tension, not less.)

Basically, the whole structure of the plot is the same. They find an alien, alien is not dead, alien attacks them, they discover it can take the shape of the people they absorb, they deal with twin problems of alien attacking them and figuring out who is an alien, they try to destroy alien, a bunch of them die, inconclusive ending. On the surface, the main difference is that everything in The Thing is just much bigger. The effects are gorier, which I didn’t really mind. Part of why The Thing (JC) was not a box office success when it was first released was because the effects were just so over the top. However, I tend to be underwhelmed by CGI gore, and this was no exception. The effects from The Thing (JC) are dated, but feel real because there are actual things being filmed. I was distracted by the unrealness of the CGI in The Thing.

The most prominent difference between the films is what they are really about. The Thing (JC) is about paranoia. Sure, there are monster scares, but the truly unsettling thing about the film is the pervasive feeling of not knowing whom to trust. And additionally, when the crew comes together and decides that it is more important to kill the creature than escape, you feel that sense of self-sacrifice. If the creature escapes, the world will be over, and they can’t let that happen. The Thing gives lip service to those notions, but it is really just a big alien bug hunt. The monsters just keep popping up over and over again like a Whack-A-Mole game. I felt no sense of dread; I just wondered when the next monster was going to show up. At a certain point in the movie, they just repeated the monster scene over and over again in different variations.

As for the nitpicky stuff, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is 26. Am I really supposed to think she is a paleontologist with a lot of experience in extracting things from the ice? Shouldn’t she still be in grad school or something? The guys in this film are all bearded and look like regular dudes. The two women in the film are young and beautiful. I’m all for having women characters in films that would traditionally only feature men, but make it believable. Don’t put a young girl in a role that should have gone to an older actress. (I also found it really weird that no one at an Antarctic base with only one other woman made a friendly pass at her. It’s good this film had no romance, but that was so unrealistic as to be noticeable. But maybe the Norwegians have created a utopian society that only fails when you add aliens to the mixture.)

So, in a nutshell, The Thing is a remake that is pretending not to be one. (If they were serious about not making a remake, why did they give the film the same name? WHY?) It’s not as bad as it could have been, but it is staggeringly derivative of The Thing (JC), with a little Aliens thrown in. I know The Thing (JC) fans are going to see this no matter what I say, but have your John Carpenter DVD queued up, so you can go home and remind yourself of why that movie is (arguably) his greatest film. If you’ve never seen the original, be sure to see it soon. It’s wonderful. This film is just okay.

Final Grade: C-

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Adelaide enjoys watching all kinds of movies, but is never going to see Titanic unless there is a sizable amount of money involved.

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