Submitted by Ryan Sterritt on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 11:21AM
Remake of A Remake of A Remake?
The Thing is based on a 1982 film that was based on a 1951 film titled, The Thing From Another World.
Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just been offered the chance of a lifetime. To be the cheif paleontologist for an expedition to Antartica is a huge step in her career as a grad student. The only problem is the secretive nature of this journey and how little she must know before fully committing to the job. Of course, Kate takes the job and joins Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen), fellow friend Adam Goodman (Eric Christian Olsen) and a group of swedish scientists and workers in the coldest parts of Antartica. Unfortunately, they aren't alone.
The Thing is a little confused as to what it really is. For anyone with an understanding of the 1982 John Carpenter classic, The Thing, it is clear that this is a prequel, building up the story that we are familiar with. For those unaware of any previous Thing film, this would be seen as a straight remake, which is heartbreaking. Mattijs van Heijningen Jr's The Thing isn't horrible, even for a remake. But to think that it may be more successful than Carpenter's previous installment is painful to imagine. First, let's talk about what differs The Thing from being a prequel, remake and/or reboot. As a prequel, The Thing works pretty well. It uncovers a few interesting theories/discoveries that pave a pretty clear path to the following events in the 1982 film. Any film that dares you to revisit the previous work is granted enough credit to being a serviceable film. However, around the middle of the film, Kate has the brilliant idea of testing every members blood and based on who's blood reacted intensely, they would know who was really who they say they are. In the 1982 film, one of the most credited sequences was the exact blood test that Kate proposed to her crew. It doesn't affect the film much at all, but for continuity's sake, it's confusing as to whether The Thing is intended to be a reboot of the original or a full blown prequel. Whenever the familiar moments from the 1982 film pop up in this film, it becomes hazy as to what is intended by the director. But when it creates its' own theories and moments, The Thing works pretty well, regardless of what relation it has to John Carpenter's classic.
Director Heijningen Jr. had his head in the right place for the majority of The Thing, creating some fantastic new visuals for the actual creature. One of the other pivotal moments in the 1982 film was the heavy use of practical effects, as oppose to CGI, for the monster. Going into the 2011 prequel/reboot of The Thing, I, among all the other Thing fans, was skeptical on how CGI heavy this film would. To my surprise, CGI wasn't reigning king here, with practical effects still maintaining a large portion of the creature's screentime. But what really relieved me was the understanding that the CGI wasn't at normal horror movie quality here. Sure, it's not Avatar or Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but the computer graphics were fun enough to wonder when it was computer animated or actually present on set. The creature is also given a little more camera time here than in the previous film, thus convincing me that the director knew he was making some bold steps, but semi-justifiable steps as well.
Make no mistake, the 1982 The Thing is by far superior to this prequel in every way imaginable. But that was never the intent. Heijningen Jr. didn't set out to make a better film than Carpenter did, just a vision of his own exploration of the creature. Perhaps, to justify visiting it at all is what caused this film to be a prequel as opposed to the remake it tries to be. None of the steps taken give cause to call this film blasphemous to the film it's based on, which is a breath of fresh air when it comes to horror remakes. The Thing may not be perfect, but it is far more enjoyable and neccesary than the plethora of films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.
If The Thing had one thing wrong, it would be the acting. Thomsen's Dr. Sander Halvorson is menacing enough for a horror fans' taste, but every other character is instantly forgettable. For a movie that prides itself in hunting down who isn't who they say they are, there isn't much visitation on who they really are to begin with. Thus, when things begin rolling and accusations fly, it's harder to know, or really care, as to who isn't a creature in disguise. This may have been a purposeful tactic done by Heijningen Jr., but it confused and even bored some audience members as to what was happening. Mary Elizabeth Winstead did the best she could with the role she was given, but never got past a grad student making ground breaking discoveries faster than a facility full of trained doctors. If anyone was a surprise here, it was Eric Chrisian Olsen (previously seen on Dumb & Dumberer and numerous episodes of NBC's Community). Never seeming to want to leave the world of absurd comedy, Olsen has proven that he can handle his own in horror films. It may not call for much, but he pulls it off by having enough fun with the work given. Edgerton is a man who truly surprised me this year with his turn as a down-on-his-luck fighter turned professor in Warrior. So to see him follow up a true Oscar contender with a horror prequel was pretty confusing. He does alright with the role of American pilot Braxton Carter, but can never touch the role that Kurt Russel mastered in the 1982 film.
The Thing is a fun and creepy film that never quite gets past an act of pure imitation. Of course, this is exactly what the creature in The Thing is best at. Unfortunately, unlike the blood of the imitating creature, The Thing just doesn't pop.
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