'The Thing' remake is a little too close to the original but still entertaining
'The Thing' is fun to watch but has a lot of missed opportunities.
Much like the titular alien creature, this 2011 version of The Thing purports itself to be one thing, when it is in fact something else. While it is labeled as the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, in many ways – largely as a result of some derivative scriptwriting – this film is a beat-for-beat remake of Carpenter’s film, only with far less imagination and a forgone outcome.Skip to next paragraph
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Thankfully, the combined strength of the premise and an effectively scary monster save The Thing 2011 from being a total waste.
The story takes us back to 1982 Antarctica, where paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been recruited to help excavate the monumental discovery of an alien life form frozen within the tundra. Kate is trepidatious about messing with the fossil too much, but the team of Norwegian scientists – led by the cold Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) – want the glory and credit for making the discovery. Halvorson has his men drill into the ice to collect a tissue sample, and in doing so, awakens the long-dormant creature.
Things go from bad to worse as Kate makes a startling discovery: the alien is a mimic, able to copy its prey’s cells, thereby camouflaging itself in the skin of its victims. However, by the time Kate realizes that there are impostors in their midst, fear and paranoia have already begun to run rampant amongst the team, leading to the decimation of the camp, and the beginning of the mayhem depicted in Carpenter’s film.
Screenwriter Eric Heisserrer (A Nightmare on Elm Street remake) has once again managed to take a smart and rich horror movie concept and drain it of all its juiciest bits. With Elm Street, he reduced the imaginative machinations of a dream stalker to a drab and routine slasher flick; with The Thing, he manages to take a concept that worked so well as a tense, slow-burn psychological thriller, and reduce it to a frantic and clichéd horror movie formula.
At first it seems as though the movie is making the right moves: a good deal of time at the outset is spent establishing relationships between the core characters, such as the hostility between Kate and the dictatorial Dr. Halvorson, or Kate’s passing attraction to helicopter pilot Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton). However, once the creature is loose those relationships – which seemed like seeds for rich psychological horror – are totally squandered as victims are dispatched randomly and unceremoniously, leaving little for the viewer to care about or resonate with – other than the thrill of seeing the creature in its various twisted forms, or the cheaper thrill of watching the body count climb. The film also manages to muddle the entire franchise mythos by introducing expository facts which are totally contradictory to both chapters of the story – such as the alien not being able to replicate “inorganic material,” while somehow being able to replicate its victims’ clothing.