‘The Thing’ (2011) DVD Review
Cast: Mary Elisabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen
Plot: A young expert in…thawing out dead things (which is something I didn’t know you could be an expert in, but I’m no scientist) heads to the Antarctic to help dig out an alien that promptly kills everyone.
Review: Ok, first things first: this was a terrible choice for a title. Putting aside the fact that you now have two movies that fit into the same continuity with the same title, you can see why they’ve done it. The Thing looks great on a poster. We learned that the first time around. But this particular title only works the once because now you are forcing viewers to distinguish between them and it’s getting awkward sounding. We can’t tell people that we prefer the ‘old Thing’ over the ‘new Thing’ because it makes us sound stoned, and things get really unpleasant the moment you realise that you’ve been telling a group of people how much you like ‘John Carpenter’s Thing’. It was a poorly thought out marketing move.
It has been a long time since John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing From Outer Space became one of the greatest horror movies ever made, yet this new version seems determined to make itself part of the same story. Whether you’re watching it with or without having seen the original it’s a pretty poor effort, but it does suffer more for the comparison. From a story standpoint there is an opening for this – the original film begins with the alien making it’s way from the devastated Norwegian station to the American one, leaving death and destruction in its wake. What happened at that station is a story in itself.
Except for the fact that it completely demystifies the sense of mystery and suspense generated in the first act of the original film. Carpenter created a brilliant atmosphere of suspense drip feeding the viewer information, showing the remains of the Norwegian camp and what they dug out of the ice. When viewers watch the movies in chronological order every question raised during the brilliant first act of the original have now been answered in advance. And the answers suck.
Looking at this new film on its own merits gives us a horror film with a good concept but lacking adequate execution. The characters are plain and interchangeable relying on broad stereotypes and archetypes. The only thing that stands out is that only the Norwegian’s seem to grow beards, and since any viewer with an once of understanding of how Hollywood marketing works will quickly work out that the English speaking name actors are going to be alive until the end everyone else winds up with a big target on their back. There are plenty of people around for the aliens favourite trick of hiding as a replica of a person they’ve attacked, but the director never takes advantage as the alien seems to have no patience for the sneaky option and pops out every chance they get.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a decent enough job as the strangely-independent-and-modern-thinking-woman that seem to inhabit most movies set in the past, but her character is as plain as Weet-Bix right out of the box and nobody else fares any better. There’s no attachment to any of the characters nor investment in whether or not they get out alive.
Given that the key selling points of the original film are so completely mishandled – the suspense and the sense of mystery – you could be forgiven for thinking that the director has never seen the original. Except for the cringe-worthy ‘homages’ to the classic. For a brief moment it sounds like they’re even going to go the whole way and recreate the blood-test scene but instead they opt for looking into peoples mouths to check for fillings. Apart from this being a bloody stupid way to film tension, it’s really odd that some characters kick up such a stink about having their teeth looked at and act all shifty about it. Then there’s revelation that some of them have porcelain fillings that they can’t see, or never had fillings to begin with, rendering the entire scene moot.
The attempts to replicate the alien transformations or equally lame. Every time a human starts splitting open and lashing out with tentacles it’s a visual reference to the superior film, which only draws attention to how lame everything is. The repetition sets in quickly as half the victims are simply impaled through the chest, which, considering the abilities of the monster, is kinda dull. The penultimate scene where Winstead travels under the ice to the alien craft does little more than pad out the film, being of bland set design and utter pointlessness.
A special mentions belongs to the sequence where a guys hands dropped off and chase people around. Firstly because it was done better for comedic purposes in Evil Dead II and secondly because it leaves us open to make jokes about The Addams Family.
When the film does thankfully end the viewers familiar with the original will notice plot holes big enough to steer a barge through. For some downright idiotic reason the director felt that the story should end leaving it open for a sequel that isn’t the original, then adding some post-credit scenes which create links to the original. This only seeks to emphasise the faults of the film, the weak directing and screenwriting, and demonstrating how much we didn’t need or want this film.
Score: TWO outta TEN