The Thing (2011)
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Plot: An alien spacecraft and lifeform are discovered buried in ice at an Antarctic research site. The scientists attempt to stop it before it can escape into the rest of the world.
The Thing has a problem. Set three days prior to the 1982 John Carpenter classic, starring Kurt Russell, the film basically is both a prequel and a remake.
The ship is discovered, as is the alien lifeform, embedded in ice. Cut out of the ice, the creature escapes. With the ability to alter its shape and become any animal or human, the crew is soon turning on itself in an attempt to figure out who alien has taken over.
That’s the plot in a nutshell. And with the exception of discovering the ship and releasing the alien (these are seen in discovered footage and notes in the original film), the movies are nearly identical. Russell is replaced by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The producers were hoping to give the movie an Alien vibe by having Winstead serve as an Ellen Ripley character. The problem is that, while Winstead is a charming little actress (I loved her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), she is not Sigourney Weaver and the character is not written strongly enough for it to feel like Winstead is channeling Ellen Ripley. None of the side characters jumped out as anything spectacular, unlike both the 1951 original and the 1982 remake – those films had characters to spare.
The two films flow together nicely. The music and title sequences are nearly identical. The new film uses CGI, but they obviously worked hard to make the effects feel like those from the 1980s, setting up similar shots. Theoretically, I think you could probably watch the 2011 version and then pop in the 1982 version and feel like you were watching one long movie.
And therein lies the problem. I liked the 1982 version of The Thing, but probably not enough to want to watch a 3½-hour version of it. The new movie just feels like more of the same thing. By choosing to do a prequel rather than a true remake, the artists were saddled with what had come before. There’s no originality; there’s no reason for this movie to exist.
Much like the new version of Footloose, the producers are trying to recapture a moment in the 1980s, and it just doesn’t work in 2011. If I had never seen John Carpenter’s The Thing, 2011’s The Thing would have been a pleasant diversion. It’s an adequately made horror film with decent acting and special effects. But because I’ve seen John Carpenter’s version (several times), the new one feels like an uninspired attempt to cash in on another person’s vision.
The Thing is currently playing at the Ames Cinemark Movies 12. Check Cinemark.com for showtimes. If you live in other areas, check out Fandango.com for theaters and showtimes near you.