Review: The Thing (2011)

2011/10/19 14:11:29 +00:00 | Jonathan James

Almost 30 years after John Carpenter’s The Thing arrived in theaters, Universal has released a prequel. Although the story has elements of a prequel and is marketed as one, like the creature itself, this new movie is just an imitation of the original. Any prequel elements in the film seem to have been included to avoid instant fan backlash, and the final product more closely resembles a remake.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes center stage in this film, playing Kate Lloyd, a paleontologist who joins a Norwegian scientific team that has discovered an alien ship and creature under the ice in Antarctica. They bring the frozen creature back to their base, but of course, it doesn’t stay frozen for long and begins to prey upon the team.

Since Universal had nearly 3 decades to greenlight a new version of The Thing, I’m surprised they didn’t spend more time crafting a quality film. Instead we’re given a story that is so close to the original that it feels more like a remake/reboot than a prequel. There are very minor items that tie this movie’s story into the original film, and while the ending tries to bridge the two together, it is really just slapped on at the end to try to have it all make sense.

The Thing (2011) has many basic elements that are the same as the original film, including sabotage on the base, crew members being stuck outside, and coming up with a test to determine who is human and who is an alien. These elements work in original film because John Carpenter knew how to create suspense and tension, it was a new take on the material, the paranoia built over the entire film, and the special effects were unlike anything seen before.

In this version, however, the suspense is gone and the paranoia doesn't really work. You know who the main stars are and the general outcome is predictable, especially if you’ve seen the original film. They attempt to compensate for this by including more creature transformations, but the fantastic practical effects of the original are replaced with the heavy use of computer generated effects. There are practical effects in this film as well, but the CG is bad enough that it makes the creatures unbelievable. Had they spent more time working on blending the CG and practical together, maybe it would have worked. Instead, we see mostly cartoon-looking creatures that aren’t scary and don’t match up to the original film.

I will say that director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. faithfully recreated the basic look of the John Carpenter film. You definitely get the sense that you are in the same world as the original film, even if it may be an alternate reality. This isn’t a terrible film, but it’s terribly mediocre and it didn’t need to be. There are some entertaining scenes, and the new creature designs are interesting, but the overall execution feels more like you’re watching a TV movie or fan film. I’d compare the drop in quality to what was seen in Alien: Resurrection compared to Alien and Aliens. Yes, it still has many elements from The Thing, but it lacks the soul of the original and lacks the polish that Universal could have and should have given it.

Even taking the John Carpenter film out of the equation, this movie just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. There is next to zero character development, there isn’t any real tension, the special effects aren't up to par with what we've seen in the past, and there aren’t any scenes that really gross out or shock the audience.

I wouldn’t tell everyone to stay away from this movie, but most die-hard fans of the original John Carpenter film will be disappointed. If you’re a casual fan of sci-fi movies and creature features, you may find this entertaining, even though it doesn’t excel in any particular area. There are far worse movies you could watch this year, but don't go to the theater expecting this to be a new sci-fi/horror classic. You're probably better off just re-watching the John Carpenter version again.

Film Score: 2/5