By Dave Campbell | October 14, 2011
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Writers: Eric Heisserer, Ronald Dowl Moore (screenplay), John Wood Campbell, Jr. (novella: Who Goes There?)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jørgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Jan Gunnar Roise, Kim Bubbs, Trond Espen Seim, Paul Braunstein
Three days prior to the John Carpenter film of the same name, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is enlisted by scientist Sander Halversen (Ulrich Thomsen) and assistant Adam Goodman (Eric Christian Olsen) to accompany them and a Norwegian scientific team that has discovered an alien craft submerged in the glacier ice of the remote frozen Arctic. Along with the ship they also find the mother-load off all discoveries…a perfectly preserved alien organism that they estimate to have perished in the ice thousands of years ago.
After excavating the body incased in a block of ice and bringing it back to their outpost, Halversen insists on extracting a tissue sample which quickly becomes a shapeshifting parasitic nightmare. Kate bands together with the crew pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton) as The Thing begins to consume and mimic the crew one-by-one, putting them human against human as it lusts for survival.
Part of what I love about storytelling is the strategy of what details are given and what is omitted to allow the audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. With John Carpenter’s classic from 1982 we got just that; a solid sci-fi/horror film with an amazing sense of “what in the bloody hell is going on?”. Unknowns are great for plot lines (especially in science fiction and horror) because they create mystery, excitement and limitless possibility. Unfortunately, this prequel of the exact same name (don’t get me started) dwindles those possibilities down to a narrow formula that essentially mirrors its predecessor.
The Thing (1982) had an extremely strong impact on me at a ripe young age, and it remains to be one of my top films of the genre. The same cannot be said about the prequel. There really isn’t anything about The Thing (2011) that is all that remarkable or memorable. Aside from the ending credit scenes which were actually pretty awesome, the acting is fine, the set-up, cinematography and directing…they’re all just fine. But “fine” doesn’t bring all the fanboys to the yard, and it definitely will not satisfy their (our) nostalgic appetite.
Like many other recent films, the CG just looks so synthetic and sanitized. Who will be the filmmakers that finally kick off the revolution and start demanding the return of practical effects and makeup in their films? I was really hoping for an approach reminiscent of Matt Reeves’ Let Me In, but this film felt a lot like a generic marketing campaign to get me to just watch Carpenter’s The Thing. All you had to do is ask Universal; I’ve got the blu-ray proudly displayed in my home catalogue.
It’s lamentable that Universal Pictures didn’t attempt to pay John Carpenter’s fees to produce his story for The Thing II, in which he was poised to secure Kurt Russell and Keith David to reprise the roles of MacReady and Childs and pick right up where he left off from the nihilistic ending of The Thing (1982). But as mentioned during their 2010 New York Comic Con panel, the producers of The Thing (2011) made a choice to make a prequel rather than a sequel as “it was important not to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa”. So how’s that handlebar looking now?