Review: The Thing (15) / Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. / Screenplay: Eric Heisserer / Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje / Released: March 26th
A group of scientists and soldiers convene at an Antarctica research site to investigate what seems to be the scene of an alien crash. If the plot of The Thing sounds familiar, that's because it's a remake and a prequel at the same time. Sorely lacking in practical effects and Kurt Russell's incredible beard, it courts watchability thanks to talented actors and its beautiful setting.
Taking place mere days before the arrival of Kurt Russell at the abandoned research base of The Thing (1982), this movie tells the story of how that base came to be so abandoned. The lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead heads up the scientists as paleontologist Kate Lloyd (her expertise required for precisely one scene), whilst Ulrich Thomsen is enjoyable as her slimy boss. Joel Edgerton's soldier is fairly bland, not even managing to muster up a decent beard out of it all. The biggest disappointment is the waste of LOST's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in a role that only affords him about three lines. In a surprisingly diverse move, the film sets itself apart from the rest by employing a Norwegian director and Norwegian actors. It's just a shame that the Norwegians serve only as glorified cannon fodder for the boring American characters. There are very few thrills and surprisingly little tension, given the nature of the drama. It's pretty predictable who the hidden aliens will turn out to be, and some will even be able to predict the precise order of the unfortunates' demises. As we essentially know how the film is going to end, there's a sense of tedious inevitability to the whole affair. It's far more remake than prequel, telling almost exactly the same story as its predecessor.
The creature designs are perfectly acceptable, but lack the iconicism of the original film's monsters. There's far too much CGI, which makes the outbreaks of violence and brutality feel less real or threatening. A highlight is a scene in which a man's hands fall off and attack the other survivors. It's a fun but forgettable moment, ultimately lacking like the rest of the movie. It should be as memorable as Carpenter's infamous hands-through-the-chest moment, but is dulled by the CGI and a feeling that it's all been better done before. John Carpenter's movie was a remake too, but his Thing was nearly unrecogniseable from the original product. This version sticks too closely to previous templates. It's not even original enough to please those who've not seen Carpenter's cult classic. When the film does finally do something of its own initiative, it's during a silly finale that feels like a leftover from Aliens Vs Predator. Even the 2002 videogame (the only sequel The Thing really needs) had more imagination than this. There's a moment when we first meet Kate Lloyd, listening to Who Can It Be Now, by Men At Work. This wry wink at the audience is the most wit the film ever displays. It never takes advantage of its period setting nor the potential for tension or thrills. It's a wasted opportunity, coasting on past successes, prettier and more respectful than most remakes, but not by much.
The best thing about The Thing? It makes you want to watch John Carpenter's version again.
Extras: Deleted & Extended Scenes / Featurettes 'The Thing Evolves (14 mins)' & 'Fire & Ice (5 mins)' / Commentary with Director Matthijs Van Heijningen and Producer Eric Newman