Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Thing (2011)

Year:  2011
Director:  Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Screenplay:  Eric Heisserer, based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Starring:  Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen, Trond Espen Seim
Running Time:  102 minutes
Genre:  Horror, science-fiction, action

Okay, first things first, despite it's title this is not a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter film The Thing which itself was inspired by the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World, which were both adapted from the 1938 story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.  Instead this is a prequel to the 1982 film.

 Antarctica, 1982, a Norwegian research expedition discovers an alien spacecraft frozen for thousands of years in the ice and, a short distance away, the frozen body of it's occupant.  A young American paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (Winstead), is sent in to help analyse the frozen body, which is sealed in a solid block of ice.  However, when the officious lead scientist (Thomsen) orders a tissue sample taken from the creature, aganst Kate's advice, the Thing begins to reawaken.  Before long it has burst out of the ice and is on the loose around the station, attacking the occupants until it is burned to death.  However, that is only the beginning, because Kate soon realises that the shape-shifting alien has the ability to infect it's victims at the cellular level, and to transform their cells into it's cells, and thusly perfectly imitate any life form, hiding unitl it is ready to attack.  She soon discovers that any one of the expedition may be The Thing.

This is a fun, tense blend of science-fiction and horror, which creates a strong sense of claustrophobia and suspense.  It also deserves points for not being  a remake.  The problem is that we have been here before.  It doesn't offer much that was not there in it's predecessor.  There are plenty of the nightmarish transformations and flesh tearing mutations that were such a hallmark of the 1982 version, but this time round they have kind of lost their shock value.  Certainly there is nothing to compare with the legendary stomach suddenly growing teeth or the severed head scuttling around on spider legs in the earlier film, although both of them are referenced.  It also has several nods to the 1951 film most notably in the alien defrosting from ice and also from the depiction of sinister and/or cowardly scientists who need to be kept in line by tough, pragmatic macho men, the exception being tough, pragmatic scientist Kate, whose character bears a very strong resemblance to Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the Alien movies.  The film does well, though in the depiction of the paranoia and claustrophobia of the characters, who if anyhtng are even more distrustful of each other than in the earlier film.  In the 1982 version a kind of blood test was used to check who was human and who wasn't, in this movie the only thing they can do is check people's fillings (which the alien cannot absorb and so spits out).  Which is bad news for anyone with clean teeth or porcelain fillings.

This is a fun suspenseful action film which comes nowhere close to eclipsing it's predecessor, but does at least complement it.   

Mary Elizabeth Winstead warms up in The Thing


  1. It is strange to watch this film, near 30 years after Carpenter's creation and find the special effects less convincing, less tangible than those in the earlier film, almost to the point of being in 2D. As far as CGI goes, in some respects it seems we are still wandering around in 'rubber suits'...

  2. Yeah, I would agree with that! It is really strange how the modern CGI effects look worse than the 30 year old physical effects.