The Thing (2011) – Movie Review – Limp Remake Imitating Prequel

Posted by on October 14, 2011 at 9:27 am

If you were in any way, shape, or form anticipating this film, then the only optimistic thing you’re going to get out of this review is the gorgeous picture above of the dazzling Mary Elizabeth Winstead with a flamethrower. In anticipation of seeing this Thing, I went on Netflix last night and saw Jack Carpenter’s 1982 Thing and left it with the knowledge that I had seen a great horror film. Twenty minutes into this prequel, I began to hate it immensely. Why? Because despite claims otherwise, this film is an almost note-for-note remake of that better film; a suspense-free, overproduced imitation.

So let’s put this in perspective by talking about Mary Elizabeth Winstead again, who plays paleonthologist Kate Lloyd. Here, she takes the mantle of Kurt Russell’s character from the original film, but instead of being a badass chopper pilot with a mountain man beard, she’s a meekly hesitant and completely gorgeous protagonist. That’s what the film rounds up to: what was once sharp and horrific is now dull. As it would turn out, a Norwegian team in Antarctica has happened across the frozen corpse of an alien not far from their crashed ship, buried under the ice. As one of the crew is taken out by this thing as it breaks out of its ice cube, its quickly deduced that at a cellular level, this thing is a virus: able to replicate and imitate whatever lifeform it comes in contact with. Fear spreads through the camp as everyone begins to have second doubts about their crewmates’ humanity. Well, not quite. Instead, we’re drip-fed a chorus of cheap Hollywood scares, like the protagonist who turns very very slowly toward the horror happening behind them. Or the hallway lights that flick off in sequence away from them, because that happens.

I don’t mind a remake, I really don’t, but at least do a better job. This Thing compresses the story notes of the original flick down to service a super contrived and ultimately muddled third act. In so doing, it removes much of the suspense, going so far to even replace the classic blood test scene with a… well, I won’t spoil it, but it’s very disappointing. This is no longer a group of people that begins to go mad trying to assure the others they’re not one of those… things, this story is in far too much of a rush to go somewhere unfulfilling. Despite the advances of CGI, never once was I unnerved by the creatures here like I was by the latex puppetry and body horror of Carpenter’s film. What more can be said about a film whose best notes are the scenes that come on during the end credits, bridging it to the original, superior version?


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  • A comment

    I know that at times this movie may feel like a remake, even though you acknowledged that it is a prequel, but it most assuredly is not a remake of anything. The director made sure, with the materials given from the 1982 movie, to include elements observed from John Carpenter’s movie as a nod-off to that film, and to connect them in continuity. Frankly, I think there is only so much one can do in the isolated-antarctic-base-psychological-terror department, which indeed limits the feel of this movie to that of the 1982 movie (and leads one to conclude that it is a contrivance); but that doesn’t mean that the base-formula of the Thing antagonist isn’t a great one to expand and play around with. Especially in a different setting with different characters.

    Yes, it would have done better with less jump-scares, and more protracted scenes that add to the feelings of isolation, claustrophobia, suspense and distrust. It seemed like whenever there where such opportunities for these scenes, they didn’t last for very long, or weren’t used in such a way that they drove the plot. The jumps seemed to just keep coming and coming, like the energy of one jump drove the plot to the next jump. That is the only issue. Say what you will about the effects…

    Although the third act may turn the die-hard fans bonkers, I think it had a solid, second act. I think we all know that the act-structure of the 1982 version is pretty much golden, and any attempt to reproduce  it will be considered cliche; parts the second act in this movie had great tension, and genuinely had me guessing at the edge of my seat. The first act was a little too predictable for my tastes…

    • Anonymous

      I don’t buy the excuse that ‘there’s only so much to do out there’. Note. For. Note. Remake. When they started dousing the thing’s corpse with kerosene in the yard and snow was being pressed up against it, then they suggest a test to see if they’re still human… I almost lost it. The parts where it does apply a little imagination are the most contrived and out-of-place bits, like in the ship.

      Bad film.