Title: The Thing
So Did This Answer All Your Lingering Questions From The 1982 Version? Not really. Specifically, why is every scientific outpost in Antarctica equipped with military issue flamethrowers? Lots of penguin pillboxes to be stormed?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two MacCready hats out of five.
Tagline: "It's not human. Yet."
Better Tagline: "Hi, we're Hollywood, and we're not even trying anymore."
Brief Plot Synopsis: Norwegian scientific expedition discovers alien spacecraft buried in Antarctic ice. The ship's (now thawed and extremely pissed) sole occupant wakes up and commences replicating other living organisms and imitating them. Paranoia ensues.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Dr. Sandor Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) has found something buried in the ice near his Antarctic camp. Clearly, he requires the assistance of hotshot American paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to retrieve it. With no further information than "We have a structure...and a specimen," she agrees, and flies south to investigate. What she finds is a spaceship that crashes to Earth millenia ago, and an alien lifeform that may be a greater threat to humanity than they could have possibly imagined.
"Critical" Analysis: It was nice of the guy introducing the promotional screening of The Thing to remind everyone that what they were about to see is not a remake, but in fact a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter horror classic (itself a remake of the 1951 original). What wasn't so helpful was his advising us to go home after the screening and watch the Carpenter version. This is inadvisable, whether or not you've seen that movie already.
Why? Because The Thing (this Thing, not that other Thing) is practically a shot-for-shot reenactment of the 1982 film. Billed as a "prequel," there's almost nothing here that will add to the experience of those who've already seen Carpenter's film (which I'm going to refer to as "the original" from here on out, semantics be damned). Yes, there a few Americans (Winstead, Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) on the base this time, which is a apparently a handy plot device to keep us from listening to Norwegian the whole film (frankly, I'd have preferred it the other way around). But the rest of the plot marches almost in lockstep with what we've already seen. I won't spoil it for those of you who unfamiliar with the original, but for everybody else, if it walks and quacks like a remake...
And seriously, if you haven't seen the Carpenter version, do it now. It's one of the best horror movies of all time.
Worse, it isn't like we really needed a prequel, is it? In the original, MacReady and Doc Copper and Blair pieced together the events at the Norwegian camp easily enough, even going there to investigate for themselves. I suppose you could make the argument the new effort answers a few minor questions (how'd the Thing get freed in the first place?), and introduced one new bit of mythology (it doesn't really have a taste for metals), but there's not nearly enough meat there to warrant an entirely new movie.
But again, this assumes you've seen the original. The Thing (2011) is adequately frightening, I think, for those coming in cold (heh, Antarctic pun). And it apes the opening titles, score, and even some of the shots from the original so convincingly you might suspect writer Eric Heisserer and director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. wanted to make a remake the whole time. Shocking, I know, to think the scribe behind Final Destination 5 and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake might be incapable of coming up with an original concept.
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One clear area in which the "premake" suffers is the effects. CGI is obviously capable of much, much more than was possible in 1982. Yet Rob Bottin's models and creature f/x from the original were just so groundbreaking and terrifying, everything in this movie (again) just feels like imitation. We've seen it all before, only now the goop is computer generated.
See It/Rent It/Slip It: It's a rental for newbies, a skip for everyone else.
The Thing is in theaters today. Go give your dog a hug for me.