October 14, 2011
Eric Heisserer and John W. Campbell Jr. (short story "Who Goes There?")
Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd
Joel Edgerton as Sam Carter
Ulrich Thomsen as Dr. Sander Halvorson
Eric Christian Olsen as Adam Goodman
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Jameson
The rumblings about a remake of The Thingbegan a long time ago, and continued to surface and submerge over time until it became clear that this film was really going to be made. Dubious beginnings to be sure, being a remake of a remake, but John Carpenter’s The Thing was so different from the 1951 original The Thing from Another World that it almost can’t be called a remake at all, but a reimagining. Then, to make matters more complicated, The Thing 2011 is a remake of John Carpenter’s film but is marketed to be a prequel, and has more in common with the 1951 film than Carpenters film does, really making this 2011 version a remake of 1951 with Carpenter’s being the out of sequence sequel. Anyway…
We begin by watching paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Final Destination 3) extracting fluids from a dead lab animal that looks shockingly like the dog monster thing from 1982’s The Thing. The true nature of this creature is not addressed, instead she is confronted by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who offers her the chance to fly to beautiful Antarctica to participate in recovering a new discovery. She readily agrees.
Once there, Kate finds what the excitement is about – a spacecraft under the ice leading to the body of an alien encased in a block of ice. Once in the warm confines of base camp that block of ice is no match for the bug-looking creature so it escapes, and it’s inconvenient ability to kill people and become their exact duplicate brings much mayhem to the ice-bound researchers.
The effects in The Thing 2011 are generally very good. CGI created of course, but good nonetheless. Freaky. I really think the gaming industry has done wonders for the movie industry by coming up with so many cool ways to make unearthly creatures come to life so they can be blasted to oblivion by an M16, then passing these techniques on to those who want a bug in an ice camp to be gross and scary as hell.
Regarding the performances and characters, they were good as well. For some reason I really love Mary Elizabeth Winstead and wish that I could see more of her from time to time. Everybody is believable, whether it is an arrogant researcher or a non-English-speaking snowbound workhorse. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. even went for a MacReady (played in 1982 by Kurt Russell) -type character with Joel Edgerton as the sports-loving American Sam Carter, so all of the bases are covered and everyone delivers their lines with conviction. We don’t know a ton about any of them, but we know just enough. Plus we already know what’s going to happen…
That leads to a frustration with The Thing 2011 that unfortunately wasn’t handled better. Look, when a prequel is planned there is always going to be the challenge of dealing with “surprises” that can never be surprises because everyone already knows what’s going to happen. Think ofThe Omen, for example… does anyone actually believe for one second that Damien is going to be murdered on the floor of that church? Of course not – otherwise huge parts of the Bible would be ignored. Still, when the film is presented about the anti-Christ and Damien’s father finally gets the holy daggers and prepares to avoid the apocalypse there is hope that he will succeed in defeating evil, and a whole lot of activity and suspense leads up to that moment when everything is right to do the deed. We know he won’t be successful, but the film doesn’t just assume we know and just gloss over the whole thing. The Thing 2011 could have taken a lesson from that.
Everyone who has seen John Carpenter’s version knows about the alien, knows what it can do, but those in The Thing 2011 don’t, right? How, then, does the young Kate so quickly and succinctly figure everything out after seeing a few quick cell actions in a microscope? It’s not as if it’s just common sense that the alien that was just dug up in the middle of the snow has the ability to mimic human cells, including all memories and clothing styles, and become an exact duplicate of the people you know and aspires to leave the ice and hit populated areas. There would need to be some wondering, some questing, some… something. As it stands, Kate is so great at “thinking outside the box” that she figures the whole thing out immediately. I guess she saw John Carpenter’s version too.
The ending of The Thing 2011 is where the wheels really fall off and the film can’t decide whether it’s going to be Aliens or maybe Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Without giving away too much, a simple question: If a human were to design a spacecraft for humans to use to travel in space, is it likely that human would create corridors and tunnels too small for humans to access? No.
The Thing 2011 is entertaining and fun. The effects are good and the flamethrowers are well charged. Don’t be surprised, though, if after watching this film the contents of last week’s shopping list are more memorable.