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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.65%
Worth A Look: 6.98%
Average: 30.23%
Pretty Bad37.21%
Total Crap: 20.93%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Thing, The (2011)
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by Jack Sommersby

"There Are Worse 'Thing's"
3 stars

Don't go into it with gradiose expectations, and you should have a pretty good time.

The Thing is a completely unnecessary prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, with the main reason being that it covers pretty much the same ground and has a virtually identical plot, but, for all its flaws, it's not bad. Where before we saw the horrifying havoc a one-hundred-thousand-year-old hostile alien species wreaked at an American research facility in Antarctica by absorbing its human victims and producing flawless imitations of them, here we see the same thing taking place a hundred miles away at a Norwegian camp whose scientists discovered it just a couple of days prior -- they homed in on a weird electromagnetic-pulse signal and found a massive spaceship buried in the ice; then they brought back a big block of ice containing a specimen from the ship. Three scientists from America, including brilliant paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), are flown over to consult on this top-secret discovery, and it's only a matter of time before the alien escapes and starts picking off the humans on by one, either by imitating them or killing them through its imitations. Carpenter's movie derived the majority of its suspense from the characters (and the audience) not knowing who was human and who wasn't -- the sense of isolation and paranoia rampant among the men was palpable; this time, a fair amount of suspense is derived, too, because it's an absolutely frightening story premise that only idiotic moviemakers could screw up, and the debuting director, Matthijs van Heijning, Jr., and the screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, are no fools. They give us a fair layout of the main facility, there's a decent amount of doom-laden atmosphere shrouding the proceedings, and the build-up to the first attack by an alien imitation onboard a departing helicopter is well milked. So far so good, and it helps that Winstead, a new face to me, is solid and immensely appealing as the emerging heroine -- she never does too much or too little, with an understated confidence that the camera will get the performance. The rest of the cast isn't so lucky, though: there a bit too many of them and aren't allowed to make similar impressions, whereas the twelve characters in Carpenter's version were all beautifully defined and always believable, and the first-rate cast etched strong portraits. (We can tell who's going to be the main male character here simply because he's the better-looking of the lot; still, Joel Edgerton, who plays him, shows some strong degrees of reserve.)

The Thing is also a very good-looking production. French cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, who superlatively shot the excellent Liam Neeson actioner Taken, does commendable idyllic/menacing contrasts, with the beauty of the opening shot of a small vehicle slowly making its way toward the UFO's signal source with a vast snowland surrounding it eventually giving way to a suggestively eerie shot of the vast square footage of the alien ship -- the use of blue gels is obvious, yes, and are obviously modeled after Dean Cundey's lighting in Carpenter's work, but it's still visually ravishing. But after a while the movie starts feeling a bit rushed, and sort of shorthand. The sequences don't build as fluidly as we would like, and the central element (not knowing if you're still human, or being suspected of not being human when you're convinced you are) doesn't have the dramatic grounding that it should. We're not given nearly enough screen time to know these people, so when they're dreading the absolute worst, we don't feel it. There are some logic loopholes that stick out, like why a Thing-inhabited human doesn't blowtorch an unarmed human when he/it has the chance, why the imitation transformations sometimes take minutes and sometimes a few seconds, and how one character can get attacked outside when all the other characters are presently accounted for. A couple of shock attempts are botched due to van Heijning, Jr.'s blatantly telegraphing them (one involving an earring can be foreseen an entire zip code away). And the creature effects, relying mostly on CGI, lack the gruesome organic clarity of Rob Bottin's extraordinary work in the original that was the stuff of nightmares, and still is. (And I'm not impressed that the final alien manifestation must have a round mouth-like opening just so a grenade can be conveniently thrown into it during the grand finale.) But there are some neat inventions, like the shining of a flashlight into the humans' mouths to see if they have dental fillings to determine if they've maybe been infected (the creature can't replicate inorganic matter), and a scene where the humans have to dodge some lightening-fast, razor-sharp-tipped tentacles in a crowded, confined room is staged and edited with aplomb. Purists will argue that the moviemakers had no business retooling the 1982 classic when there's nothing really substantial added and nothing particularly improved upon, but for a modest entertainment that's striven for nothing other than to keep you on edge and succeeds in doing so, The Thing is recommendable.

The DVD boasts a picture-perfect transfer, and the audio is really outstanding -- some of the channel separations are multi-faceted and fun.

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originally posted: 02/29/12 14:54:16
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell it sucks stick with the 82 version 1 stars
3/21/13 Charles Tatum Should have worked, but I agree with others- CGI is terrible 2 stars
9/29/12 roscoe Fine, but no surprises and occassionally rips off Carpenter's superior film. 3 stars
9/14/12 Cordwainer Smith this movierelly gave the creeps. 5 stars
4/09/12 mr.mike Unneccesary prequel adds nothing to Carpenter's version. 3 stars
3/09/12 Gregory Scott not as creepy as the original 3 stars
2/17/12 gc Trys to be a prequel but more of a remake, with fake CGI...see the scarier original instead 2 stars
1/23/12 action movie fan rehash of 1982 film nothing new here good effects but deja vu 1982 film 3 stars
10/23/11 Jack Just awful. The filmakers don't have a clue. Great material. Boring Movie. 1 stars
10/22/11 Phasmos Nice try, but badly hampered by crappy CGI, lackluster dialogue and no real tension. 3 stars
10/22/11 Brian Great movie, completely surpassed my expectations!! goes with the 82 film perfectly 5 stars
10/21/11 Flipsider Boring, brainless remake. 1 stars
10/21/11 Ace-of-Stars Where's the movie that was supposed to be a "PREQUEL" to the 1982 version? This ain't it! 2 stars
10/21/11 Craig Best horror film since The Mist 4 stars
10/17/11 TheGrizzly Could have been better, but it wasn't. Uninspired and unimaginative, with a stupid monster. 3 stars
10/17/11 Quatermass You missed the entire point, but thta's typical 4 stars
10/16/11 carlos guzman SomeTHING was missing; alien not nearly as tactful & FX were better w/ latex 3 stars
10/15/11 erika good movie 4 stars
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  14-Oct-2011 (R)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012


  DVD: 31-Jan-2012

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