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Overall Rating
2.4

Awesome: 4.76%
Worth A Look: 7.14%
Average: 30.95%
Pretty Bad38.1%
Total Crap: 19.05%

4 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Thing, The (2011)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Lars And The Potentially Not-So-Real Girl"
1 stars

Although "The Thing," John Carpenter's take on John W. Campbell's 1938 novella "Who Goes There?," previously brought to the screen by the great Howard Hawks in 1951 as "The Thing from Another World is now duly enshrined in most circles as a cult classic and one of the great monster movies of all time, it is worth remembering that this was not always the case. When it was being produced, fanboys and critics alike were aghast that Carpenter, despite his professed admiration for the work of Hawks, would even dare to sully the reputation of such a classic film by remaking it, even though he planned to hew closer to the original story than to the decidedly different spin that Hawks put on the material. When it was finally released in the summer of 1982, the film was slammed by practically everyone for its decidedly bleak tone, characters as chilly as their Antarctic surroundings and the spectacularly disgusting special effects work by Rob Bottin that coated practically every available surface with blood, slime and assorted viscera. To make matters worse, Carpenter had the spectacularly bad luck to debut his film, his biggest production to date at the time, two weeks after America had fallen in love with a somewhat more benign alien visitor by the name of E.T. (In an amusing coincidence, the same studio, Universal, released both films.)

Needless to say, the movie pretty much tanked at the box-office but over the years, it began to amass a large cult following among those who caught up with it on cable and home video and embraced it for the tough performances by a close-knit cast of awesome character actors led by Kurt Russell (in the third of his collaborations with Carpenter), the incredible amount of suspense and tension that Carpenter was able to generate and, of course, those gloriously grotesque special effects that are still amazing to behold even after these years. In fact, the reputation of "The Thing" has grown so considerably over the years, even among many of those who initially dismissed it at the time, that it would receive that most dubious of honors--its very own remake. Perhaps inevitably, history began to repeat itself as fanboys and critics alike were aghast with the notion that anyone would dare to sully the reputation of such a classic film by remaking this. However, the comparisons between Carpenter's film and this new iteration pretty much end there because "The Thing" is a total bore from start to finish that is simply content to rehash everything that it accomplished so beautifully with barely a speck of the genuine talent or inspiration that Carpenter brought to the material. In essence, the film is little more than the world's most expensive piece of mediocre fan fiction--it does little more than offer up ideas and conceits that have already been used without any of the creativity that made it so memorable in the first place.

Technically, the film is actually a prequel to the events of Carpenter's film instead of an outright remake, though the differences between the two are so negligible that perhaps we can split the difference and call it a requel and yes, I will be having that phrase copyrighted any moment now. Set in Antarctica during the winter of 1982 (cue clunky headphones, primitive electronic equipment and the oh-so-ironic cue of Men At Work's "Who Can It Be Now?"), the film opens as a trio of scientists from a Norwegian outpost are out driving on the frozen terrain in order to investigate a mysterious signal that they have picked up and stumble upon what appears to be a spaceship and an alien creature embedded in the ice. The crew, headed by the imperious Dr. Sandor Halverson (Ulrich Thomsen) and consisting of taciturn helicopter pilot Carter (Joel Edgerton), recently arrived American paleontologist Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and a bunch of Norwegian guys who are either named Lars or who should be , brings the block of ice holding the creature back to base and Halverson, continuing on in the tradition of dumb scientists everywhere, decides that news of the find should be hushed up for now and that there is no time like the present to get a tissue sample, even if doing so requires the use of a power drill to do so. For those of you who proudly count yourselves among those who proudly question the concep of evolution, here is a film that boldly shares your belief that all scientists are idiots. (So much for liberal Hollywood.)

Anyway, if you are guessing that the scientists thaw out the specimen and the two cultures slowly try to build some kind of relationship and exchange of information that could prove to be of immense value to both sides, you are definitely in the wrong movie and should probably go home and see whether "Iceman" is currently available on Netflix or whatever the hell they are calling themselves this wee. In actuality, the creature quickly breaks out of the ice and begins running amok through the confines of the base and decimating anyone unlucky to come into its with an astounding array of pincers, claws, teeth and other assorted mandibles of a menacing nature. Not only that, it has the amazing ability to replicate its victims so perfectly that it is able to hide in plain sight amongst the others until the time comes for it to messily jump from ship to ship. Since it is borderline impossible to tell the Thing from the real things, save for its inability to copy inorganic material like metal fillings and such, the best way to safeguard against your neighbor from being reduced to a pile of goop is obviously to form a buddy system in which everyone is accounted for by someone else at every possible moment. Needless to say, our heroes manage to do practically everything but that and as a result, their numbers are quickly and gruesomely reduced as the thing struggles to escape from the base and move on to greener pastures. Once again--nice going, scientists.

Like most prequels, "The Thing" is hobbled by the fact that since it has to tie in properly to an already existing narrative, its ability to offer up new and surprising twists and turns is curtailed significantly because it can really only end in one particular fashion. That is a key problem with most prequels but it is especially damaging for those in the horror genre because any sense of suspense that is potentially generated is undercut by the fact that anyone who has seen the earlier knows exactly what the object of malevolence is capable of and who, if anyone, is likely to survive the proceedings in order to maintain continuity. In the case of "The Thing," this is an even bigger problem because the story elements are so necessarily limited--a close-knit group of isolated scientists, a frigid locale, a creature who can assume the form of any of the other cast members--that there isn't really much of anything that a filmmaker can do to mess things up in an exciting manner. As a result, debuting director Mattihijs van Heijninse Jr and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (whose presence on the writing credits on the likes of "Final Destination 5" and the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm St." is far more terrifying than the films themselves) can't really do much more than do more or less the same things that Carpenter did 30 years ago with the same basic material.

Of course, they have made a couple of somewhat bold choices in order to shake things up. For one thing, whereas Carpenter treated his story as a slow-burning fuse by slowly creating a sense of tension and paranoia amongst his already-edgy characters (and it was one of Carpenter's great cinematic ironies was that the potential fate of humanity itself was in the hands of a bunch of people who already lost most of theirs long before the arrival of their extraterrestrial predator) in the first half before going for the more visceral shocks in the second, this version pretty much does away with any noticeable amount of suspense in order to shoehorn in as many big "BOO!" moments as possible in which something or some Thing suddenly pops up out of nowhere to either throw a false scare into the proceedings or to tear apart another cast member like fresh bread. At first, this approach does inspire some jolts among the more skittish members of the audience, even if their response is based more on simple reflex action than anything else, but after a while, even the most tightly wound viewers will pick up on the repetitive rhythms after a while and find the tension slackening at just the point when it should be at its tightest. The biggest problem comes in regards to the ending--partly because there is only one possible way in which it can really end and partly because the conclusion of Carpenter's version was so memorably bleak. Perhaps realizing that, the film tries to have it both ways by conjuring up a finale that ends on a slightly more optimistic manner than might be expected from this particular piece of material in order to attract new viewers and possibly inspire another follow-up and then tries to appease the presumably outraged buffs by taking on a few quick bits specifically linking it to the earlier film that are interspersed throughout the end credits almost as an afterthought. No matter if you are a hardcore fan or a newbie, there is sure to be something in the ending to annoy you deeply.

Then again, those who are interested in seeing "The Thing" simply for the gross-out material are also likely to come away from it feeling very disappointed as well. As I mentioned before, Rob Bottin's original conception of the monster is one of the all-time great designs in creature feature history and still has the power to scare and repulse even today Part of the reason why it remains so effective is that it was done with practical visual and makeup effects that, no matter how outlandish they became, maintained a certain palpable sense of weight and gravity because they were actual things that people were actually responding to both on the screen and in the audience. Inevitably, the effects this time around, although based on what Bottin created, are largely handled by CGI and as a result, there is a certain detachment between the creature and its surroundings that, while not overly blatant, is nevertheless noticeable and the kind of thing that can help damage material like this that already requires a certain suspension of disbelief if it is to have any hope of working in the first place. The time, the creature seems to have more nasty bits and pieces than ever before but since they don't feel particularly authentic, they don't really add much of anything in the way of terror to the proceedings and because we see the thing far too often for its own good, whatever sense of mystery it might have managed to retain after all this time is lost. As for the new features of display, such as its ability to split into separate beings and fuse back together again whenever multiple attacks are needed to ward off an increasing sense of boredom, this less said the better except to note that they weren't deemed necessary once upon a time and their deployment here only underscores that point even further.

In the end, "The Thing" ironically becomes the very thing that it is trying to depict on the screen--a soulless creature that more or less knows how to mimic authentic human behavior and personality but is undone by its constitutional inability to generate such things completely on its own. While it may be a marginally better film in theory on the useless remake scale than the retread of "Footloose," its key opponent at the box-office this weekend, it is ultimately a bigger disappointment because it squanders such vastly superior source material. Ironically, despite its blatant attempts to curry favor with contemporary audiences in ways that the 1982 version never bothered to attempt, I suspect that the main audience for the film will turn out to be fans of that one who will look upon this version with morbid curiosity to see if it is as bad as feared and it will disappear into obscurity once that has been confirmed. Other than that, all I can hope is that John Carpenter got very well compensated for the indignity of seeing his once-maligned masterpiece be reduced into just so much forgettable multiplex fodder. Also, I hope that if this version inexplicably does well enough at the box office to warrant another film--stranger things have happened, you know--I pray that they decide to combine it with any potential "Footloose" continuation; now that could be something [i]really[/i] scary!

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20976&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/14/11 15:00:00
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User Comments

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
10/14/11 PAUL SHORTT RELIES ALMOST ENTIRELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS FOR THE FEW SCARES IT DOES HAVE 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Oct-2011 (R)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Oct-2011
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012



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