The Thing

Dir: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Star: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Somewhere between a prequel and a remake, this never manages to escape the issue that this is an entirely pointless movie. Oh, if you haven't seen John Carpenter's original, then this could possibly seem quite inventively creepy, with some impressive bursts of extraterrestrial aggression, in its story of a Norwegian team who uncover a flying saucer in the Antarctic ice, along with an occupant who is both capable of imitating other life-forms, and thoroughly pissed-off. It's up to paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) to figure out who's who and who's it, before everyone gets assimilated - or worse, the alien reaches the outside world. The problem, of course, is that you should be intimately familiar with the original, considering it's one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and the remake is inferior in just about every way. Even the effects - an area where the new version should benefit from 30 years' improvement - lack the "in your face" physicality, with heavy use of CGI instead.

It's clear the makers are appreciative of the original, which is not necessarily a bad thing; I did enjoy the way they dovetailed their story, into the opening of Carpenter's version. But that's also part of the problem: when there's absolutely no uncertainty about the final destination, the journey there becomes significantly less interesting. Where the film really falls down by comparison is in terms of characters: the original sketched out each resident of the base with economy, but succeeded in making them individuals. Here, outside of Lloyd, they never become much more than monster fodder. Additionally, where Carpenter ratched up the claustrophobia and tension as the numbers dwindled, the script here instead opts to broaden things out, with the heroine leading an assault on the spacecraft, in what reminded me more of Predator 2 than anything else. The bottom line is, it's like giving McDonalds to a person and telling them it's steak - when they've never eaten steak. If they don't know better, it won't kill them, but it's no substitute for the real thing. Or, rather, The real Thing.

[July 2013]

Things ain't what they used to be
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