The Thing (2011)

The Thing (2011) – John Carpenter’s 1982 thriller The Thing is one of my all-time favorite movies. That means I have a pretty strong bias and a natural predisposition to hate this movie. By comparison, it is nothing but a pale imitation. The suspense of Carpenter’s film (or Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s 1951 The Thing from Another World) is pretty much ditched in favor of things jumping out at unsuspecting characters (not that Carpenter’s film was entirely above that). The film suffers even even more so by comparison in terms of characterization. All the characters in Carpenter’s film felt like developed people. In this film it’s mostly interchangeable Norwegians. It doesn’t matter who’s been taken over by the Thing. They’re all pretty much the same to begin with. Of course, having seen Carpenter’s film, you know exactly who is going to survive (more or less).

So everything said above is true. I stand by it all. However, the movie still managed to be pretty entertaining. Maybe it completely misunderstands what made Carpenter’s film great, but it knows a thing or two about making people jump and being fun. The computer effects do look a little cartoony and the tooth-and-tentacle abominations of the film don’t measure up to the amazing creature work by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston in the previous film, but it worked for the cheap thrills the film was going for. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ulrich Thomsen, and Joel Edgerton do manage to create characters in their own way (though I was disappointed to see the usually-engaging Eric Christian Olsen confined to playing the stock “scared guy” character), but knowing the outcome it’s hard to get too invested in their prospects for survival.

THIS PARAGRAPH IS SPOILER-LADEN: So a weird thing about this movie (God, I’m trying not to use the word “thing” so much in this review but it’s hard!) is that Winstead’s character survives. She might be faced with the prospect of freezing to death like the “survivors” of the first film, but she has a working Snowcat and earlier dialogue mentions a nearby Russian base in addition to the Norweigan one of the film and the American one from Carpenter’s. Is this possible sequel set-up? Will Winstead and a bunch of Russians encounter a CGI-youth-ified Kurt Russell and Keith David and more angry things (thus destroying the horrifying ambiguity of the 1982 film’s ending). Another weird plot misstep of this film is that the crashed spaceship still seems to work. Why is the Thing stuck in Antarctica is its spaceship WORKS? The thing is (god dammit, did it again) I will still go see that stupid sequel if it happens. I am a fan of this premise and will keep going to see it.

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