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The Thing (2011)

Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Written by: Eric Heiserrer, based on short story by John Campbell Jr.
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, and Ulrich Thomsen                
Reviewed by: Matt Kenary

 

In 1951, there was “The Thing from Another World”  ( now considered one of the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie from the 1950’s).  In 1982 came “John Carpenter’s The Thing”, which bombed because at the time audiences went to see another alien movie, E.T.  John Carpenter’s The Thing has now raised to the top, as one of the best horror movies of all time.   Jump ahead 29 years and The Thing is back; this time as a sort of prequel to the ’82 version.   In Carpenter’s version,  American researchers in the Antarctic travel to a nearby Norwegian camp in search for answers to their own “thing” issue where they find the camp destroyed, everyone dead, strange burnt corpses  and an alien spaceship, whereas the 2011 film tells the story of that Norwegian research camp and what happened.

Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited for a team to study a structure and a specimen found by a Norwegian camp in the Antarctic, unbeknownst to her, the structure was a spaceship and the specimen was an alien frozen in the ice. The decision to cut the Thing out to attempt to study it was made and therein lies the film.

Before I go any further, I must warn you that Carpenter’s The Thing might be in fact my favorite movie of all time, so I’m going to try to step back as much as I can and give the movie a review based on its own merits, but the comparisons are going to inevitable because essentially, they are the same movie.

The good things about the 2011 film have much to do with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead role, similar to Ripley from Alien.  I found it refreshing to see a female lead that doesn’t get emotional, actually makes good decisions and is believable as someone who can take control of a situation.  Besides Winstead the rest of the cast is solid but suffers from a lack in script and character development.  The film was shot in 35 mm instead of digital giving the film a bigger look, emphasizing the vastness and isolation of the Antarctic landscape and making it a much creepier atmosphere.   Kurt Russell’s crew from the ’82 film spent quite a bit of time at the Norwegian camp so the amount of research in getting the look of the camp just right and to sequence events to match the earlier film were impressive.  Fans of the ’82 movie will be delighted with the detail and won’t be disappointed when they go back and compare, they will also be delighted that during the closing credits they threw in a scene that takes you directly into the first scene of the Carpenter film, making it essentially ( if you watch both films back to back) one movie.

My worst gripe on the film is the CGI,  Rob Bottin’s effects back in ’82 were groundbreaking and  incredibly real and horrific, you lose the ooze effect and the overall realism that good old fashioned puppetry covered in Jello and Vaseline can create.  The Thing, who can change into any life form it has previously imitated, morphed too quickly and moved too fast, making it seem, at times, cartoonish and fake.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad – there were a few effects that were done well but so not to spoil them I will omit them from this review.

The Thing 2011, compared to other films today, is actually pretty good, the pacing is pretty quick and the scares and jumps are abundant.  Although it is not a totally original idea, it’s not as formulaic as most horror films today and definitely worth checking out. I give it a 2 guy out of 3 rating.

 

2guys copy

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Victor De Leon August 22, 2013, 9:54 am

    Good review! I rather liked this film and I own it on blu ray. My gripe, like yours, is with the CGI but everything else wasn’t too bad. On it’s own it is a decent creature feature. JC’s “The Thing” is in my top 5 list of favorite films of all time. “Jaws” is number one and “The Thing” is hands down my favorite Carpenter picture. Good job! Thanks.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 4:55 am

      not a bad 1 and 2. Jaws is definitely up there for me too.

  • Dan O. August 22, 2013, 2:39 pm

    It was surprisingly okay for being a remake of an adored horror flick. However, I will admit that the only moments I was totally tense were during the end credits. Obviously, you know why. Nice review.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 4:54 am

      Thanks, ya I agree. there was no real surprises. You kinda knew who would be left standing the last half of the film.

  • Marilyn Armstrong August 22, 2013, 7:12 pm

    I have not been able to bring myself to watch this. It feel so disloyal. “The Thing” — the original — has always been my favorite horrow/sci fi/monster movie … after “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (only the original and I have a long story about the first time I ever saw it … ). I suppose I should give it the benefit of a doubt.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:08 am

      The original with Kevin McCarthy??

  • Sir Phobos August 22, 2013, 9:38 pm

    Man, I guess I’ll be the naysayer (so far). I haaaate this movie. Awful CGI, bland and unmemorable score, and it’s the same damn movie as Carpenter’s. They can claim it’s a prequel all they want, but they just remade it. I only saw it once in theaters, so a lot of the specific stuff I didn’t like probably escapes me now. But I do remember the ending in the ship with the stupid Tetris computer core thing. Winstead is probably the only good thing about it, but only because she doesn’t do anything really dumb that I can remember. Oh yea, I also hated when they turned a section of the movie into hide-and-seek with a generic monster. That’s not really what I want from this kind of horror movie. It’s not a typical monster movie where people hide from the beast that’s trying to eat them, but that’s kind of what it turned into.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:06 am

      I don’t disagree with your thinking. As I said in my review, it’s the same movie. they went for the “jump”scares too much and yes, I hated the CGI too. But the homage and winks to the Carpeneter film is what saved it for me. I judged the movie on it’s whole based on today standards. there no way this came even close to the ’82 version, but it is a nice little tribute to a horror masterpiece. Curious, what was your issue with the soundtrack? I didn’t really notice it much other than it had similar tones. Just curious?

  • Tim The Film Guy August 23, 2013, 8:22 am

    Massive fan of the The Thing (1982) and this wasn’t actually bad as a prequel :D

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:23 am

      ya, before this prequel there was talks of a sequel, bringing Kurt Russell and Keith David back, using frostbite to explain why they look so old. Probably a good thing it didn’t happen.

  • Adam August 23, 2013, 8:49 am

    Was not a huge fan of this prequel/remake or whatever. A sort of decent horror/suspense film that lacked a lot of the horror/suspense of Carpenter’s 1982 version. Maybe it was the lack of Wilford Brimley that held it back.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:10 am

      Can’t argue with that logic! Nothing can top his mental breakdown scene.

  • cindybruchman August 23, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Nice to see you give it a warm review. Do you think films shot in 35mm over digital have become somewhat a novelty? That is, when I listen to my vinyl LPs, they sound different and cleaner over CDs. Something legitimate for me about 35mm films. :)

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:14 am

      I agree, 35mm makes it seem bigger than it is. Esp. at the theater. But with digital and probably with the pricetag of film, It’s going to be a lost artform. It’s funny, I just purchased record player, in the process of dusting off some of my old vinyls too.

  • Maurice Mitchell August 23, 2013, 4:54 pm

    I never knew the Carpenter film bombed. I haven’t seen the 2011 vrsino, but your right Bottin was a genius with animatronics and special effects and CGI will never be able to give that same visceral feel from the first film. Thanks for trying to be unbiased.

    • Matt Kenary August 24, 2013, 5:16 am

      Yes, some critics called it torture porn and were disgusted by it. Unfortunately, the Thing (even though it’s JC’s best film), was the start of his downward spiral with the major studios.

  • Rodney August 25, 2013, 4:57 am

    i still question the need to have a prequel to Carpenter’s classic at all, but I guess they did a good job writing a film knowing where it needed to end. I agree – a lot of the effects were unnecessary and fake looking (CGI looks crap compared to practical effects, even now) and the script/acting was largely forgettable tripe.

    Come to think of it, I really thought it was wasted potential. Had they made a SEQUEL…. well, that might have been a different story.

    • Matt Kenary August 28, 2013, 6:49 am

      I don’t think it needed a sequel ( or , I agree a prequel). I like the non-ending of the original and knowing what happened afterward might’ve ruined the mystique.

  • Evan Crean August 25, 2013, 6:09 am

    John Carpenter’s The Thing is also one of my favorite films of all time, so after I saw it back in 2011, it was hard for me to review this film without being biased toward the original. I have to compliment you for giving the movie a fair, balanced review, because I know I couldn’t do that when I originally reviewed it. I was too pissed off by how much it copied from Carpenter’s version, without offering much innovation. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character was definitely one of the better parts, since I always love strong female characters like Ripley from Alien. I really hated the CGI though and found it to be my biggest gripe as well. Practical effects are much grosser and more realistic. I wish they had gone that route instead of using bad CGI.

    • Matt Kenary August 28, 2013, 6:50 am

      I’ll take the old time effects any day of the week over CGI.

  • Brandon Early August 25, 2013, 10:52 am

    The abundance of CGI is even more heartbreaking when you see how good the practical effects actually were. I’m sure most horror fans have seen this, but if not, check out this short showing some of the practical FX in action:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBzpT7VmSaU

    Also, check out this incredible tribute to Carpenter’s The Thing done entirely with stop motion animated G.I. Joe action figures. This six minute short might just be more entertaining than the entirety of the prequel:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT7AH4JyuNs

    • Matt Kenary August 28, 2013, 7:02 am

      Good stuff, CGI should be used to as a touch up only. Film makers nowaday rely too much on the technology.

  • Jaina August 26, 2013, 2:05 pm

    I wasn’t a huge fan of this. It was okay, but felt it was still trying to stick to the formula of the original The Thing. It lacked the suspense and tension of the first/original.

    • Matt Kenary August 28, 2013, 6:54 am

      Ya, it lacked alot of things (no pun intended) of the original but the Carpneter’s version was so good that Ithere is no way to compare them fairly.

  • Joe Sikes August 26, 2013, 6:02 pm

    Hey Scotty,
    To tell you the truth I wasn’t expecting more than one and a half guys for this one but that must be my cynicism towards remakes nowadays and my affinity for the 1982 Wilford Brimley version. Maybe I’ll have to be optimistic and check this one out.

    • scottydynamite August 27, 2013, 5:38 am

      Hey Joe,

      This is Matts rating I was less of a fan than he was, I think I gave it 1 1/2 or maybe even 1. I will have to search the archives.

    • Matt Kenary August 28, 2013, 6:57 am

      Joe, if you’re expecting a Blair freak out moment then you will be surely disappointed.

  • Nostra September 9, 2013, 6:18 am

    After seeing Carpenters version of it for the first time a couple of years ago I could not get myself to watch this one. Don’t feel I’m missing out on much not watching it.

    • Matt Kenary September 10, 2013, 5:28 am

      Probably not, but I’ll tell you I enjoyed it alot more than Prometheus.

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