The Elevator Pitch
The Thing is the altogether-unnecessary prequel to the classic 1982 sci-fi / horror film. Finally, we get an answer to the thirty-year old question that no-one wanted to ask: what exactly happened to the ill-fated Norwegian research team in their first encounter with the shape-shifting, body-hopping alien menace?
Fans of John Carpenter's hollowed remake might be tricked, as I was, into watching this garbage. Gorehounds might come sniffing around but will probably end up drifting away in abject boredom. Essentially, if you don't give a shit about such trivial things as pacing, build-up, mood, tension and character development then you might find this flick vaguely distracting.
- Some of the film looks like it was shot on location and the cold, isolated, desolate setting still makes for the perfect horror picture milieux.
- The movie does feature a few surreal and ambitious body-warping creature effects which would have been nigh-impossible to produce back in the early 80's. Some of them are actually pretty grotesque, perverse and stomach-churning.
- Despite being cursed with an uninspired script, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a highly-capable performance. She's tough, smart and resolute; almost to a fault since most normal human beings, present company included, would be completely catatonic with fear after witnessing some of this crazy shit. Cripes, even Ellen Ripley had to be work herself up to confronting the Alien. Joel Edgerton is also fairly decent and I love that he spends most of the first half of the film playing second banana to Kate.
- Every once in awhile we get shades of the sustained terror that made the original so great. In one of the film's few original moments, the creature's inability to replicate metal is parlayed into a nail-biting sequence involving an impromptu dental check-up.
- It's pretty obvious that great pains were taken to replicate the environs and visual tone of the original film.
- The hellish, unexplained state of the already-trashed Norwegian research station was the perfect creepy set-up to Carpenter's remake. Going back in time to explain exactly what happened to the camp is about a boring as showing Darth Vader as a little kid. Oh....oh wait...
- The dialogue is flat, unmemorable and perfunctory.
- Not two seconds after the Thing in question breaks loose, the characters start doing supremely stupid shit. Despite the fact that an eyewitness actually watched the creature STRONG-ARM ITS WAY OUT OF A MASSIVE CHUNK OF ICE AND THEN TEAR ITS WAY THROUGH THE FUCKING CEILING, they all decide to split up into pairs and look for it, armed only with pointy sticks, flashlights and sarcasm.
- There's a blatant disregard for already-established continuity. In Carpenter's film, the Norwegians are clearly shown using seismic charges to break through the ice to get to the Thing's space ship. In the prequel they find it in a pretty ice cave like a convenient episode of Adventure Time.
- Like all prequels, we pretty much know exactly what's going to transpire. In essence the film is the equivalent of watching a two-hour self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Rob Bottin's original visual effects might not have been quite as agile but they're a helluva lot more slimy, tangible and gory. In this one the creature alternates between looking like a Disney-animated Hieronymus Bosch painting or a stagnant, plasma-covered plate of Alaskan King crab.
- At least Carpenter's version gave us a few quiet, idiosyncratic character moments to ponder before all hell broke loose. Here the monster wakes up within the first thirty minutes and all we know about the characters is that Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Kate is GOOD, Ulrich Thomsen's Dr. Halvorson is BAD, Joel Edgerton's Sam Carter is a milquetoast KURT RUSSELL and everyone else is Thing-bait.
- The cynical and greasy fingerprints of committee marketing are all over this script. By the already-established dictates of prequel continuity, the entire cast should have been Norwegian but instead three out of the four lead characters are American.
- Screenwriter Eric Heisserer assumes that the audience won't be interested in a tense, low-key yet timely parable about modern paranoia and de-humanization. Instead the film kicks off with a needlessly boorish and cartoony scene in which the scientist's snowcat suddenly plunges through a gap in the ice and discover the alien ship. The whole thing is capped off with the typical bullshit Hollywood ending that would be more at home in Predator 2.
The Bottom Line
If you're a fan of John Carpenter's original masterpiece then you may want to check out this curiosity. Then again you might not 'cuz it'll probably end up pissing you off royally.