The Thing, 2011.
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Eric Christian Olsen.
A team of scientists discover an alien craft at a research site in Antarctica.
The Thing (2011), for starters, should have an alternative title in an attempt to distinguish it from original cult classic that is John Carpenter’s The Thing. And despite how it was marketed I wouldn’t say that this film is a ‘reboot’ of the original – in fact it loves the original sick. It expands on the tantalising beginning of Carpenter’s cult classic. For those unfamiliar with the original just quickly the film opens with a husky being chased by a helicopter and some Nordic gents are shooting at it. It’s an ambiguous opening and the unseen but oft-mentioned (in the original) Thule base is the setting and premise for this new film. The film’s story recounts what happened there and how ‘the thing beast’ made its way to the legendary bearded awesome of the 80s Kurt Russell.
Back to the marketing – on the one hand, this film is enough like the original that I know definitely how they can brand it as a remake and I suppose that one could ask ‘How far could it diverge really?’ Alien on an Antarctic base wreaks havoc and has the ability to mutate into other forms to disguise itself. The core difference of the films is their protagonists. The Thing follows Kate (Mary Elisabeth Winstead) a palaeontologist tasked with being able to handle frozen fossilized specimen. She’s hired and shipped off to the south pole to inspect a mysterious discovery. The film is directed with constant nods to the original – attempting to elicit the same atmosphere, aesthetic and mood that Carpenter’s film did so affectively. However CGI both benefits and hinders the film. In the original the animatronic and model aesthetic of the design makes the monster feel more tangible and believable. There are only a few moments where the CGI version of the thing beast does anything memorable. I guess if you’re new to the mythos it might have some pretty good “holy shit” moments – but unfortunately fans will only be moved by one really cool display of the thing’s intangible, malleable form.
I think the main problem that I had with the film was the inability to connect with the protagonist Kate. Kate (is the Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley character but without any of Hamilton or Weaver’s great charisma and charm. The Kate character has to complete the Alien to Aliens or Terminator to T2 transition from innocent and dainty into arse kicking tough bitch in a very short period and I really didn’t believe it for a second. Joel Edgerton plays a kind of conscience in the film – channelling Kurt Russell’s great ambiguity. He’s a highlight, and does nothing but demonstrate why he’s such hot acting property at the moment (with limited screen time).
Is it worth your money at the big screen? It’s definitely worth watching on DVD if you’re a fan of the original. Just set the expectation that it’s gone past the point of homage and moved steadily into what my colleague Cam @PopcornJunkies Williams calls a ‘Pre-Make’. Just like the monster itself; The Thing 2011 replicates the original, but it changes it so some of you may just want to strap on your flame-thrower and set fire to this #PopcornPremake.
Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com.