Good, Bad & Ugly Review: The Thing (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35% (Critics) 51% (Audience)
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Writers: Ronald D. Moore, Eric Heisserer
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Ulrich Thomsen
Studio: Universal Pictures

Synopsis: The 1982 John Carpenter directed THE THING is one of the most revered horror movies in the history of horror movies. For my money it is the greatest achievement of Carpenter’s career and the best movie that Kurt Russell has ever had the pleasure of starring in. So it is with all of that heavy praise that the 2011 version of THE THING comes to movies screen across the country. The 2011 movie is a prequel that focuses on the doomed crew of the Norwegian research facility that is discovered by the equally doomed crew of the 1982 movie. The Norwegian’s discover a spaceship buried under the snow covered terrain and a single alien encased in ice. The alien in ice is the impetus for the head of the Norwegian science team to recruit an American paleontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD) to help with the discovery. Before you know it the shape-shifting alien breaks out of the ice and all hell breaks loose.

The idea of detailing the events that led up to the 1982 movie is a cool one but the way it is executed in the 2011 version leaves a lot to be desired. My three biggest complaints with this movie are the lack of character development, the CGI, and the mood. Like most of the horror movies of the last 10-15 years, The Thing 2011 barely scratches the surface with the characters that are being lined up to die. The majority of the characters have little in the way of defining traits besides their scruffy beards and accents. Why directors and screenwriters don’t understand that killing a bunch of people whose names the audience can’t even remember does little to create an emotional investment in the film continues to be a mystery to me. And the actors barely trying didn’t help either. As I sat through THE THING 2011 I barely registered any feeling toward the dead and soon to die even when they were being portrayed by actors I am a big fan of like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (OZ, LOST). I honestly didn’t give a rat’s ass what happened to anyone except for the character of Lars (played by Norwegian actor Jørgen Langhelle) who conveyed more character in his limited time onscreen than any of the headlining cast despite not speaking any English. In contrast Winstead was onscreen for almost the entire film and all I took from her performance was that she looked like she would have rather been anywhere else in the world but on the set of THE THING. And when compared to the 1982 version there is no contest. Each character in that film was given a distinctive personality and the audience was immediately able to relate to them so when bad things started happening it actually mattered.

The CGI was not something I enjoyed either. In the 1982 movie Carpenter used makeup and craftsmanship to create the most creepily disgusting images that stay with you long after you have finished watching the film The 2011 movie is just one gigantic CGI orgasm prematurely exploding over everything in sight like a 16 year old virgin getting his first handjob. The results were just messy, unappealing and embarrassing for everyone involved. Just because technology has advanced enough to allow a bunch of nerds to sit in front of a computer screen and create goofy looking monsters doesn’t mean that is the only technique that is used. A little bit of the old school movie make-up wizardry would have gone a long way towards making this movie not seem so vapid and empty.

Finally the mood. Or should I say the lack of mood. The 1982 film was a clinic in how to make a suspenseful, claustrophobic movie with the dual feelings of paranoia and absolute horror. The 2011 movie is just crass and common. For a very brief few seconds at the beginning of the film it looks like the director, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, would take a beat from the 1982 version and play up the suspense by not being so blatant with shots of the alien but before long the notion of suspense is thrown out the window and the alien is being shown in full spotlight to the point that it becomes a bit tiresome. By the time the alien is on all fours chasing people through the halls of the research facility like some bizarre human/dog hybrid I just gave up hoping for anything more than what I was being given. And what was the alien’s agenda anyway? It’s a shape-shifter for pity’s sake which means it can rely on subterfuge to accomplish its goals…why would it just say “fuck effort” and go running around after people looking like an aborted conjoined twin fetus?

And don’t even get me started on the fact that the alien had a fucking working space ship that he could have gotten access to anytime he wanted instead of working so damn hard to get the humans to give him a helicopter ride to a neighboring military base.

Final Verdict: THE THING 2011 is a terrible film full of gaping plot holes, vapid characters and clumsily executed CGI. The idea is a valid one and it is a crying shame that the concept was wasted by being placed in the hands of people who had no clue how to make a movie that would be a fitting accompaniment to the 1982 classic. D

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