Cinema Review: The Thing

Fire - scourge of the Thing

 

DIR: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. • WRI: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr. • PRO: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman • DOP: Michel Abramowicz • ED: Peter Boyle, Julian Clarke, Jono Griffith • DES: Sean Haworth • CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen

A remake of a remake of a film based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. Yes, The Thing is immortal and continues to clone itself and survive by taking on different forms. The original celluloid Thing appeared in 1951’s The Thing from Another World, coming to life again in John Carpenter’s 1982 version The Thing, and resurfacing in the 2002 video game of the same name. Now we have Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s 2011 retelling of the story in the form of a prequel/remake/tribute act – a group of Scientists thinging out at a remote arctic outpost preparing to outwit a rabid, bloodthirsty alien, who can take on the form of its victims – just like Christmas at the partner’s family.

Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – very much a sub-Ripley type – is flown into Antarctica to bring her skills to bear on a creature discovered in an alien craft and now frozen in a block of ice laid out for science at the basecamp outpost populated by a group of cut-out-and-keep Norwegian scientists (‘crazy Swedes’ as Kurt Russell’s R.J. MacReady famously decried them). Needless to say science pisses the Thing off and it goes on a CGI-fuelled rampage.

Protective keepers of Carpenter’s version are probably going to have a problem with this film, but it’s actually not that bad – it’s not that good either mind. Heijningen Jr. sets out his stall early enough into the film and, after hinting at the tense paranoia that Carpenter plays with so well, decides to shift the emphasis of the film towards horror and gives them pesky scientists what’s coming to them. In doing so he employs some decent nods to Carpenter’s version (don’t axe me what) along the way, but basically it’s a who’s-next-to-die-and-in-what-way-will-they-be-mangled-by-the-various-proboscides-of-the-CGI’d-Thing, kind of thing.

The film is probably a bit like having the Thing itself around for dinner: entertaining enough but it outstays its welcome (after having your other guests for dessert tearing them into pieces in the process and ruining that new wallpaper) and fizzles out into an action yawn-fest for the last 15 minutes or so.

Nevertheless, if you don’t bring any pre-conceptions and loving memories of the 1982 film to the cinema, you’ll find this a half-decent film. Not as bad as it could have been and not as good as it should have been, The Thing is a mildly entertaining piece of schlock sci-fi, hoodie horror and, if nothing else, it will make you go home and watch Carpenter’s 1982 version again – and that’s a good Thing…

Steven Galvin

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
The Thing is released on 2nd December 2011

The Thing – Official Website

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