A group of Norwegian researchers has tracked down the remains of an alien spaceship that has crash-landed in Antarctica. That alone would win them some sort of award, but the leader of the expedition, Dr. Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen), focuses exclusively on the alien corpse they found frozen in the tundra. The team extracts the block of ice with the alien and brings it back to their base. There, Dr. Halvorson drills into the ice block and takes some DNA to study. And that's when things (HA!) start to go badly. The alien wakes up and escapes; it was strong enough to both explode out of the ice block and jump through the ceiling of the facility. Worse, the alien appears to be killing people and then disguising itself as one of them. How can you tell who's human and who's not when you're trapped in Antarctica and don't want to precisely imitate The Thing (1982)?
|Okay, sometimes that is easier done than other times|
The acting in The Thing is surprisingly solid, given that this is a survival/horror movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfectly adequate as the heroine. I would have liked to see some shades of grey in her choices, but that's more of a story problem than an acting one. I was expecting more from Joel Edgerton, though; his acting was decent, but he spent a large chunk of the movie off-camera. Eric Christian Olsen and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje were also also fine. Nobody really stood out among the recognizable actors, but nobody was bad, either. The rest of the cast (AKA the cannon fodder) was comprised of Norwegian actors who spoke little English. Of them, only Jørgen Langhelle impressed me, if only because he was the only character who couldn't speak English, but he still communicated in a fairly realistic way.
|Actual dialogue: "Bork bork bork!!!"|
The direction, on the other hand, was less impressive. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. made his feature-length debut with this movie, and it gets a bit rough in parts. What makes the original The Thing so compelling is the suspense and the ambiguity. This movie has little of either. Instead of focusing on how anyone could be infected/assimilated, this film opts for the tone of a standard monster movie, making it feel more like a somewhat action-free Resident Evil than anything else.
|Give that starfish some teeth and Milla Jovovich will kill it|
One of the most iconic parts of The Thing (1982) was its truly stellar use of practical effects. I recall hearing the filmmakers comment about how much effort was going into the practical effects of The Thing (2011), back when they were promoting the film, but there is also a substantial amount of CGI. What practical effects were in the movie were actually pretty good. Specifically, the alien autopsy had a pretty cool bit, although I imagine most species would have more internal organs than were shown here.
|Oh, it had a person-sized pouch in its tummy?|
|Becoming an alien, or about to projective vomit? You decide|
|It's backup plan was to audition for The Addams Family|
Even with the poor direction and the disappointing special effects, The Thing could have been a mediocre movie. But it's not. Why? To put it simply, this film doesn't follow its own logic. Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character is a paleontologist who is hired to examine the alien. That makes sense, right? And yet, not only is everything she says dismissed, she doesn't even do the preliminary examination of the alien's blood or body! What the hell is she there for, if not those exact reasons? For that matter, why is everyone so interested in the alien body, but not the ship? The group extracts a huge ice cube with an alien inside it and where do they keep it? In the heated building, of course. To be fair, it was still cold in the building, but why risk any thawing/spoiling when you can just leave it outside? It's not like a passerby is going to steal it. Speaking of the alien, its ship was found hundreds of yards beneath the surface of the ice, and yet the alien was found only inches below. I'm not saying that is impossible, but it seems unlikely. Even less likely is the irrational acceptance of fire as a cure-all in this movie, despite important evidence to the contrary.
|Above: a demonstration of "Dr. Halvorson's Botanical Syrup and Skin Bronzing Solution"|
|And we're not talking Miracle Max or "mostly dead," either|
From a production aspect, I have to wonder why this movie was ever made. Was anyone dying to know how the alien was discovered? I don't think so. No, I suspect that someone saw the opportunity to make some cash by remaking a well-remembered horror flick and figured out a way to differentiate this from all the other horror remakes out there. After all, the original movie touched on the Norwegian group that went through virtually the exact same experience as Kurt Russell and friends; why not exploit that to make virtually the same movie, but not have to deal with fans whining about the changes made in the update? Of course, if they really wanted to differentiate this film from the original, then it wouldn't have the same damn title. If this movie wasn't such a faded ditto copy, I would be a little more lenient and say it was just sub-par. Aping a classic without the guts to admit it, along with its clumsy execution makes this movie pretty awful.
On a side note, what are the odds that Joel Edgerton's character A) has an earring in 1982 and B) is desperate for news about the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were in the middle of a 9-year period of atrociousness?