‘The Thing’ offers nothing new

Article Published: Oct. 20, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 20, 2011
‘The Thing’ offers nothing new

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ulrich Thomsen star in 2011’s ‘The Thing.’

2011’s “The Thing” is a prequel in remake clothing.

On the bright side, it makes John Carpenter’s 1982 version look that much better. And, in all fairness, it is.

As director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s first feature film, this new “Thing” doesn’t help his credibility. Low on scares, character and convincing special effects, it only succeeds when paying homage to the Carpenter version.

All the stuff in between is dull enough to put even the most hardcore horror fan to sleep, as “The Thing” stumbles tiredly through its Antarctic landscape.

Those who’ve seen the Carpenter version (itself a remake of 1951’s “The Thing from Another World”) will recognize Heijningen’s telling of the events leading up to the 1982 film. The thing about it, though, is that it still seems like a remake. Following similar plot points and situations, this still feels like something we’ve seen before.

And the producers’ ill-conceived decision to simply call it “The Thing,” despite its prequel storyline, only makes matters more frustrating.

The 2011 “Thing” centers on paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), who is recruited by scientist Sander (Ulrich Thomsen, “The International”) to visit a Norwegian research station in Antarctica to study the find of a lifetime.

The Norwegian researchers, it seems, have discovered an alien spacecraft that’s been entombed in ice for 100,000 years. Furthermore, they’ve found one of its passengers frozen outside.

Under Lloyd’s supervision, the frozen creature is brought to the base for further examination.

Needless to say, something happens. The creature is far from dead, breaking out of the ice and terrifying the hell out of its perceived captors.

When set on fire after devouring a particularly unfortunate Norwegian, the thing is thought to be dead – again – but, as Lloyd and company discover, this is only the beginning.

The creature possesses the ability to effectively duplicate its prey, thus infiltrating the base in a human disguise. As the researchers’ numbers dwindle, Lloyd and her fellow survivors, including helicopter pilot Carter (Joel Edgerton, “Warrior,” emulating Kurt Russell), learn the creature’s weaknesses and attempt to destroy it before it can escape to civilization.

Like most special effects-centric horror movies, little thought is given to character, making it difficult for anyone to invest in their wellbeing. As the body count escalates, it doesn’t build any suspense, but rather anticipation of the closing credits.

In fact, one’s mind begins to wander the narrative landscape, musing about what the 1982 version’s Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley characters might be doing farther down the Antarctic highway.

They’re obviously not working on special effects. By and large, “The Thing” uses run-of-the-mill computer-generated imagery, the kind that seems so intangible that it’s hardly threatening – grotesque, sure, but nothing you’ll lose sleep over, especially since this flick offers a prime opportunity to catch some Zs.

“The Thing,” rated R for strong creature violence and gore, disturbing images and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7. For show times, see page 15-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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