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Thing, The (2011)

Cover art:

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The Thing (2011)Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ulrich Thomsen

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.


In a world where all of us horror fans see announcements about our favorite films being remade almost on a daily basis now, it’s rather refreshing that Universal Studios went the prequel route for its upcoming flick The Thing, and while on paper it is most definitely a prequel, unfortunately a lot of the newest Thing movie ends up coming off feeling like it really aspired deep down to be a remake instead of something of a companion piece.

If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s 1982 version by the same name (and if you’re reading this site, then of course you have), you already know that it was at a Norwegian base that ‘the thing’ was first discovered and ultimately wiped out the population after the researchers unwittingly unleashed the parasitic creature into the world. In this flick we actually pick up with the Norwegians just a few days before they were annihilated as we meet several scientists at the beginning who mistakenly crash their snowmobile through an icy terrain that harbors not only an alien spaceship at the bottom but a frozen alien specimen nearby.

The Norwegians reach out for some assistance on their discovery from renowned researcher Dr. Sander Halvorson (Thomsen), who rounds up both his assistant, Adam Goldman (Olsen), and paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) to head up to the wintry and desolate tundra in order to assist in what could be the scientific find of the century.

Transported to the base camp by the US helicopter pilot team of Braxton Carter (Edgerton) and Derrick Jameson (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Kate and the team soon discover just how dangerous the creature lodged within the ice really is once it breaks free and starts absorbing and becoming its human prey, while those unaffected are none the wiser. And if you’ve seen the 1982 film, then you pretty much know how everything is going to shake out from there – things get bloody, blowtorch-related shenanigans ensue and soon enough it’s up to Kate and Braxton to stop the alien before it can escape.

But that’s not to say that the Thing prequel doesn’t try to give the story its own little twists and turns because it does. It’s just a case of the twists here not being enough to counterbalance the retreading of a lot of material from Carpenter’s own remake almost 30 years ago now, making The Thing a rather average experience for this writer, who would watch the Master of Horror’s version once a week if I could get away with it. And although I’m not really a reviewer who gets off on raining on someone’s parade, I will admit that The Thing prequel left me feeling kind of bummed out since I was hoping for something just a little more satisfying in the end. Doomed from the start or not, I don’t like when horror movies can’t deliver on the goods, and The Thing didn’t deliver anything new here.

And let’s be honest; is there a more thankless job in the industry than being a horror writer tasked to write remakes, prequels, reimaginings or whatever you want to call them? Probably not so I don’t necessarily fault writer Eric Heisserer completely for The Thing not being able to deliver a stellar prequel here – there are moments within the script where he does manage to work in some clever twists on the world we were introduced to in the ’82 The Thing, but overall he’s created a story that treads a little too closely to the events that transpired in the Kurt Russell flick.

As an effects geek, I found the practical creature work used in The Thing rather stunning (it’s nice to see a real creature feature hitting theaters for a change) and gleefully on the gooey and gross side. It’s just unfortunate that the film ends up relying too heavily on CGI toward the latter parts of the third act, killing any sort of authenticity it had mustered up. Look, we all know and get that practical creatures are expensive and whatnot, but so are visual effect shots; if you’ve already spent the money to create these amazing looking creatures, then why would you want to spend even more money on VFX shots that are going to muck up the look of those creatures? It just makes no sense; practical and visual effects should complement each other seamlessly, and that’s just not the case in The Thing, which is an absolute damned shame.

I know that as a woman I should be applauding the fact that Winstead is actually the film’s lead, but honestly, she’s rather distracting. I would not have had any issues with having another all-male cast again in The Thing as I always felt like that casting aspect really added something to the machismo that erupts in Carpenter’s movie right around the same time the paranoia is kicking in. But here there is always something off about Winstead’s character in particular. I’ve enjoyed the up-and-coming actress’ work in movies like Scott Pilgrim, Death Proof and Live Free or Die Hard, but here she comes off as a horribly miscast and rather bland heroine tasked with carrying an entire action-based horror movie on her shoulders.

The rest of the cast, though, was rather enjoyable, and it’s too bad we didn’t get to spend more time with them rather than Kate. In fact, what saves the movie from bring awful were the performances by Edgerton, Olsen, Thomsen and Akinnuoye-Agbaje as they all managed to keep me somewhat checked into The Thing as I was watching it. Truth be told, even though Winstead’s got top billing, the prequel was more Edgerton’s movie than hers, and the Australian actor is quickly becoming one of the breakout stars of this year.

For a movie that excelled at being average, the production design on The Thing is also rather incredible (the spaceship being the true money shot for you Carpenter geeks out there), and if there are any reasons to pay money to see this movie on the big screen, it would have to be for the creature effects and the production design. Both definitely elevated the experience and, along with the work turned in by cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, are strong enough reasons to head to the theatre if for nothing else than to witness the pure spectacle of it all with your very own eyes.

At the end of the day, The Thing is a rather average movie that does enjoy a few moments of greatness but ultimately leaves no lasting impression on you by the time the credits start rolling. From a nostalgic POV, it’s definitely enjoyable to go back and revisit Carpenter’s world within this separate storyline. But nostalgia can only get you so far so what this prequel ultimately ends up succeeding at is making you want to rush home to watch the ’82 version just as soon as you can.

The Thing is not a terrible movie, but it’s not a remarkable movie either, making it a somewhat underwhelming experience for longtime fans overall.

2 1/2 out of 5

Discuss The Thing in our comments section below!

thehorrorchick

  • Rob

    I just watched it this morning and honestly, I’m not sure what I think. I don’t know how much I liked it, and I know I didn’t hate it. The ending was very underwhelming though. The whole attack scene with the splitface creature should’ve been the finale IMO.

    I’d say 3/5…maybe. Still trying to decide.

  • deadbysunrise

    Just watched a download R5 version and i enjoyed it. I think i’ll buy the blu-ray when it comes out.

  • kiddcapone

    I really thought I’d love The Thing. Carpenter’s version is one of my all-time favorite movies. Hell, I even liked the X-Files episode that borrowed the same basic plot in one of the early seasons. But to be honest, I’m disappointed. It didn’t totally suck, but it could have been much better and I honestly didn’t think there was a way to screw this prequel up.

    It started off okay then it just never really evolved into anything great. It was mediocre at best. There was no prolonged sequences of tension wondering who was IT. They talked about “it can be any one of us” then BAM the thing popped out of someone and everyone. The bad guy scientist (or whatever he was) has been done to death in movies.

    It really bothered me that they didn’t show the Norwegians blow the ice up around the ship. It was a major inconsistency with the original. Having the tunnel dug down was stupid. Then it delves deeper into the point of no return when the ship powers up. If the fucking ship still worked, then why didn’t it leave after the crash landing? The icing on the cake was the girl surviving. What? Wouldn’t it have been the logical ending to have the chick tell the guy she knew he was really an imitation, and then blowing up him, herself, and the alien while inside the ship? Then there’s no sign of her ever existing for Kurt Russell’s people to discover. You CAN’T have a survivor in a prequel film when they are all trapped in an isolated place. Wouldn’t they have seen Snowcat tracks leading away from the ship? I haven’t seen anything that retarded since Jason Voorhees taking a hostage in the shitty Friday the 13th remake.

    2/3 of The Thing was a serviceable companion piece to the 1982 film. The rest is typical Hollywood bullshit. I have a feeling some studio exec forced changes on the script because it just seemed uneven. Damn. Not what I was hoping for.

    The Thing – 2/5.

  • frank_dracman

    The Thing falls apart upon any scrutiny. SPOILER- If the ship was in working condition, why did the alien leave in the first place? Didn’t it know it was cold outside? Since when did does a paleontologist know anything about a flamethrower, let alone how to use it? Why did it take it’s time attacking Kate, giving her ample time to walk away? Should have known it would suck…

  • Gus Bjork

    It’s certainly not that bad but not all that memorable either. I didn’t find the logic gaps all that distracting (the Carpenter version had them as well). The biggest problem was the characters. You never really had that feeling of individual people since the group all basically reacted the same to any situation and most of them were about the same age and had the same appearance. Even the other girl at the base kind of looked like Winstead. No one had any particular skills or even jobs that set them apart besides scientist or helicopter pilot.

    There’s no reason to avoid seeing it. I didn’t regret it and I have a feeling I’ll appreciate it more on dvd with checked expectations.

  • Masked Slasher

    SPOILERS…

    If The Thing is trying to fucking escape Antarctica, why the fuck does it crash the helicopter?

    Also, why in the name of christ is the fucking girl alive at the end of the fucking movie!?

    This is a perfectly watchable movie, but it’s not even remotely good. In fact, as soon as you begin scrutinizing it, it falls apart completely. There’s almost no tension (the fillings scene is good and that’s about it), the characters are interchangeable and the third act space ship climax is about as stupid as they come.

    In fact, once you get over the neato aspects of how close some of the attention to detail is in the movie, there’s pretty much nothing else to it.

    Another waste or time and a total missed opportunity that doesn’t even have the balls to kill off its protagonist.

    • LifeMi

      It crashed the helicopter because it was going to escape in its own ship. By no means am I defending this crap, but I’ll give it that.

    • nazo

      Also, why in the name of christ is the fucking girl alive at the end of the fucking movie!?

      Is she really? That’s disappointing even with my low expectations.

      Well, I ended up agreeing with you 100% on the Fright Night remake, so this only adds to my inclination to skip this one.

  • dastoady

    i just saw it and as john carpenters version is my favorite film of all time i truly enjoyed it. i also agree with the reviewer there were things that could have ben better and the cgi didnt bother me as much as i thought it would . this wasnt the follow up ive waited for but i can say i will definitly buy this when it hits shelves.

  • LifeMi

    THE THING. Just got back from the midnight showing. Blah and uninspired; it’s just generic hollywood shit, nothing more and nothing less. I can’t say I hated it, but there’s nothing to really like about it, either.

  • nonserviam03

    I found this to be pretty average. There are some truly dumb moments, like how IMMEDIATELY after Ramona Flowers makes a big deal about how the thing can be anyone and nobody should be alone with anyone else, they all split up and go off in pairs of two. On the other hand, even if the CGI is sorta so-so, the designs were cool, and the movie had its’ moments. I had fun with it for what it was, bur obviously it’s not as good as Carpenter’s version.

    I also liked the whole thing about the tooth fillings. It was a nice twist on the whole “blood test” scene, since even if people failed there was still no telling if they were the creature or not.

  • aliensharkboy

    Dang… I guess I saw it coming, I still sort of look forward to seeing a new chapter in “The Thing” story, but now this has been crossed off my list of films I REALLY hope are good. All that’s left is Piranha 3DD, Underworld: The Awakening, Resident Evil 5 and Bait 3D… it seems nowdays the way it works with film remakes and sequels is We wait too long for too little. :(

  • GQSioux

    Wow, I strongly disagree with the review and some of the comments. I saw the movie a few days ago, and while it’s not as great as Carpenter’s, it’s definitely a worthy counterpart and it is a prequel. Sure, there are mirroring qualities, but damn let’s be real here. If two teams of similar people and some scientists encountered this creature in a real life, I’m sure alot of the same exact talk, guessing, analyzing and paranoia would happen. So of course it’s going to be a lot like the 1982 film, what did you expect? It’s like making two different movies about 9-11 happening just hours apart–you sure as hell can expect the same dialogue would be going on no matter what language you spoke or what ethnicity you were. And the review didn’t even point out some of the respect paid to Carpenter’s flick and how thorough they were in trying to make a true prequel. The attention to details was very admirable and I found myself geeking out a few times. The review didn’t mention all of the following merits: how we got to see the formation of the two-faced creature Macready finds later on, how the creature dies in the same exact spot it’s found in Carpenter’s film, the near-perfect replication of the Norwegian camp, the near perfect replication of the room with the ice block. How the film did have a good amount of Norwegian with subtitles. The design of the spaceship and showing it with the same exact open hatch we saw in Carpenter’s. I could go on. You can tell they loved Carpenter’s movie. They even used the clasic Universal logo, the same credits font and some of the original score from it.

    Someone mentioned above that Lars disappears and reappears for no reason. Well, I admire the fact that the filmmakers tried to keep SOME mystery in the film and leave it to our imagination. Winstead’s character along with a couple of others split off from the group and the movie follows them–so we’re left to assume Lars was at the camp dealing with his own problems, which explains his madness in the opening of Carpenter’s movie. And yes, remember the guy Macready finds dead on the chair with throat and wrists slashed? We see him too, but we still don’t know how or what happened…I liked that. So, the ending to me was the pay off, it makes a seemless transition into the 1982 film, and to me, they’d make a great double feature. We also now have a REAL opportunity to have a true sequel to BOTH films and get Kurt Russel back (if you asked me, he’s aged well and can come back). I don’t get why fans aren’t supporting this movie. It isn’t that bad, the practical effects are great and I’ve seen far worse CGI. I hope it does well and that that make a third one that’s a true sequel to both where we have Macready meet the survivors of this new one. It’d be awesome.

    • thehorrorchick

      Well…everyone has an opinion and honestly, that attention to detail wasn’t enough to save the flick…it’s admirable sure but not enough to make it a must-see for me.

      I’m glad someone enjoyed it but it seems to me I’m not in the minority on this one at all…and I’m the one around here who usually likes everything so what does THAT tell ya? ;)

      • GQSioux

        I agree but I think it could’ve been FAR worse. It was passable to me and I admired the effort they put into making things ties in. I don’t think it’s an infuriating piece of shit like some critics (not you) are saying.

    • nazo

      I hope it does well and that that make a third one that’s a true sequel to both where we have Macready meet the survivors of this new one. It’d be awesome.

      Oh, dear God, no.

      • GQSioux

        You wouldn’t want a sequel with Kurt Russell back?

        • nazo

          No. The Thing is my favorite horror movie of all time, and I love the ambiguous ending. I wouldn’t want to see that tampered with for the sake of a movie that in all likelihood would be merely competent at best.

          Russell was only one of the factors that made The Thing so great. Even if he gave a performance as good as in 1982 (highly unlikely), the probability that the rest of the cast, the monster, the story, the dialogue, the pacing, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, et al would be anywhere close to as good as the original (making tinkering with the story forgiveable) is so small as to be infintesimal.

          • GQSioux

            True, but the point is, this prequel is here whether some like it or not and I don’t think they resurrected this title for nothing. There’s a chance they’ll do something next if this does well. If it does well, where would/could they go? I wouldn’t want them to remake Carpenter’s flick–that’d be lame after all the work they did to tie the two together. So the next logical step is to make a sequel following the survivors. I don’t want to spoil who survives this new prequel, but when it ends and seques into what we know comes next, so much homage and respect is paid to the 1982 flick, you can’t help but wonder if there’s hope for MacReady to be rescued. Get a big director and good writers and I’m all for Russell coming back.

          • aliensharkboy

            I sort of lost intrest to this prequel after reading the review, it just sounded like a decent monster flick and that’s about it, what you first said has got me quite excited again, and I think I’d like to see a sequel to the original with kurt.

            I now actually really want to watch this once again! I’m glad that recently they’ve been making sequels/prequels this year (Scream 4, Piranha 3DD, Underworld: the awakening) instead of terrible remakes (Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on elm street and so on).

          • GQSioux

            I totally get the mixed reviews and why people are on the fence, I just think no one is appreciating the attention to detail. I know the movie isn’t excellent, it isn’t ground-breaking–the problem is, it’s standing in the shadow of a superior predecessor that’s beloved by horror fans, people are just going in already hating it, ready to hate it, ready to attack. I think it could’ve been far worse. For example, we’re lucky it wasn’t done with a cast of pretty CW teen faces–at least it’s all adults. I’m a huge fan of Carpenter’s The Thing, trust me, I went in with low expectations and I think the saving grace for me was the scattered geek moments where they explained and replicated things from the first (as I mentioned above).

            Oh well. I still think it’s passable. I feel the same way about this new The Thing as I did about the newest Conan. I “get” what they were trying to do, I admire the respect to the source material, but it can be done better. So I’m willing to give them another shot and yes, I’d like another sequel.

          • The Woman In Black

            Hmmmm… I enjoyed the new Conan as well so maybe there’s some hope for The Thing after all! Just wish we didn’t have to wait until Sunday to see it, but it’s a busy weekend.

          • thehorrorchick

            Nowhere in my review did I say I hated it…I just found it underwhelming and I did end up praising a lot of what they did accomplish here. I just don’t think it’s a strong enough prequel and they could have done a lot more and tried not to rely too heavily on the beats of Carpenter’s flick.

            And like Debi, I liked what they did with Conan too (but I felt like in that flick, they took more risks that worked in favor of the original stories instead of trying to pay too much attention to what the other movies had been)…

            If The Thing can get people in theaters this weekend, then great…I love when horror wins the weekend box office. But if it doesn’t, that wouldn’t surprise me either- there’s not enough to draw in new fans with this one and it’s bland enough so that the majority of long-time fans of the original aren’t going to be that impressed either.

          • GQSioux

            Oh I know you didn’t hate it, I was referring to the other extreme nagative reviews out there, ie: like Harry Knowles’ uncalled for rabit rant. I had to stop reading half way thru.

          • aliensharkboy

            Hmmmm… well, everyone knew it wasn’t going to be great, but I still can’t wait to see a new chapter in “The Thing” story, I’ve waited for this prequel long enough now, and I am sure it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be.

            I do very much look forward to what GQSioux said about all the familiar detail through out the film.

      • Shambling_in_Bandages

        They could even find a way to tie it all in to the original ‘Thing from Another World’ and make it a “quadrilogy”; man, it would be super-awesome!

  • DavidFullam

    The minute I read that Americans were going to be in the Norwegian camp, I knew this would be a load of garbage that wouldn’t do it right. Leave it alone. We don’t need, prequels, sequels, remakes, side stories, etc to one of the best Horror films ever made.

  • CrimsonKing82

    I saw this at a screening last night, and the CGI killed this film for me. I’m sorry but 29 years ago they were able to do more with less money. They did some nice practical effects, especially the autopsy scene, but everything else made me feel like I was playing a video game. There were some good tie in moments, and you have to give them credit for going back to the original remake and explaining the damage that the American crew found when they visit the Norweigian base camp.

    However, the biggest flaw of this film is….SPOILER ALERT.

    The main female lead and American scientists. This film would have been better without her, and it should have only focused on the Norwegian team. Hell even the dialouge should have been in Norwegian! I know that it isn’t possible to have the entire movie subtitled, as people wouldn’t want to see it, but those characters brought out the essence of what made 82’s Thing so good. Also the true hero of the movie, should have been Lars, which ties the two movies together beautifully, but instead, he disappears off Camera for the last Act of the movie only to reappear with no explanation.

    This film needed a few more re-writes, and I agree with the above review, it hits to many of the same notes found in Carpenters. OH look here is the scene where they will test each other etc.

    Again this should have just been about the Norwegian team. Have only one of them be turned, and have the rest of them begin turning on each other as they are slowly driven mad… Or at least something new!

    Really disappointed in this. They should have made a sequel instead based on the video game that came out a few years ago.

  • Terminal

    “I know that as a woman I should be applauding the fact that Winstead is actually the film’s lead”

    Uh why again? I mean The Thing was great because it had an all male cast of seasoned veterans, why should women applaud the casting of a woman? It’s not like Carpenter’s film was sexist of misogynist.

    • thehorrorchick

      Never did I say that Carpenter’s version was misogynistic (and in fact, I applauded his use of an all-male cast)…what I meant was, very rarely these days do we have women playing true heroes anymore but in this instance, Mary Elizabeth’s character feels forced and very awkward (like to give male audiences something to look at beyond a bunch of dudes)…that’s all.

      Most women in the horror world get upset because truly heroic and intelligent female roles aren’t more prevalent or whatever…and I’m not necessarily of that opinion here. They should have served the story with their characters in this one, not catered to the masses.

      • Diavolo

        On first hearing that a female character was going to be introduced it felt like a choice made to attract a demographic, rather than to enhance the story.
        Your entire review confirms what most of us feared, a remake dressed as a prequel. Enough time has passed so that a entirely new generation that has not seen the original will be attracted to what is obviously a great plot, but by calling it a prequel they can pull in fans of the original as well.

        I’ll still watch it though.

  • MagusMaleficus

    ‘Tis a bummer, but I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised. Would it kill studios to hire more practical FX teams for this kind of work? How much time does CGI really save?

    • Uncle Creepy

      Lots actually. Take the simplest of effects gags – a blood squib. You’re a director staging a shot with a victim in front of a wall. The squib misfires and doesn’t spray where it should. Now let’s say that the wall is white. You’d probably have to repaint the damned thing for it to read correctly, then reset the entire gag and there’s still no guarantee everything will go off okay. This can take hours in comparison to a digital shot fixing it in ten seconds.

      Don’t get me wrong, I way prefer practical effects. Just playing devil’s advocate after having been on many a set and speaking with many a director.

      • will graham

        The annoying thing is that of all effects, blood is the most unconvincing in cgi.

      • thehorrorchick

        This isn’t a case of people inserting in CGI blood everywhere, it’s the layering of CGI over the practical effects that ruined the look of all the stellar creature work that actually is in the movie. Some movies can pull off having CGI complement their creatures; THE THING did not. Universal is notorious for bad CGI in their movies (look at all THE MUMMY flicks: cringe-inducing at best now) and this is no different. If they were planning to use CGI, they should have gone with a better company.

        • The Buz

          Universal is known for this huh? So the Jurassic Park films, Gladiator, War of the Worlds, King Kong, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Dawn of the Dead etc….notoriously bad CGI?

          Not that I disagree with you on The Mummy films, but saying Uni is known for this is a fairly large brush stroke.

          • MagusMaleficus

            To be fair, you can’t really credit Universal for the successes of ILM, WETA, etc. They just hired them.

          • thehorrorchick

            Buz, you’re right- I should have specified the non-WETA & ILM projects from the WETA/ILM ones- of course things like JP and KK are masterpieces still in the FX department; I had just been revisiting the Mummy movies and I guess that shitty fx was stuck in my head…

          • aliensharkboy

            I remember The Mummy having some pretty cool effects for it’s time… I don’t remember the sequels though, maybe that’s where the bad effects really came in?

      • MagusMaleficus

        I know, just a hardcore practical effects guy griping. Sure, it saves time, but quality takes time. When filmmakers refuse to invest time to make efffects work…well that just gets my fucking goat.