Thing, The (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.
Distributed by Universal Home Entertainment
Premake. Prequel. Whatever this thing is, it gets lots of stuff right. But the stuff it gets wrong? We're talking an epic fail. Treading ground already laid down in 1982 by John Carpenter is no easy task, one that I would imagine is even more frightening than the film itself. Yet, the powers-that-be decided we needed another visit to the Antarctic. Another chilly and chilling descent into the world of a life form that can easily mimic that of anyone around it. How'd it turn out? We'll get to that in a minute.
First up, a quick retread of the prequel's events.
We pick up with the Norwegians just a few days before they were annihilated. Having found both a spaceship and a creature in the ice, they 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 out to the wintry and desolate tundra in order to assist in what could be the scientific find of the century.
It doesn't take long before the thing they found buried in the ice thaws out, and before you know it, all manner of alien-induced chaos begins taking out our heroes one-by-one. Can someone, anyone, stop this creature before it escapes? Of course not! If they did, we wouldn't have John Carpenter's The Thing to wash away any ill conceived ideas found within this prequel. Speaking of which ...
The Thing manages to successfully flesh out even the most minute details of Carpenter's film, and for that it's to be applauded! How'd the axe get stuck in the door? Your answer is here! Where'd the burned up twisty-face creature MacReady finds in the snow come from? Again, it's all here. Except... well, except for the most crucial plot point anyone could ever overlook from the first film: the Norwegians blowing the damned spaceship out of the ice!
In John Carpenter's The Thing our timeless heroes actually watch a tape of the Norwegians setting charges in the ice, thereby exposing the alien craft. In this flick "them crazy Swedes" mistakenly crash their snowmobile through an icy terrain that harbors the long frozen ship. How could an omission of this magnitude possibly be made? In his article Dissecting The Thing (read it here) uber-fan and film historian Michael Felsher waxed on about the possibilities. Did the studios come in and wreck what was for the most part a good time? Sometimes when you ask questions, you can romanticize the answers in your head. Then when the actual reason comes, you're left sitting there stunned by the banality of it all.
When the Blu-ray arrived for review, I immediately popped it in hoping this glaring plothole would be addressed. Well, I got my answer, and it infuriates me to no end. During the commentary track by director Matthijs van Heijningen and producer Eric Newman, it is revealed that they ditched the whole blowing the ship out of the ice thing because they didn't think anyone would believe that ten Norwegians and a female scientist would be able to do such a thing. It was just too unrealistic. Ponder that if you will. Aliens crash landing on Earth and mimicking humans? That's well within the realm of reality, but a group of people exploding something in the ice? That's just pushing the boundaries of reality too damned far. Out of everything that could possibly be the real reason this plot point wasn't followed through on, it being too unrealistic was the least possible answer I thought it would be. I mean, really, how ridiculous can you be?
And the idiocy doesn't stop there either. No matter whom you speak to about this flick, everyone says the same thing... in the last twenty minutes when they decide they need to follow the thing into its ship, the movie goes way off the rails and turns into a CGI-laden mess. That had to be the result of studio tinkering, right? Nope. Turns out that was the plan all along. Gee, don't I feel stupid. Oh, and that cartoonish monstrosity at the end? It was decided at the last second that the final form of the thing should include the face of the film's villian because it would signify the culmination of Kate Lloyd's journey as she spent the entire movie fending off both the thing and the nefarious Dr. Sander Halvorson. Reshoots were mentioned, but it was nothing huge. All this crap... it was all planned. All thought out. All given the green light. I do believe that everyone involved really wanted to make the best movie they could, but maybe they just tried so hard that they over-thought it. John Carpenter's The Thing wasn't a movie based on explosions and spectacle. It was successful because of its incredible manipulation of paranoia. That's one special effect no budget can buy.
In terms of the Blu-ray and the DVD, both are home to the same set of special features. Yes, the Blu-ray with its 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track looks and sounds better than its DVD cousin. In fact, the flick looks incredible, and it really serves to bring everything to life. Every snapping tendon, every whipping tendril, it's all here and in razor sharp detail. Skin tones are spot on, black levels are rich and deep, and it looks as good as can be. On a technical level what we have here is nothing short of another high-definition home run.
The special features in the end are pretty sparse. Other than the informative and infuriating commentary by director van Heijningen and producer Newman, we get a couple of deleted and extended scenes that are home to a bit more alien action, a nearly 15-minute making-of called The Thing Evolves, and a 4-minute look at the film's various fire effects. That's about it.
In the end I'm still not very mad at the movie itself. Lord knows we've seen far worse sequels, remakes, and prequels. It's a perfectly serviceable prequel that leads into John Carpenter's classic almost seamlessly. The problem here is that it's so middle of the road, it's easily forgettable. If people are still talking about this over twenty years from now as they are with the original presently, the only thing being discussed will be what this misfire did wrong and not right.
I only take solace in the fact that at least in my mind somehow Winstead's character wanders across the Antarctic until she bumps into Sanaa Lathan's character from 2004's Alien vs. Predator and they each die in each others arms from exposure! How's that for a downer ending?
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5