Review of The Thing.
It's a tall order, remaking a film as beloved and generally well-received as John Carpenter's 1982 creature-feature "The Thing." But Carpenter's edition was actually a remake of a film from the '50s, and Matthijs van Heiningen Jr.'s new film, rather than being a straight remake, is actually a prequel, which is a nifty idea, because if you'll recall, Carpenter's film begins with a pair of Norwegians in a helicopter trying to kill a dog, who is hustling across the plains of Antarctica. They don't succeed, and soon the creature—actually an alien with the ability to replicate any living organism it comes into contact with—is blazing a trail through an American outpost, killing and eating whomever it can, and forcing those still living to mistrust each other and themselves. But that's all we know. We don't know what happened to the Norwegians, where the creature came from, or how and why that dog is racing through the snow. So, yeah, it's a good idea, but sadly, it's too tall an order for this film to stand up to. Like the creature itself, this new version of "The Thing" does its best to copy the best parts of Carpenter's vision. But while it was almost impossible to tell who was real and who was a copy in his film, here it's easy to see what's original and what's an homage, and what's supposed to be original simply doesn't hold up.
The movie is set in 1982, just before the events of Carpenter's film. Kate Lloyd, a young, super-hot paleontologist, is summoned to Antarctica by Dr. Sander Halvorsen (Ulrich Thomsen), because she's friends with Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), his research assistant. A crew of Norwegians have found something in the ice, and that something (this is not a spoiler, don't worry) is an alien spaceship, as well as an actual alien, frozen for over a hundred millennia. Thing is, it doesn't take much thawing for the creature to bust out of its icy prison, and it isn't long before it's attacking humans, turning itself into perfect replicas of them, and doing its best to eat everyone and escape to larger population areas. The occupants of this little station don't know who is real and who isn't, and paranoia strikes deep, as they say, but not as deep as it did back in the '50s and the '80s. That was the time of the Cold War, and shortly after the Vietnam War. These days we're terrified of terrorists and viruses, but we can't seek them out in our neighbors. The nature of paranoia has changed, so this new version of "The Thing" tries to make up the difference with gore and CGI. It's not to say that the movie doesn't have its moments—certainly, it does, but its faithfulness to the original is to its detriment, because it isn't nearly as good. Eventually it tries to raise the ante on Carpenter's film without succeeding, turning the film's final moments into something cheesy. By itself, this new film might have garnered some attention, especially with rising star Joel Edgerton playing Braxton Carter, an American pilot who, along with his crew, is stuck in the situation, just trying to survive. But you could never make a movie by itself, because all of its original plotting was created almost three decades ago, and tragically, there is very little originality coming out of Hollywood these days. Yes, it's great that the lead character in this is a woman, though Winstead—an interesting actress, no doubt—is also the only person who can understand what's going on, and as such, she's both a character and the film's exposition. It's not to say that "The Thing" is terrible, but it certainly isn't very good. And really, that's the thing.