The Thing – 2011

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen, Jørgen Langhelle
Written by Eric Heisserer

So the word has it that this movie sucked.  The box office receipts seemed to confirm this.  Still, being a fan of Joel Edgerton (he of the wonderful move, Warrior) and so far enjoying most of the work of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (McClane’s daughter in Live Free or Die Hard), I figured it was worth a shot.  I have to say, I feel quite satisfied with the result, and disappointed with the reviews that I read saying this was just a retread of the 1982 classic.  It is not.

Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) is convinced by curiosity to join Dr. Halvorson (Thomsen) and his assistant Finch (Olsen) on the proverbial “opportunity of a lifetime.”  She discovers, in their company, an alien spacecraft with its frozen passenger frozen just outside.  They cut a block out with the alien inside, take him back, and…guess what happens.

The path followed has only a slight resemblance to the Carpenter film.  This can’t be helped, as there are only certain opportunities that present themselves within the confines of a camp in sub-zero Antarctica.  So yes, you have flame throwers, quarantined survivors, dogs in a cage (more on that later) and a scientific method for determining who the regenerated folks are.  The key to enjoying this setup is in how each of these elements are shaken up and turned sideways.

Edgerton is a bit underused for my taste, and Ecko from LOST (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) criminally so.  The feeling of watching Winstead as a fish in a new, dangerous pond is intriguing.  Having a cast that is primarily Norwegian allows for her to stand out in a way dangerous for her character.  That they drew on the film Alien is clear in her portrayal, as you get the real feeling that she is battling motives as well as the monster.  Character building is not going to happen to much of a degree, when we see it as she would.  The scenes outside of her point of view are efficient and mostly logical.  The rest of the cast, future victims that we know they are, move along as though they have agendas of their own. This gives the proceedings a more organic feel.

The special effects are unobtrusive, and really, that is the most you can ask for.  Groundbreaking as the work of Rob Bottin was in the ’82 film, the new stuff does look better and it has a strong resemblance.  The key here is that the writer and director took every effort to tie this to the original, down to the smallest detail…down to the last frame.

This film stands as an excellent companion piece to the original.  There are weaknesses, but more strengths.  If you have fond memories of the original, this will only add to them.

(**** out of *****)


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