The Thing (2011)
From left, Kim Bubbs, Carsten Bjornlund, Eric Christian Olsen, Trond Espen Seim and Ulrich Thomsen in “The Thing.”
Scientific Trek Turns Into a Game of Spot the Alien
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
In the annals of redundant remakes, “The Thing” is a particularly irritating example. Though technically a prequel to John Carpenter’s outrageously effective 1982 film of the same name, this new “Thing” recycles plot points and regurgitates key effects, albeit with a new-millennium layer of grossness.
Once again, we’re marooned on a research station in the Antarctic (played by northern British Columbia), this time among a bunch of unwashed Norwegian scientists, all blessed with the same coloring and hand-knitted sweaters. When they happen upon a frozen alien, of course they leave it to unthaw while they party down in another room. By the time they’re done jigging, their guest has already escaped, figured out how to replicate human DNA and probably reprogrammed their TiVo to boot.
Led by an American paleontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, wasted, and not in a good way) and a doctor with all the personality of a multiplication table (Ulrich Thomsen), the scientists begin a game of spot the alien. Meanwhile their prey (which between incarnations resembles a toothy, tentacled vagina) is rapidly ingesting and mimicking characters we barely recognize. Is that Lars, Peder or Olav whose head is sticking out of a pile of oozing viscera? Never mind.
Though serviceably emulating Rob Bottin’s groundbreaking creature effects from the 1982 film (itself an ingeniously updated version of the 1951 sci-fi classic “The Thing From Another World”), this debut feature from Matthijs van Heijningen is as stiff as the Antarctic tundra. Where the earlier film pulsed with precisely calibrated paranoia and distinctly drawn characters, this inarticulate replay unfolds as mechanistically as a video game.
“You’re not going to do a better version of ‘The Thing,’ ” a producer insists in the film’s publicity notes. “It’s not a movie that could be rebooted or remade.” So why do they seem to be doing exactly that?
“The Thing” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Recognizable mutants and anonymous humans.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen; written by Eric Heisserer, based on the story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr.; director of photography, Michel Abramowicz; edited by Julian Clarke and Peter Boyle; music by Marco Beltrami; production design by Sean Haworth; costumes by Luis Sequeira; produced by Marc Abraham and Eric Newman; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes.
WITH: Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate Lloyd), Joel Edgerton (Braxton Carter), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Jameson), Ulrich Thomsen (Sander), Eric Christian Olsen (Adam Goldman) and Trond Espen Seim (Edvard Wolner).