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The Thing

A movie directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (prequel to the 1982 film)

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Three days before...

  • Oct 17, 2011
Among the most irksome of common cinematic misconceptions is the notion that John Carpenter's horror/sci-fi exemplar The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World. Despite Carpenter's blatant homage to his admitted idol (manifest in an opening title lit ablaze in imitation of its predecessor's), these are very different adaptations of John W. Campbell's inspired novella, Who Goes There? - of which Carpenter's is the more faithful and ingenious by far. Nearly thirty years after Carpenter's first big-budget project flopped when moviegoers opted to observe a friendlier alien, its devoted and enduring fandom has assured the release of a prequel bearing like title.

Introductory events of the 1982 picture render the plot of this one almost wholly predictable: a Norwegian research team stationed in Antarctica unearths an extraterrestrial which effectively impersonates and consumes the majority of their number before the group's remaining members annihilate their base in an attempt to destroy it. Assuming the form of a malamute, the creature escapes en route to a United States' research facility as the survivors pursue it via helicopter. Obviously, the limited projected appeal of this production relies on tentative interest concerning the prior episode, for which the '82 flick purveys adequate elucidation.

Lacking the invention and ambition of Bill Lancaster's phenomenal screenplay, Eric Heisserer's anteceding effort progresses apace nonetheless, providing its audience deliberation sufficient only for brief reflection. Although this derivation affords director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. opportunities to ably implement twists, shocks and a few knowing nods to its kindred classic, only occasionally does it exploit the paranoia of its characters' group dynamic successfully. Too often, Heisserer's scenarios ape those of Lancaster's and their source material; many scenes are mere approximations of those in the '82 feature. In one tense sequence, Mary Winstead examines her acquaintances for potential evidence of infection - a perturbing scene that nevertheless pales in comparison to Kurt Russell's unforgettable blood test. However, these parallels are granted some logistical justification by a solid narrative that doesn't resort to stupid gimmickry or cheap tricks. Only during its last fifteen minutes does this story indulge some singular creative impulses and one sly final surprise as and after its protagonists explore the spacecraft from which the otherworldly horror emerged one hundred millennia before.

Although this is his first feature endeavor, Van Heijningen's position at helm isn't necessarily the result of his famous father's influence; the younger producer has also directed numerous televised commercials and a popular short film - a pedigree no more or less valid than that of numerous music video directors who engage the dominant form with varied success. Allowing his cast only necessary space to fully realize their characterizations, he's a capable foreman of technical detail and performance, but his talent pales in comparison to that of his production team. Michel Abramowicz's limpid, luminous photography furnishes picturesque lensing to exceptional set design by Odetta Stoddard, William Cheng, David G. Fremlin and Joseph Hiura. Recreated in sedulous detail, the Norwegian camp appears nearly identical to its '82 counterpart, especially in its ultimate demolished condition. Even better, the elaborate interior of the aforementioned spacecraft is a calculatedly limited yet intriguing spectacle that answers no questions and inspires many more. Period detail is exhibited by Luis Sequeira's modest costume design and the presence of older snowcat models.

Nobody expected this movie's effects crew to better the landmark achievements of Rob Bottin, Roy Arbogast and their gifted collaborators, whose gruesome, polymorphic beast was created entirely with incredible practical effects that have stood the test of time. Although this Thing is hardly so astonishing, a relative paucity of CG (which seldom betrays its artifice) in aid of some exceptional props, puppets and makeup does produce impressively gory results. Memorably, severed hands animated by the infectious alien strain run amok before coupling for attack! However, the striking efforts of these effects specialists are evidently curtailed by the limits of Heisserer's story...in Lancaster's, the malicious physiology of this outlandish entity seemed not to have any restrictions.

Winstead is usually one of but a few (if any other) personable actors in noxious, sub-par piffle (Final Destination 3, Death Proof, Bobby, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, etc.), and the pretty lead is here well-cast against cutesy type in a role analogous to Sigourney Weaver's most famous. As a paleontologist employed to evaluate the unearthed abomination, she utilizes a flamethrower for foreseeable heroism. Yet here's a worn archetype to which Winstead imbues some understated freshness with nuanced delivery: her large, expressive brown eyes communicate terror, determination and desperate aggression that would likely seem trite as dialogue. Ulrich Thomsen also exudes frosty charisma as the domineering chief of the group's research team, whose scientific prowess contrasts with his inability to govern a rapidly deteriorating situation. A fine supporting cast is apt in doomed roles that regrettably aren't so colorful or individually distinct as those of JC's film.

In summary: for ardent admirers of Winstead or Carpenter's paramount accomplishment, this is worth the cost of a matinee ticket. It also deserves some credit as the first revival of a JC title that isn't an execrable travesty.
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October 18, 2011
Very nice! I think you probably liked this one more than I did. I guess Carpenter's film was more a re-adaptation/re-interpretation than a remake. Liked the way you took the film on point-per-point. Thanks for the review!
October 19, 2011
Thanks for your kind words; I'm glad that you enjoyed it! Despite its narrative's aforecited mimesis, I did enjoy this one for its production design and performances, two elements that are almost as undervalued as good screenwriting by executives and audiences alike. Unfortunately, this release is apparently suffering a warranted backlash against remakes and prequels alike and those of Carpenter projects in particular. So disgruntled are most fans by horrendous remakes of Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween and especially The Fog that they've eschewed this.

The Carpenter/Lancaster adaptation is no more a remake of Hawks' more severe (yet conventional) deviation than I Am Legend is of The Last Man on Earth. Evidence of JC's admiration for The Other Great Howard H. is abundant in his early films: Assault is essentially Rio Bravo in mid-'70s L.A.; ...From Another World is viewed by the baby-sat in Halloween; Snake Plissken's characterization is as much a pastiche of vicious anti-heroes from Hawks' westerns as of Peckinpah's dirtiest works.
October 18, 2011
OUAOU! :D This is a fantastic and monumental reviewsie, Snuudles, heehee! :D I am so excitedsie to watchie this with you *AND* I'm also *really* excited to see the surprises in the movie, heehee! ^-^ It's going to be scary and funsies! :D Muu! ^-^  Heehee! ^-^  Yaysies! :D

*rubs nosies & cheekies*
*yummy juicy kissssssies* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
October 18, 2011
Thank you so much, sweet powdered sugar dumpling snus! This will probably be revised with additional details and some mention of Marco Beltrami's score following a second viewing...if this certifiable box office bomb remains in theaters long enough for you to accompany me!
Here's what you'll especially enjoy: Norwegians speaking Norwegian at length, translated to subtitles, in a contemporary American picture. Refreshing, eh?

*all cheeks to cheeks*
*pip kisses strategically deployed*
October 18, 2011
Oh OUAOU, really?! :D Subtitles? :D That's greatsie, heehee! ^-^ I'm *sure* it will be in the theaters at least longie enoughies for *us* to see it togethersies, heehee! ^-^ YOU are a sweet powdered sugar *and* cinnamon dumpling Sweet Snuudles Buuples! ^-^ Heehee! ^-^ I think that *You* are refreshingsie, heehee! ^-^ Muu! ^-^ Heehee! ^-^ Yaysies! ^-^

*pawsies YOU!* ^-^
*paws - paws - paws moresies* ^-^
*all cheekies rubbingsie!* ^-^
*sweet pip kissies EVERYWHERESIES!* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
More The Thing (2011 film) reviews
review by . October 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
John Carpenter’s 1982 classic “The Thing” was in fact a remake/re-issue (for those of you who didn’t know) of the 1951 film “The Thing From Another World” but Carpenter’s film proved to be a far superior and much more faithful adaptation of the novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. Well, it seems like the success of Carpenter’s film had almost inspired a sequel, and even a mini-series; however, director Matthijs Van Heijningen …
review by . March 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****    "The Thing" opens with the discovery of a flying saucer that has - since it has gone unnoticed and undiscovered until now - been buried under deep depths of Antarctic ice. It is found when some Norwegian researches are making way across the icy landscape by snowcat; only to fall right into the darkness of what lies beneath. The film has been marketed as a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name, which in itself was based on an earlier movie …
review by . October 14, 2011
After the success of a videogame based on the original film, rumors of a sequel arose many times but never came to fruition, with creative differences between Universal and John Carpenter cited as the main reason. It was oft-speculated that Carpenter made a deal to write and produce a sequel provided he got to name has director. But when he opted to name himself director the studio balked and the project fell apart. In the aftermath, rumors of a miniseries on the SyfY channel arose along with the …
review by . October 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Despite sharing the exact same title, The Thing is not a remake of John Carpenter’s 1982 film. Nor, for that matter, is it related to Howard Hawks’ 1951 film The Thing from Another World. It is, in fact, a prequel to Carpenter’s film, taking place three days earlier and telling the story of the ill-fated Norwegian science team stationed in Antarctica. Provided you’re familiar with this story, it doesn’t take a great …
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #30
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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About this movie


Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: October 14, 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Eric Heisserer
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Morgan Creek Productions, Strike Entertainment
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