The Thing (2011)

OCTOBER 14, 2011

GENRE: ALIEN, MONSTER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

I really wish I liked The Thing more, because I have been hoping for a resurgence of monster movies, and thus I could wish this one box office success (would also be good for the genre as a whole, what with just about every horror movie this year tanking). But alas, if this was a hit, future monster movies would be more or less ripping this one off, and even on my daily diet I don’t think I could endure too many of these in my lifetime.

The most offensive thing about the movie is that it actually has no story of note. I guess it’s good that we are spared lengthy passages of exposition that explain where the monster came from and why it’s doing what it’s doing, as those things tend to be terrible. The problem is that there’s no way to discern what the monster wants from its actions in the film, as it changes its MO from scene to scene without rhyme or reason. At one point our heroine (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) points out that if the Thing managed to escape the base it would kill millions of people. OK, well if that’s its plan, why the hell did it “thing out” and cause the helicopter TAKING IT TO THE MAINLAND to crash? It literally had a free and clear ride out of the desolate Antarctic wasteland, and it chose to destroy it.

OK, so maybe it just wants to kill? If so, why does it then go into shapeshifting mode, hiding amongst the Norwegian/American mix of scientists? In its native form, it’s a giant monster that can’t be easily killed – it seems like it could wipe out everyone in the base in about 5 minutes if it wanted to. But instead it assimilates one of the humans, resulting in a brief period of paranoia with everyone accusing the other of being the Thing (the line “We can’t trust him!” or some variant thereof is repeated with alarming frequency). Why it would be subtle now after crashing a damn helicopter is beyond my ability to understand things, but whatever, paranoia stuff is always awes-

WAIT! Then it switches gears again, once again revealing itself and (spoiler) wiping out like half of the cast in a single sequence. Now we’re back in regular monster movie mode, so I guess the Thing just got bored or something. But now it doesn’t matter, because none of the movie really makes sense after this point, with the Thing (sigh) once again assimilating a human and driving to its alien ship, apparently with the intent to leave. So our heroes drive after it to stop it, even though for all they know it just wanted to fly home since the humans were all too stupid to bother with anyway. I won’t spoil how things turn out, but I assure you, every decision screenwriter Eric Heisserer (assuming he wrote it; I know better than to assume the only credited writer actually wrote what we’re seeing on-screen) makes from this point is the exact wrong one. It’s a film that just gets worse as it goes; I was actually enjoying it for the first half hour or so but once that chopper crash occurred it began an endless downward spiral, ending on a moment that literally made me yell "WHAT?".

Another major issue is that none of the characters stick out for reasons that involve the script. You can pick out Ms. Winstead for the obvious reason (there is another female but she's just as anonymous as the other guys), and a few others because you might recognize them from a TV show or something (Mr Eko!), but otherwise they all blended together; mostly just a bunch of bearded Norwegian dudes whose functions are interchangeable. Can’t even remember any of their names; I think there’s a Lars but I wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a lineup. The only minor exception is Eric Christian Olson as Winstead’s boyfriend (or ex? They have a history at any rate), who scores a few good lines that sound more like improv than scripted bits (if they were scripted I apologize).

One is in the “test” scene, which starts off great but falls apart. The Thing cannot assimilate inorganic matter (fanfic idea: The Thing vs T-1000 with his “knives, and stabbing weapons”), so Winstead figures out that all you have to do is look at someone’s mouth and check if they have fillings to know whether or not they are human. Which is fine, but as Olson points out, “You're going to kill me because I floss?”. And then like 3 others don’t have fillings either, leaving four question marks. But rather than come up with a new plan, someone who is an accused Thing breaks back into the base, all hell breaks loose, and we never know which of the four were Things to begin with and which got turned in the off-screen chaos. I’m pretty sure you could remove the shapeshifting element from the movie entirely and it would barely affect the narrative.

As for the FX, they’re not too bad in the first hour or so. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. wisely used practical FX (courtesy of Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis) for the most part, but they seemingly all have minor but still distracting CG enhancements. The little facehugger type things look great, as do the occasional “botched assimilation” visuals, but when the Thing goes full out at the end (with one character’s face) as it rampages around the ship, it looks like something out of the Mummy movies, and the compositing of the two heroes running from the creature rampaging under the floorboards of the spaceship (huh?) is Syfy level amateur hour stuff. This wasn’t a particularly huge budgeted film, but any big studio film should have better looking visuals than this – especially for the climax of the film. A lame movie can be somewhat saved with a rousing climax – having it the other way around is just inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong – its otherwise a perfectly made film on a technical level, and again, the first act is quite solid (loved the opening scene in fact). But when I have to cease thinking about the already thin plot in order to remain entertained, I just get angry. Dumb spectacle can be fine every now and then, but they set up something a little more interesting early on, only to abandon it. If you want to make a big monster running around movie, fine - but stick to it, don't occasionally make it look like its smarter than its prey just to break up the monotony. And I never enjoy seeing a good cast wasted in interchangeable roles – I should walk out of this kind of movie wanting action figures of particular characters, not consulting the IMDb to try to remember who was who. Plus, said spectacle doesn’t even look that great when it matters most, so it doesn’t even really work on that level anyway.

What say you?

P.S. Forgot to mention, it’s also a tone-deaf remake of a perfect John Carpenter movie.


24 comments:

  1. Caught some good logic issues, the Thing's ultimate plan or lack thereof, how it could've gotten to the real world by just not revealing itself at all instead of Thinging out.


    SPOILERS AHEAD

    Despite liking the flick, the major gap of logic that bugs me is that given the Thing can imitate it's prey's brain and maintain its victim's memories, personalities and other brain functions, I do not buy that the Thing would make such a human mistake and check the wrong ear for the earring. It already demonstrated that it can remember things it's victim does, it wouldn't forget that the earring is on the wrong ear.

    That seems like just a little character bit dropped into the climax to AVOID ambiguity of whether Kate torched a human or an alien. WTF, the movie would've been 50% better WITH that ambiguity, ending on an awesome note. We've already seen a film that ends on a perfectly ambiguous note of "is he or isn't he?" and cutting to end credits before either character takes action. This movie would've rocked if the ambiguity was still there but had the heroine still taken action.

    Missed opportunity, but it probably would've left general audiences on an uneasy note that some exec probably feared would get them to not recommend the film as much.

    A shame.

    Nice write up and I do appreciate you doing the impossible up until that PS ; )

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  2. The inconsistency is easier to take if you presume that the Thing can't hide in one form for long periods and/or that it shifts back under stress/injury. If you can let go I think was a pretty good ride for what it was.

    But the last act is still awkward, the cgi was unfortunate and if anything my main qualm is that it's too predictable even if we hadn't known how it was going to end. I'm glad I saw it in theaters, and it could have been much worse, but it's not stellar either.

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  3. I agree that the movie had a few problems, but one thing I notice that people use to condemn the movie is that it's a remake. It's not a remake, it's a prequel. (Not that that saves it). The biggest dilemma is that John Carpenters movie stuck the closest to the story, with a few minor exceptions, (They American's didn't discover the creature in the ice, the Norwegians did.) So if John Carpenter cut out that part, the new movie really didn't have a lot to go on and clearly they tried to do too much and the script got muddled because they couldn't just do what Carpenter did. (People might have been annoyed at that, but if they had stuck to a structure like the 1980 version it would have been stronger).

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  4. So much anger! What people are failing to notice is this is a companion piece to the original. On its own it's nothing special, but viewed as a big budget piece of fan fiction, serving only to enhance and expand the mythology of the first one, it's really quite brilliant. It was a labor of love, made for fans by a fan.

    (FYI - the helicopter was turning around to land, that's why it thinged out.)

    I loved it. Stop by 31flavorsofterror.wordpress.com to see why.

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  5. I just figured The Thing freaked out and caused the helicopter to crash because that chick was waving her hands around warning them and they were about to land it - so it knew the gig was up. I thought it was decent - not as good as the original film of course - but it was a fun prequel.

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  6. Re: helicopter - why not allow it to safely land then? She didn't know WHO it was, and as its goal was to escape, it would have known that it was making its job harder by causing it to crash.

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  7. I have no trouble believing the monster wouldn't always make the perfect strategic decision. This was its first contact with humans. Maybe it overestimated the crew's ability to sniff it out when it landed. Maybe that's why later versions were more subtle. Maybe you just don't want to imagine reasonable explanations for a movie you didn't like.

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  8. SPOILERS AHEAD

    Good points re: the helicopter, the Thing should've allowed for a safer landing then Thung out at that point.

    Clearly the chopper crash plot point was given more weight than the film's internal logic, so that plot point was carried out at the expense of the Thing's intelligence.

    The Thing clearly isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. My biggest issue with one of the mistakes it makes is that gotcha moment where Kate observes Carter-Thing checking the wrong ear. While I accept that the Thing doesn't always make the wisest choices in this film and the last, I still do accept all of them except for that wrong ear bit. That was clearly a contrived gotcha moment that would make more sense in a scene between two humans playing cat and mouse but not Human vs. Thing.

    The Thing just wouldn't make that mistake. It's impressive that though it's an animalistic monster when it's not assimilated, once assimilated it can behave, think, maintain the memories and personalities of the person it copied. That is pretty established in this movie and the last, which is why that wrong ear bit has no place in the film. Carter-Thing wouldn't make that mistake just like he wouldn't mistakenly call Kate by a different name.

    As for the helicopter crash, BC's right, the Thing should've waited to land safely. That would've been the better strategy but in this film and the last, the Thing seems to usually reveal itself at the most dramatic moments and not the most strategic, which is why I swallow that helicopter crash a lot easier than I do the wrong ear moment.




    Original scrutiny

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  9. "Maybe you just don't want to imagine reasonable explanations for a movie you didn't like."

    Maybe you're just willing to accept huge logic holes because you want to like the movie.

    There's nothing wrong with it, just please don't pretend that accepting holes is somehow better than questioning them.

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  10. How do you know crashing wasn't the best plan? We have no evidence it didn't survive, just like the human pilots. If it did, it would be closer to freedom than if it had landed "safely" amid a swarm of people who might already know its secret. Nothing wrong with questioning holes - there were certainly a few in this movie. The helicopter crash just wasn't one of them.

    And Mike, are you sure Carter was a thing in the end? The scream he lets out sounds awful thingish, but why doesn't he transform? I kinda lean toward him being human. It certainly explains the very human brain fart of grabbing the wrong ear, as well as Kate's moment of doubt at the end.

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  11. Does the film explain how the axe got stuck in the door? Because that is essential information.

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  12. Yeah, to its credit, a lot of the things about the Norwegian base are explained. The axe is actually one of the better ones (the suicide guy, not so much).

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  13. One thing I thought they should have done was not subtitle the Norwegians when the Americans were around. Even though technically the characters don't know what is being said, it adds a level of confusion/paranoia, for the audience.

    I thought it was an okay movie, it was what I expected, no more no less.

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  14. I agree with those that NOTICED that the thing came out on the helecopter because it knew that they were landing. Makes more sense when you PAY ATTENTION.

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  15. Speaking of paying attention, why not address my further explanation of why it made no sense, then? Did you just read the other comments and skip mine?

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  16. John Carpenter's The Thing opened with Norwegians in a helicopter chasing a dog.... so what happened here?

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  17. The suicide guy slitting his throat should've been on-screen. For some reason I thought it would be. Just a good gore moment and a character taking his own life, something we haven't really seen anyone do when dealing with the Thing.

    It should've been explained too. Was he infected? Was he just scared? Unexplained, it's just a moment to tie up loose ends.

    At least those people that went thru The Thing: Assimilation maze at Universal's Horror Nights get to see this play out, which I saw before the film so I really expected it to be in the film that much more.

    The axe moment creates a nice little pay off when rewatching the '82 film after this film. And the set from where the Thing escaped the block of ice was pretty awesomely recreated.

    Sadly the film doesn't really offer anything new other than a glimpse of the alien in it's original form. They should've introduced some new ideas, like maybe the notion that someone could be a Thing and not realize it, not sure if that would make sense though.

    They should've established whether there was some connection between multiple things, whether it be telepathic or not. This would've really assisted that helicopter moment whereas Griggs Thinging out would've made much more sense if he knew that Thing-Juliettte was still down there and will survive him should he die in a helicopter crash. And who knows if he actually did. If two humans can survive that crash, why can't a Thing? It's probably frozen in the ice somewhere close to the wreck. Pretty sure the only death that is certain is Olav's, who we were led to believe was an imitation up until Griggs thinged out on him.

    The mouth inspection scene, although I was fine with the idea behind it, I don't like the way it ended. The film just changed the subject when the helicopter crash survivors broke back into the base. It should've ended with Kate about to look into someone's mouth who's willing to show it to her and have the Thing just basically have a chest burster moment out the person's mouth. Maybe in the sequel if she ever makes it to the Russian base and/or the McMurdle base.

    Also, as it was in the original film, I don't think it's really clear if the Thing is host based or 100% imitation like a pod person. The computer and microscope scenes from the first and this film show us the alien cells overtaking the human cells and becoming human, so I guess that's what actually happens but then if it's host based, I'm not sure why assimilated characters were losing their clothes in the first film and titanium joints and fillings in this one.

    That was still a bit unclear but maybe it's just me.

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  18. The reviewer missed some things here. The helicopter wasn't taking the thing to the mainland, it was taking it to the McMurdo base which is IN ANTARCTICA. Also, the thing only attacked inside the chopper when it realized the chopper was about to land again, as in TURNING BACK.

    Also, this isn't a remake (even though it copies some ideas of the 1982-version), it is a prequel.

    Third, how can you not remember LARS, the big bearded Norwegian who didn't speak English, he was the coolest character in this entire film!

    All that said, I don't believe this reviewer has even seen Carpenter's 1982-classic. Based on the stuff he writes, and the questions he raises it feels like he never watched the old one, and if that is true he should have been disqualified from reviewing this film!

    Do I think the 2011-movie is very good? No, it is just okay, but it does a couple of things to tie in nicely with its 1982-"sequel".

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  19. I’m pretty mixed on this film. On one hand it has many, many faults. Its lacks character development (and with 15 or so character’s that a pretty big problem). It has too much fucking CGI. It's got plot holes and logic faults galore and other random stupidness (The UFO still worked? Did The Thing just go outside to take a piss and get frozen then?). As a paranoid whodunit, it fails utterly.

    But having said all of that, I still enjoyed it. It’s not a pube on the perfect ballsack of the original, but it works as a trashy monster movie. There are a couple of tense scenes and it has some neat ideas (the fillings thing is pretty clever). It has some good jokes (the opening gag is fantastic). The violence is pretty nasty, such as the creation of “split face”. And it has a lead female character that has no love interests, no saucy underwear /shower scene and comes across as capable and smart. And she never needs to be rescued, which is a nice touch. So yeah, it has some merits.

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  20. I'm a huge fan of the '82 The Thing. To this day - when I'm alone with a new dog - I'm paranoid. The '11 The Thing could have been better. I think they had a solid idea wanting to tie things together with the Carpenter movie - but then again - it felt like they got really lazy about halfway through the film. The "Thing Out" on the helicopter - fine. Whatever - this may have been its first time around humans and wasn't sure what would have happened if they landed the helicopter back at the station. It makes sense because in the Carpenter version it was more cautious and careful about assimilating its prey - especially with the creepy ass acting dog surveying the camp. It wasn't until it was tested and proven that Palmer was the thing that it "Thinged Out" unlike the helicopter turn around. I like the idea that a previous poster suggested as a plot device regarding whether or not the Thing in all its different victims were part of a collective conscious and shared telepathic abilities. I was pissed at the lack of creativity when coming up with the "Final Thing". And how convenient that the head scientist be the "Final Thing". Why did he have to be the final mutation that is battled in the film? It had only four recognizable actors in the movie - the chick from Death Proof (another Kurt Russell movie, hmmm), Edgerton, the ever young Olsen (I hated his demise!!), and the dude from Lost. All in all - I will more than likely watch this movie again because I love horror movies and it makes for a good monster flick - but I definitely have to go into it with my common sense switch turned off. Unlike Carpenter's The Thing.

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  21. This prequel version of 'The Thing' 2011 is as good and creepy as the John Carpenter's 1982 version "THE THING." I think they should make another new good sequels... "The Thing 2" through "The Thing 6." And instead of them using the most cartoonish CGI fx the filmmakers should take a lot of time doing almost a hundred of many Puppetry fx, hundreds different types of Special Makeup Effects and Bladders fx.

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    Replies
    1. Most enjoyable moments of the thing: rec room mayhem and the joke Peter told to Lars in the beginning.

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  22. I do not know if you guyz know that there are Video Game called "The Thing" (2002) which takes place after "The Thing (1982)" movie happenings ??? Rescue mission is sent to save the survivors. I recommend to all fans of The Thing. My watching history was, first - "The Thing (1982)", than played video game from 2002. and watched "The Thing (2011)". My biggest surprise is when i watch version from 2011. that i didn't know that this is not a remake of old movie. lol. I found out that after half of movie watched approx. lol. I was so happy to know that this is prequel. Another great thing that i spotted is that many rooms and areas are same as on video game (i played several times i know every step). Especially the room with UFO space craft in ice. That was same as on the video game. Many other rooms are taken from the game which is brialiant for the movie if you ask me. I was full of adrenaline when watching this version, because i like a lot connections between video games and movies. I watched it with my girl, who didn't played and watched old version of movie, so i jumped off on every familiar room, object that are from video game or connection with old version movie. I was knew that she can not understand my happiness. :-)

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  23. It wasnt to bad what confused me and correct me if I missed something but didn't they sabotage the vehicles how did the thing drive one to the ship and them drive after it

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