Skip to content

The Thing (2011)

by on 2014/10/08

Thing (2011)

“Story by autopsy”

* * *

In university, I had a professor who demonstrated the problem of originality. He pointed out how many new ideas were simply combinations and juxtapositions of earlier elements. My mind was on him, for better and worse, as I watched 2011’s The Thing.

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect when I loaded up this locally coproduced feature. I’m a massive fan of the original film, 1951’s Thing (From Another World), but not as big on John Carpenter’s take, 1982’s The Thing. It could have gone either way.

Unfortunately, it went over to the latter.

I’m sure the filmmakers would be fine with my assessment, as they’re clearly devoted to Carpenter. (While I have a soft spot for him myself, I’m simply not much for gore.)

Confusingly using an identical title, the latest iteration serves as a prequel to the Kurt Russell vehicle, retracing the path of its lost Norwegian team (and their dog). Given the context, we know how this endeavour will go, so it might as well have been called “Ten Little Antarcticans”.

The specifics of the tale are reminiscent of several others, including Aliens vs Predator, Whiteout, and The X-Files: Fight the Future. Two groups, one American, one Norwegian, are engaged in “science” way-down-under, when they stumble across a buried ship, and its mutagenic passenger. What follows is a gradual butchering equally enamoured of James Cameron’s Aliens, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim) taking the place of Sigourney Weaver.

Now, I’m going to continue in a “critical” vein by making a few compliments. First, I like that our lead is intelligent, careful, and capable. Next, I was also interested in the new methods of identifying aliens. Also, uh . . . there are Christmas lights in the facility’s rec room?

Huh. It seems that “making a few compliments” is more demanding than expected.

I respect the crew’s stated attempt to hide the creature — less is more, after all — but I found the execution a bit schizoid. Either the view was too dark, flashlit, and more frustratingly murky than suspenseful, or it showed too much, highlighting the explicit effects.

Of course, those effects are evocative of the original’s, though lacking their goofiness. Likewise, in various other ways, this Thing insinuates its way into the story’s wider world with too-similar plot beats, musical lifts, and matching credit fonts.

In a “making of” documentary included on the disc, someone referred to their enterprise as “story by autopsy”. This comment struck me as appropriate-yet-damning for the effort as a whole. Inasmuch as I see the production’s respect for, and consistency with, its “sequel” I also found the results Frankensteinian: amazing in theory, but uncanny and off-putting. It succeeds more as an intellectual exercise than as visceral engagement. It is as deliberate as it isn’t entertaining.

And, for what it’s worth, my professor probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

* * *

Rated R/18A

103 minutes

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: