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Some-THING wicked comes this way

 

The thing about “The Thing” is, among other things, that it has a valid reason for being an obvious cash grab for the money-hungry remake machine.  

It’s perfectly logical to have a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic of the same name, as early on in that film our American researchers in Antarctica discovered a Norwegian base camp that had apparently come under siege by a particularly gnarly alien creature that can perfectly replicate any organic life form.  

The Americans unknowingly allow the alien into their own camp and high jinks ensue, but people always sort of wonder what happened at that Norwegian camp.  

Now in 2011, we get “The Thing,” which, even though it has the same title as the 1982 film, is actually a prequel. We finally get to see exactly what went on with those Norwegians.  

The answer is: pretty much the same stuff that happened in the other movie.  

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who’s been making quite a name for herself in genre films like “Death Proof” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” stars as Kate, an American paleontologist called down to Antarctica after Norwegian researchers discover something buried in the ice.  

Winstead has proven herself quite a hand in these kinds of movies, and while she doesn’t exactly play Kate with a Ripley-esque resolve, she’s still capable and intelligent. She’s also the only character whose name I remember, though since they’re all mostly Norwegian, I’m assuming there’s a Lars and a Sven in there somewhere.

Her performance is hindered by uneven writing.  In one scene she tells everyone not to go off alone with anyone because anyone in the camp could be the alien, and then in the very next scene, she goes and does exactly what she just told everyone else not to.  

It also doesn’t help that the original starred Kurt Russell, and Winstead is no Kurt Russell.

The rest of the cast has some familiar faces, but they are mostly just cannon fodder, and you’re really not given a reason to care about any of them.  Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) is almost good, but he’s meant to be this movie’s version of Russell and, like Winstead, he’s no Kurt Russell.

Compare this to the original movie, where pretty much all the human characters are fairly well fleshed-out and, dare I say, fun to watch.  There was also no female presence at all in that movie, which worked wonders in that case because all the macho posturing only added to the paranoia.  

The new movie never comes close to making you really care who is or isn’t the titular “Thing.”

Speaking of which, the creature itself is the biggest disappointment here.  I could write an entire column about my preference for practical effects over computer-generated imagery, and this movie is a great example of why.  

The original film was a landmark in special effects and really made you believe that a man’s head could rip itself off, sprout spider legs and attempt to escape on its own. And besides that, even the worst practical effects have more verisimilitude than the best CGI because, in the end, it’s something that’s really there.  

“The Thing” in the new version is all CG, and very poorly done CG at that.  Instead of thinking, “Holy hell, how are they gonna get away from that?” I was thinking, “Holy hell, that computer animation looks really bad.”

The creature also behaves very differently from how it does in the ’82 film, roaring and stomping like a T-Rex instead of being sly and doing everything it can to conceal itself.  That made the moments where you actually do see it that much more frightening.    

Also, maybe I’m just getting old, but I had to cover my ears whenever it took to screaming and snarling.  

The movie is just too loud.

What’s good about this movie, though?  Well, it’s a heck of a lot better than most other remake/reboot/re-whatevers out there. 

It also functions pretty well as a prequel and never steps on the toes of the original.  It even adds a few ideas that I thought were cool.  I especially liked the discovery that the alien can’t replicate inorganic matter, such as fillings or metal plates.  This provided a clever way to not rehash the blood-test scene from the original.  

Though one addition I did not care for was showing the inside of the alien’s spacecraft, as that scene contains one of the single worst CGI effects I’ve ever seen.

The movie leads right up to the beginning of the original. Though that ending does seem somewhat tacked on, it was the most enjoyable part of the whole thing for me.

So, in the end, we’re left with a movie that’s pretty good but hardly memorable.  Carpenter’s film is remembered 30 years later as a classic, but this movie will likely be forgotten by next year.  

It’s not scary and doesn’t really bring anything substantial to the table besides some harmless entertainment.  I’d suggest just Netflixing the original, as it’s currently available for instant streaming.  

Sure, this new “Thing” is better than most other remakes or prequels, but is something good just because it sucks slightly less than everything else out there?