The Thing (2011)
By: J.R. McNamara on March 15, 2013 | Comments
Universal | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 102 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen
Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
Country: USA
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Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to a word I just made up:

Represeque (noun) (ree-pree-seek) - a film that has an identity crisis insomuch that it doesn't know if it is a remake, a prequel or a sequel.

I'm not sure if it's a word that will be used very often. As a matter of fact, if we are lucky it will only ever be used to describe this film, whose identity is so confused that it has a massive failure to launch.

This Thing is written by Eric Heisserer, who tortured audiences with the Nightmare on Elm Street remake and Final Destination 5, and is the feature film debut of director Matthijs van Heijningen, whose lack of experience shows in his inability to recreate even a smidgen of the tension found in John Carpenter's The Thing from 1982.

The Thing (remake or 2011… whatever you wish to call it) tells of Antarctic researcher Dr. Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who requests help from young paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with a discovery his team has made. The discovery appears to be a rather big UFO, and with it a creature frozen in a block of ice.

The team removes the large frozen alien and returns to their research station to examine it, when, as expected, the seemingly dormant being comes alive and starts a rampage. This alien also happens to have a nifty secret: it is able to replicate a human form and immerse itself amongst the real humans. So then the question is asked: who can be trusted?

Obviously this synopsis is very familiar, and anyone watching this movie will have real difficulty avoiding comparisons to Carpenter's far superior 1982 film. The characters are all pale riffs on Carpenter's, and the set pieces are all highly recognizable.

The biggest problem I find with The Thing is that seeing as it doesn't have the quality acting and assured direction of Carpenter's version it needed to throw in a variety of nationalities to add to the mistrust between the people in the camp. Carpenter's did not need such as obvious device due to the solidity of the creative team.

A film than bases its thrills around tension requires a lot from the actors, and the cast isn't up to the task here. The addition of a female character - the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead - just made for scream-y bits, rather than adding anything to the story, and she may have been out of her depth. Essentially the film ends up being a Del Toro-ish, Lovecraftian 'Big Monster versus Helpless Girl Whilst Useless Man Looks on Impotently' piece, and little more.

Also, I can't help but criticize the special effects. Considering how far we have come with CGI, I thought the production team could have been more creative than to simply re-hash and computerize what Carpenter did with practical special effects. Sure, it being the same alien there needed to be some synergy, but nothing really stood out in a 'Holy Shit' fashion like the spider-head from the original. Yes, some of the effects were practical, but once the CGI was added to them their impact diminished.

To me a prequel/sequel should enhance the previous story and The Thing failed to do that. Sure, the final act makes an effort to lead directly into Carpernter's film, and some of the set pieces that the explorers of the Norwegian camp come across in the opening act of the 1982 version (like the axe in the door and the general layout of the camp) are intact, so at least from a mise en scene point of view it retains some accuracy, however the identity of this film was muddy, and it all felt like an inferior imitation rather than a genuine prequel, even down to the way it was lit and costumed.
The Disc
The Thing's 2.40:1 HD presentation is mostly pristine, although I did at times notice a small amount of pixilation and signs of softness due to noise reduction, especially in facial images. The DTS-HD Master Audio audio is pretty impressive, blasting the creature noises, explosions, and ambient sound effects across the full 5.1 sound stage.

There is a decent patch of extras on this disc. The first, in this edition anyway, has a digital copy for those who love watching films on tiny screens with inferior sound.

There are seven Deleted/Extended Scenes, titled 2 Phone Calls, It's True, Come in, Over!, That's Not Karl, Colin, Two-heads and Start the Helicopter NOW! As usual, there is a reason why deleted scenes are deleted.

The Thing Evolves looks at the entire making of the film. It is interesting and thorough, and has some intriguing ideas within it such as what the monster's intentions are, and the fact that the Norwegian characters were played by the best of Norwegian actors. The best description I have heard of this film is from this, and it is described as an autopsy… and I feel exactly the same way about it.

Fire & Ice looks at the difficulty of the stunts and special effects teams working together with fire. It's quite interesting though very brief.

This disc also has a thorough and informative commentary by director Matthijs van Heijningen and producer Eric Newman.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I think if you were going to make a prequel to John Carpenter's most excellent film you would at least try to do something different instead of, well, scientists running about in the snow fighting an alien that quite frankly, was far better realized with practical effects rather than CGI. If you ever feel the need to see this, ignore the urge and watch Carpenter's again. Or even Howard Hawks' original version. It'll be a far better experience.

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