Before I type a word of this review, I should say two things. One (a no-brainer for those in the know), there are two movies called The Thing. The first is a 1982 film directed by John Carpenter. This one is not a remake of that film, it is a prequel. I'm in a confessional mood, and so I hereby confess that I did not know that it wasn't a remake until after I saw it. That's what not reading shit properly will do to you. Two, since I'm on a roll, I have not seen John Carpenter's original movie. I will see it soon though, and in some ways I've benefited because I get to see the movies in their proper sequence.
Okay, with the formalities out the way, I can tell you what I thought of the 2011 film, directed by newbie Matthijs van Heijningen Jr and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Death Proof, Scott Pilgrim vs The World) and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, Warrior). Despite the pounding it received for being tired, pointless, unnecessary, badly made and inferior to the "original" (ie the sequel), I had a good time watching it. Hit the jump for my review.
The Thing (it has the same title as the original because The Thing: The Beginning sounded shitty) is about the discovery of an alien craft at a research site in Antarctica, the subsequent inspection of such craft, and of course the inevitable mayhem that ensues. From the opening shot, the movie has one substantial boost: Antarctica. Anything filmed in that environment (where they actually shot the movie is immaterial) is inherently moody and scary. The thing The Thing has against it though, is that it offers nothing new: the same old themes (and scares, and cliches) are to be found around every corner. However, I don't give a rat's ass. I didn't watch The Thing for an original, profound experience, I watched it to be entertained. And entertained I was.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good. I like her. Joel Edgerton, despite playing the stereotypical chopper pilot type, was also good. I like him. Nothing special, but serviceable. The performances of the various "Scandinavian guys" were decent too. In general, the ensemble performance was believable despite critics throwing various tantrums about it.
There was at least one major fault though, without which the film would be far better. Unfortunately, the makers of The Thing decided that the "Thing" itself needed to be almost entirely CGI. Not good CGI either. In this respect, the movie didn't fall short, it fell apart. A forgiving viewer could overlook the bad FX and pretend that what is on screen is convincing, but most audiences are harsh and unforgiving. Had a better job been done on the creature effects, The Thing might very well have been regarded as a success.
Being a horror movie, the main purpose of The Thing would surely be to be really scary. Was it? Well, no, and many critics pummelled it for this. Perhaps my expectations were too low (and indeed, perhaps that is the best way to approach this type of film), but I never really expected to be terrified. The film was sufficiently tense, and that is all I needed. Apart from the crappy VFX, The Thing did the job it set out to do... it kept me interested and it made me want to seek out John Carpenter's original.
I'm not sure if The Thing is worth the ticket price, but it sure is worth checking out at some stage. It's always tricky with these movies. I may like it, and you could very well hate it. One thing is certain, and that is you won't love it. But I'm not going to slate a movie I enjoyed because I think everyone else will hate it. Give it a chance. Keep an open mind. Be forgiving.
The Thing opens in South Africa tomorrow, Friday 6 January 2011.
6.5 out of 10.