Review: The Thing (2011)

Upon discovering an extraterrestrial lifeform, Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) handpicks top minds, including student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), to carry out experiments upon it at a remote Antarctic research site. When the alien breaks free, the team must combat unease and distrust to stop it before it’s too late.

Pitched as a prequel to John Carpenter’s cult classic, Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr.’s The Thing attempts to cleverly replicate the tone and atmosphere executed by the original. However, screenwriter Eric Heisserer fails to fabricate emotionally viable, engaging characters, or a story that – aside from a few minor shocks and scenes that attempt to genuinely stimulate the audience – would make it stand out in its own right. Indeed, while trying to form a common thread that ties the two films together, Heisserer becomes fixated on ending as Carpenter’s film began – much to the detriment of the rest of the script.

Heijningen proves himself as a competent director when it comes to using the camera to set the scene, accomplishing a true sense of claustrophobia through sequences that beautifully capture the encapsulated isolation of both the research facility and the snow-covered mountains of Antarctica itself. Unfortunately, an over-reliance on CGI immediately eradicates whatever shock-value and originality the alien harbours within its interesting conception, and the lack of connection the audience are permitted with the characters never allows the film to amount to any more than the sum of its disappointingly pieced together parts.

Most of the cast do their best with the material they have to work with, but none, other than Winstead as Kate and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot come reluctant hero Sam Carter, are able to mould their characters into anything more than mere pawns in Heisserer’s scheme of speedy deaths and cheap thrills. Winstead, while never expressing the same sharpness as she did in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, shows that she’s capable of handling much more.

In the end, The Thing is nothing more than an uneven rehash of done-to-death ideas, further suffocated by superficial special effects, a sterile narrative and the inexcusable waste of talented actors and an enterprising new director.

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