Review: THE THING (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Review: THE THING (2011)


When word was out that Universal Studios was going to unleash a prequel to John Carpenter's THE THING (1982), I was very doubtful the filmmakers are going to make things right. After all, THE THING was one of the most terrifying horror movies of all-time and it's a near-perfect masterpiece that was (frankly) hard to surpass. And not surprisingly, it turns out to be a lackluster prequel pale in comparison with the more superior original version.

Taking place three days before the events of the John Carpenter's version, the prequel follows paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being hired by head scientist Sander Halversen (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Goodman (Eric Christian Olsen) to join a Norwegian scientific team who have found a crashed alien spaceship buried deep under the ice of Antarctica. Once there, they are amazed to find the frozen corpse of a creature that seems to have died in the crash centuries ago. Knowing that this is an ultimate scientific discovery not to be missed, they transport the creature which is trapped in a frozen block of ice, back to their base and conduct an experiment. Sander has particularly made a grave mistake of asking one of his team to drill a hole into the ice to extract any specimen for sample.

That night, they celebrate their success over drinking and singing Norwegian folklore but the joy is shortlived when the crew's co-pilot, Derek Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is shocked to discover the creature manages to jump out of the melting block of ice and crashes out of the ceiling. Soon it becomes a bloody massacre as one by one ends up dead and the creature has subsequently imitating them one at a time. Apparently they find out that the creature is capable to mimic any life form it absorbs through digestion. As everyone else start to panic, Kate joins the crew's pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton) to stop the creature at all cost before it's too late.

There's four particular words I would like to address for this movie -- more of the same. Other than a prequel wanting to fill the gap about what happened at the Norwegian camp that remains unanswered in the John Carpenter's version, it's basically more of an uninspired remake. Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore's screenplay is formulaic and there's hardly any refreshing point-of-view that the original version had already done better the first time round. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s direction is terribly a mixed bag. While he does retain some of the style preceded by the original, the same cannot be said the way he paces his picture in a wobbly manner. Most of the time he lacks that crucial sense of timing to showcase the suspenseful moments. Whatever element of surprises that made the original so remarkably well (e.g. the defibrillator scene) is sadly reduced into a series of predictable moments. Another mistake he and cinematographer Michel Abramowicz has done, is the questionable choice of jerking the camera movements too much even during the tense conversation moment. Once the action comes thick and fast, the supposedly dramatic scenes often ruined by tight closeups and wobbly cam. Can't they just retain the sheer brilliance of Dean Cundey's impeccable camerawork had done successfully well in the John Carpenter's version?

The creature effects, which is one of the main anchors that made the original version such a strong cult following, is sadly inferior. Apparently the creature effects which relies too much on CGI is a bad idea since they show too much in this movie. Uh... ever heard of "less is more" approach? Still if take this as a standalone of sorts, the creature effects does retain its disgusting factor that sometimes evokes its uneasy feeling. The rest of the technical credits, together with Marco Beltrami's shrieking music score which also mimics Ennio Morricone's memorable thumping beat from the John Carpenter's version, are fairly competent.

The ensemble cast are adequate at best, though they are no match to the original version's more vivid performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead's first leading role is reasonably good as the level-headed Kate Lloyd but up-and-comer Joel Edgerton is terribly disappointed as the Kurt Russell stand-in (how else to explain especially with all the facial hair, rugged attitude and the same American pilot character feels all identical at the first place?) with bland acting performance.

Although there are a few moment of worthwhile thrills here, this movie remains an unnecessary prequel that should have been left alone instead.

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