DVD Review - The Thing (2011)

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (left) &
Joel Edgerton in "The Thing (2011)"
In preparation for the 2011 DVD release of The Thing, the third cinematic interpretation of John W. Campbell, Jr.'s horror story "Who Goes There?," I had Netflix send me the first two, which I hadn't seen before. As I suspected, the movies get worse as they go along with my favorite clearly being the first, the 1951 film The Thing From Another World, directed by Howard Hawks, supposedly.

Watching John Carpenter's 1982 version or the current version, which is technically a prequel to Carpenter's adaptation, I had the following questions. Why does an alien creature that has enough intelligence to pilot a huge spaceship to Earth show no other sign of intelligence? It's an alien that has access to advanced technology, interstellar travel in fact. Yet, it acts as nothing more than a wild animal.

It would be like a human being using his scientific know-how to visit a planet light years away and then once he got there all he did was act like a monkey and throw his feces around. I just kept thinking how did the alien in Carpenter's version or this recent one ever pilot a spaceship. I know that NASA trained some chimpanzees but you wouldn't actually blast one into space all by itself.

The only film of the three versions that even attempted to address my questions is the first. Yes, it diverged from Campbell's story the most, but it ironically and oddly had the most realistic take. What took the realism out of the other two movies is the special effects. The creature design for Carpenter's film was crazy and way over-the-top ridiculous. The idea of its mimetic and human-carnivorous behavior logically makes no sense.

As opposed to this 2011 version, Carpenter's adaptation really becomes all about the paranoia that makes men just as scared of one another as they are of an alien. The actors 30 years ago portrayed it with increasing intensity and Carpenter's direction is steady in its building of tension and suspense.

Director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. doesn't have the same steadiness. I suppose it could be that screenwriter Eric Heissener doesn't give him much with which to work. It could also be that this is Heijningen's directorial debut. It could also be that his above-the-line talent isn't so above-the-line here.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate Lloyd, a paleontologist who is approached and asked to investigate a crash site in Antarctica. She learns that the crash site is an alien spaceship that had at least one occupant that exited the craft and became encased in ice. The movie proceeds to hit all the same beats as Carpenter's film and even shares some of the same imagery.

Winstead, however, is not a strong enough actress to anchor this story. She's no Sigourney Weaver via Alien. Winstead's co-star is Joel Edgerton (Warrior and Animal Kingdom), a helicopter pilot who shepherds the scientists around. I think he's a strong actor, but he's still no Kurt Russell.

As I said, the movie hits all the same beats, but whereas Carpenter and Hawks were skilled musicians, Heijningen is just banging at a keyboard. The movie even tries to end like the 1982 version where you don't know what happens to Kate ultimately, but it just felt so hollow.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for creature violence, gore, disturbing images and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.


Popular Posts