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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Remake of remake makes us nostalgic for the real ‘Thing’

    After what manages to be an entertaining enough first act, “The Thing” gradually settles into the middling Hollywood prequel one might have expected it to be from the start.
     
    Seemingly content with bringing little new material to the table, the filmmakers ultimately turn in a colorless point-and-shoot effort that is as likely to stultify the uninitiated as it is to frustrate purists of the 1982 film (itself a remake) on which it is based. Comparisons to John Carpenter’s iteration (while not always necessary) are at times inevitable, as this updated version is more or less a circuitous remake of the film we’ve already seen and enjoyed.

    1982’s “Thing” started off where this one ends: Two Norwegian scientists, having survived an alien attack on their Antarctic base, chase their otherworldly predator (disguised as a dog) into an American site a few miles away. From there, the Americans fall under attack from the creature, whose threat lies in its ability to biologically replicate its victims (i.e., disguise itself as a human).  

    The 2011 film, then, takes us through the events that led up to this point — specifically, what happened at the Norwegian base before the American story began. This idea may have been more effective were it not an almost beat-for-beat replica of what took place the first (chronologically, second) time around. Much like Carpenter’s version, at about 30 minutes in, the monster begins picking off the characters one by one, leaving everyone to wonder who among them is human, and who is really an alien in a human disguise.

    It’s difficult to pinpoint what could have made a film like this better. The premise, while admittedly great, does call for a certain narrative repetition that the filmmakers can’t (and shouldn’t) be blamed for.

    In all, one might leave the theater feeling “The Thing” is harmless, but such is exactly the problem: Where the original was giddily scary, its successor never does anything impressive enough to feel rightfully entertaining, and at the same time never feels shamelessly incompetent enough to be much fun. The result, then, is a film that seems content to wallow in mediocrity, employing so-so special effects and painfully contrived gotcha-type scares to deliver a product that is forgettable at very best.

    Regarding what problems can be diagnosed, however, it becomes clear early on that the monster in “The Thing” is physically onscreen far too much. Like this summer’s “The Green Lantern,” there comes a point where the viewer can observe the CGI uninterrupted for such a long time that he begins to scrutinize it, causing the Thing itself to lose all of the mystery and appeal that Carpenter so deftly supplied it by leaving things up to our imaginations in 1982.  

    By the film’s end, Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. seems so content with adhering to cliches that he ends the film on a gunshot and cut to black, a technique too amateurish to even be taken seriously.  In all, audiences would be wise to avoid “The Thing,” and should instead pick up Carpenter’s far superior version for a scary night at home.

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