Review Date: 10/29/11
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Upon the recommendation of several friends, I finally decided to check out the prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 version of "The Thing" and was pleasantly surprised. While it's not a great movie, it does feature the best closing credits epilogue I've ever seen, and hearing Ennio Morricone's theme music as the film dovetails into the beginning of Carpenter's film is guaranteed to give you thrills and chills. As soon as you see the old 1990's version of the Universal logo come up, you know that it's going to be a fan-boy movie and the filmmakers go to great lengths to recreate places and events from the original. Not surprisingly, the film opens with a group of Norwegian scientists discovering a flying saucer in Antarctica. They also find a mysterious creature frozen in the ice nearby. American paleontologist Kate Lloyd (cute Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is brought to the site to help excavate and study the creature, but the creature has other plans and manages to thaw out of its icy coffin and wreak havoc on the camp. The creature can imitate any organisms that it comes in contact with, which causes the cast to become overly paranoid and suspicious of each other. Whereas Carpenter's film played this psychological angle perfectly, this new film opts to play out like an "Alien" (1979) derivative monster movie instead.
The visual effects are good and the designs stay true to Rob Bottin's exemplary work in the original, but they lack the visceral realism and physicality of Bottin's work. Visual effects work best when you can believe that they have mass and occupy the same space as the characters. Sadly, this is the greatest drawback of using CGI effects. The final monster also looks rather silly, even though it attempts to emulate unused footage of the Blair monster from the original. The acting is serviceable and Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a good job of playing a tough scientist babe with a flame-thrower. Unfortunately, the film lacks subtlety on nearly every front, and the final reveal is completely ruined by a heavy-handed explanation intended for people in the audience who are too stupid to put the pieces together themselves. Disappointing and unnecessary. And while the film remains faithful to the original, it contains several logic holes and discrepancies. The infected retain most of the traits and memories of their former selves, but their motivations are inconsistent and unclear. Most notably, the reveal of the spacecraft is at odds with the video footage that the Americans recover in Carpenter's film. These are minor complaints, though, and overall the film does an excellent job of accomplishing what it set out to do.