Directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen and Eric Christian Olson
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see The Thing last night. I guess all I wanted was to be was scared a little with Halloween just around the corner. Though the movie isn’t great, it’s certainly entertaining with at least three moments where you jump a good several inches in your seat even if you’re expecting the surprise. I’m an old hand at movies, but the director, Matthijs Van Heijningen, clearly knows how to set up scenes and to make audiences jump out of their skin. It definitely made the film more fun, which is exactly what a movie experience should be.
Now, this film opens up in the Antarctic in 1982 just like John Carpenter’s version of The Thing did in 1982. It’s hard to believe that thirty years have already gone by. Anyway, three Norwegians are traveling through the snowy, isolated region in a mini-bus, trying to find the location of a faint signal being given off by something. What? They don’t know. We do, but they don’t. When the bus finally stops at the exact location of the signal (there’s nothing around the bus for miles), the guys kind of scratch their heads in bewilderment. That’s when the ice below the bus breaks and it suddenly tumbles down a long cavernous shoot and eventually gets stuck between the icy walls. When the driver of the bus manages to turn on the headlights, the three men see a tremendously large spacecraft trapped further below.
The film then cuts to a university where paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is studying a dead creature. The creature looks like an ancient walrus. Her friend, Adam Goldman (played by Eric Christian Olson), shows up and wants to introduce her to the great scientist, Dr. Sander Halvorson (played by Ulrich Thomsen). Dr. Halvorson wants Kate to join them on a trip to the Antarctic to study a new find, but he won’t tell her what it is. Naturally, this triggers her curiosity, and she gradually agrees to the trip.
The small team fly in to the Norwegian base camp on a helicopter, flown by Carter (played by Joel Edgerton), who you think will be taking over the Kirk Russell role. He’s handsome, rugged, and smart in the ways of the world. The perfect hero!
When the alien finally wakes up from its deep hibernation, it’s Kate who becomes the kick-ass leader and takes charge of everything much to the dismay of the scientists … even her anal-retentive boss. There were a couple of scenes where Kate reminded me rather strongly of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien and Aliens. I suspect this was intentional on the part of the director. There’s also a scene near the end when the alien unfolds itself inside the spacecraft that was reminiscent of Alien.
Okay, like the 1982 version of The Thing (based on short story, “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell), pretty much everybody dies in the movie, except for the heroine and a couple of other people. I have to tell you that everybody dies pretty damn quickly. The alien doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. Of course, you don’t always know who the alien is because it mimics everyone so successfully that you’re surprised when it turns out to be a person you didn’t suspect.
There are certainly things I liked about the film and things I still have questions about because the answers were avoided by the director, or maybe cut out so that a Director’s Cut of the movie on DVD could be done for later sales. I don’t know. Anyway, don’t read any further, unless you’re willing to meet a movie spoiler face on.
One question that stayed in my mind throughout the entire film was how the three Norwegians managed to escape from their trapped mini-bus at the beginning. They weren’t ten feet down inside a crevice, but rather more like a hundred feet. The mini-bus was wedged in tightly between the walls, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t slip down even further as time progressed. How they escape is never shown or explained to the audience. Of course, it’s mentioned later as almost an afterthought that the Norwegians have a crane for heavy lifting, but then we have to make an assumption here about them using it to pull the bus out of the crevice, and I don’t like doing that.
Another big question that is never explained is what happened to the Norwegian, Lars. He’s hunting the alien down with a flame thrower through the camp during a snow blizzard at night. We then watch as something grabs him and jerks him quickly off screen. The two American helicopter pilots (their helicopter crashed with the alien going berserk on it earlier and then later the pilots showed up at camp during the night and were immediately locked up due to reasons of acute suspicion) show up with one of them wearing the flame thrower on his back. No explanation is given about Lars; yet, he magically shows up at the end of the movie.
A final question involves what we think is the final battle between the alien and Kate. The pretty but dangerous paleontologist now has the flame thrower and doesn’t hesitate to use it on another person, claiming he must be the alien because of a missing earring. I’m still not sure if this person was an alien or not because when he was on fire, he didn’t change into the creature like some of the others did. It’s possible that Kate made a serious mistake here and killed an innocent person. I don’t know.
Now, the things I liked about the film.
Though I only recognized two of the actors from other small parts in previous films, I think the entire cast did a fairly good job with their roles. Mary Elizabeth Winstead had to shoulder much of the movie where she’s both vulnerable and tough as nails at the same time.
I also enjoyed the Special Effects. I can usually spot CGI effects a mile away, but the people handling the special effects on this film fooled me quite a few times, especially with the creature. I mean that sucker looked real when it was attacking people, or hunting the humans down inside the complex for some tasty vittles to chomp down on.
I definitely loved the more detailed view of the alien space ship, both inside and out. You never actually see it in the 1982 film.
Last, what really won me over were the final scenes of the film when the Ennio Morricone music score from the 1982 film started playing in the background. Now, because I felt a lot of the scenes in the movie were remakes from the John Carpenter movie and that the entire film was probably just a remake, I found myself surprised by the ending when it’s shown that this movie was really the prequel to the ’82 film. This movie ends with the two Norwegians chasing the dog across the snow in a helicopter, shooting at it with a rifle. That’s where the ’82 film begins. Everything then fell into place for me and I found myself smiling at how everything was tied neatly together.
So, would I recommend this movie to others? Yes, I would. If you haven’t seen the John Carpenter version of The Thing, I think you’ll enjoy this movie without exception. Even if you have, it’s still a fun film and certainly worth seeing. I mean there isn’t much in the way of scary movies on right now at the theater, and this one is the movie that will have you jumping in your seat like a Jack-in-the-Box and then laughing out loud because they got you good. Go to a matinee if you can. As an employee of the hotel where the movie theater I went to was located, I only had to pay six dollars to get in. This film is worth six dollars for any fan of the horror genre.