What has been seen cannot be unseen.
You really have seen it all before. Seriously, you have. What's more is that what you saw before, the film released twenty-nine years ago and of the same name and premise, was better, even if you saw it edited for television, in black and white, and with the sound off.
“The Thing” (2011)
directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.
written by Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore
starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen, Jørgen Langhelle, Trond Espen Seim, Stig Henrik Hoff, Carsten Bjørnlund, Jan Gunnar Røise, Paul Braunnstein
How is it?
I'm biased. How biased am I? Check this out, and then read on. [pause] Okay... now I'll set aside my abiding respect and adoration of the 1982 masterpiece, and we will proceed.
So how is it?
It's just manages to reach the level of an average horror movie, and truth be told, that's being a little bit generous. What is lacks in suspense, atmosphere, cinematography, and dialogue it more than makes up for in lack of audience investment, predictability, and in computer-generated gore and fire effects. It moves in fits and starts, really only gets traction for one scene, and the rest of the time is altogether unsteady. Alas, it's the usual culprit, (attempted) spectacle over substance. In a word: hollow. (I'm not a fan of the "average" horror movie.)
It isn't an ensemble piece, but it's not really a vehicle for anyone in particular either, except maybe Joel Edgerton and Jørgen Langhelle. The actors all do what they can with what can't be called anything other than a very weak script, and that's unfortunate. The characters were all cardboard cutouts for the genre, up to an especially including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ripley, er- Dr. Kate Lloyd and Ulrich Thomsen as Ash the android medical officer, er- the diabolical but Euro-cool medical officer.
The only two that seem even remotely sympathetic and/or not plain old story devices are Edgerton as Macready, er- Sam Carter the chopper pilot and Langhelle as Clark, er- Lars the station dog keeper. Well... okay, three. Hoff as Peder, the station commander's XO, did stand out. These three managed to come out on top, and good on'em.
Behind the Camera
I'll start with the good...ish. That'd be the special effects... or most of them. During production and up until today the word has been they really favored practical effects and used digital to enhance, trying to keep close to the totally non-digital effects of the Carpenter film. Maybe it's a testament to the effects department's skill that I couldn't tell there were many practical, non-CG effects at all in the film. Some were obviously physical, and some had me wondering. The downside is they were awfully over-the-top, very Resident Evil, seeming far more for shock than for scare, and they looked rather raw, like they weren't really finished. Then there was the CG fire. Oy vey. All that CG fire. Yikes. Now on to the ugh portion of this review.
By and large, the direction and cinematography simply didn't do anything for the film except telegraph what was coming next and actually be a bit boring. Rather than usher a sense of claustrophobia and imminent dread, it just looked rather... well, meh, like it was just kind of there. I seriously doubt Heijningen will be given another $38 million to make another movie, let alone a get his mitts on a legendary franchise. Despite his ardent fandom and devotion to Carpenter's classic, his homage prequel didn't work.
The script was just kind of there as well. There's not much to say about it other than like much of the rest of the film it seemed very flat, impersonal, and paint-by-numbers. It's so disappointing because of what the producers and director claim to have been trying to do, what act they were attempting to follow. It really could and ought have been much better. There aren't excuses other than incompetence, not caring, or too many writers. It felt like they came up with a bunch of "cool moments" and "cool scenes" and worked out how to string them together. Honestly, I doubt that's what it was, but it's what it felt like watching it. I think they copied the 1982 film. Maybe that's what we get when you get a script approved and then before filming totally rewrite it, which was what happened to The Thing. There is a lesson there, Hollywood. Take it.
This didn't seem much like a prequel. It felt like one of those new-fangled "re-imaginings" Hollywood seems so keen on these days. It had a few interesting, even exciting moments, but they were few enough and far enough between to render the whole thing just on the lowest edge of average. It simply never gelled. If you've seen the trailer, there are no surprises for you in it at all.
Wait for it to hit the dollar theaters, cable/satellite, or streaming video. If then.