Let me start this off by making something really clear. I put “review” in quotations because I’m not technically reviewing this film. I’m not going to give it a score. I don’t think it’s fair, as I’m far too attached to John Carpenter’s film from 1982 to judge this movie in its own right, and I think that will be apparent. If Carpenter’s version never existed, I may have enjoyed this film far more, but since this movie would never have existed if not for The Thing from 1982, that’s kind of moot. Moving on…
I’m going to tell you now, if you don’t want the movie spoiled, you’re not going to want to read this. I’m going to ruin the whole movie for you, but since the movie does a good enough job of ruining itself, I don’t think I’m doing anything too immoral. Besides, for those who’ve seen the Carpenter version, there shouldn’t be too much to spoil, right? We know no one survives, right? Right? Well…maybe everyone dies…
The film opens with their (snowcat?) vehicle scanning for something under the ice, which we’ve all seen fall through the ice in the trailers. Before this happens however, we’re given our first dose of lazy script writing. The character development of the Norwegians is handled through a dirty joke (which is never a good sign of character development to follow) and when it comes to the non-English speaking cast, that’s about as far as it goes in too many cases. We’re never really given any time to learn about these characters, and the film almost gives the impression that as soon as the Norwegians find something of significance, they have to call in the Americans, who quickly take over the show, because the Norwegians are incompetent. If that’s not a sure sign of American film making and mentality, I don’t know what is. And it’s pretty obvious that the only reason there’s Americans (who take over the leading roles) is to appease American and international audiences.
Anyway, the vehicle breaks through the ice and becomes wedged in a crevice (reminding me too much of the scene from Jurassic Park when the jeep is wedged in the tree, and it’s not the last time I’ll be reminded of that film, but that’s perhaps splitting hairs) and they discover the alien ship, which has been hidden away for at least 100,000 years. Don’t ask me how they get out of the vehicle and back to safety, and don’t ask the director or script writer either, because they omitted it.
They also find the alien frozen in the ice, and that’s when they call in Kate Loyd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her partner, Adam, to help dig it out (she’s a paleontologist, so this makes some sense at least). The film then cuts to their lab back in the states, prior to flying out to Antarctica, and personally I feel this pulls the viewer out of the mood and removes a bit of the feeling of isolation. I think it’s also a testament to the lack of subtlty in this film, that she’s listening to the song, Who Can it Be Now. They’re then flown in and immediately taken out to the dig site where they pull the alien out of the ice to cart back to camp.
Now I should take a moment here to point something out. They dug their way under the ice to the alien ship, and at this point it’s still in a cave of sorts. This is an unforgivable, blatant disregard for what was shown on the videos they found in Carpenter’s film, which showed them blowing the ice up with thermite charges, in order to uncover the ship. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t remember the hole opening up above the ship until the final act of the film. That alone is enough for me to disregard this film, but wait, we’re still in the opening scenes.
Shortly after taking a tissue sample from the alien, it bursts out of the ice in a very unsatisfying, cheap “boo” moment, right after another character makes the audience jump by sneaking up and literally saying, “boo” before laughing and walking off screen (ugh). Then all hell breaks loose. During our first good look at the Thing, absorbing it’s first human victim under a shack, we’re treated to some impressive practical effects and a transformation that vaguely reminds the viewer of the amazing transformations from the original, before it’s set on fire and apparently “killed”. That’s the last time we’ll see any good practical effects during a transformation.
Long story short, they open up the Thing, find a half finished assimilation inside and Kate, our main protagonist, discovers through the tissue sample that the Thing can duplicate cells and comes to the conclusion that one or more people may already be infected, and may be the Thing. Some members of the party then gear up to travel to a Russian camp for help (not sure what happened to the American camp) but Kate’s afraid that someone may already be infected and flags them down.
Turns out she was right, because when the helicopter begins its decent and the Thing realizes it won’t be able to escape to this other camp, it transforms and kills everyone on board. This could have been a great, disturbing scene if it was drawn out and done more in the style of Carpenter’s film, with everyone stuck inside a helicopter, with no weapons and nowhere to run. However, all we get is a terribly done CGI face splitting in half, then he stands and “explodes” toward the camera with more terrible CGI, before we’re shown the helicopter spinning out of control and crashing far from camp. Everyone is assumed to have died, as no one could survive that crash.
Moments later “the other girl” (I don’t remember these people names nor care about anyone at this point) changes as well, in a far too fast, far too CGI heavy transformation, before running around and killing someone else. Then the middle section, perhaps the strongest section of the movie starts, where we’re met with a hint of the paranoia of the “original”. There’s an admittedly good idea thrown in (but like most good ideas in this film, it’s executed poorly) showing that the Thing can only assimilate organic material, so it cannot duplicate metal fillings. This comes into play in this films version of the blood test, from the Carpenter film.
Before we get there, there’s discussion and plans to take blood samples from everyone to test for contaminated blood (ugh) but we never get there because, “somebody got to the blood”, no, wait, that’s not what happened, oh, in this film someone torches the lab. So, they have to resort to checking everyone’s mouth for fillings. It’s not a decisive test, as someone confirms with one of the few good lines when he says, “so I’m going to get killed because I floss?”, but it narrows things down a bit.
So many things happen after this that bother me, and it would take me far too long to go into all of them. Things like the mystery and creativity of what happened to certain characters that the original had, as far as when and how they were infected, and the severe lack of character development at all outside of maybe three or so characters, with the rest being Thing fodder for the offensive act of not speaking English. But I guess you don’t need the entire film spoiled, right?
There is one other significant transformation, and that’s the split face Thing shown burned in the 1982 version. Once again, it’s done with too much CGI, but this is the only transformation they give any time to, so it comes the closest to being “good” in comparison to the film it’s trying to replicate, but still, it’s handled with flashy, fast paced directing and CGI effects, lessening it’s effect. They decided to take the route of it being two people, which is taking the design of the creature a bit too literal, but I’ll accept it, except that it then runs off and never finishes it’s transformation. It decides to stalk around the camp in mid transformation, turning the back half of the film into a traditional monster movie, and what little was still standing begins to fall apart.
During the following sequences, we’re shown how the axe got in the wall when a detached piece of the thing, an arm, is crawling across the wall and is cut in half. Not the most creative way to get the axe there and not as disturbing as my imagination made the events out to be during the visit to the aftermath in Carpenter’s film, but hey, it’s a lazy script. Then the split faced creature slowly stalks into a kitchen, where a character is hiding behind some cabinets, echoing far too much of our second scene from Jurassic Park. I couldn’t help but picture the split faced creature as a raptor, and was waiting for it to run into it’s reflection.
The creature stalks around and pounces people like a raptor, and quite frankly, it’s not how I was lead to believe the Thing operates. It should have run off and hid so it could finish duplicating someone, but it couldn’t, because it had to get burned in order to tie in with the “sequel”. It’s obvious that this was the only creature from the Norwegian camp to get any screen time in Carpenter’s film (albeit burned) so they wanted to give it screen time here, but they couldn’t have it finish it’s transformation or it wouldn’t work, leaving these tie-ins (along with the axe in the wall) to begin feeling a bit forced and shoehorned in.
Also, during these scenes, there’s a few more shots that are a bit too similar to the Carpenter film, such as a flamethrower malfunction while everyone’s shouting for him to, “burn it”, and the person who was killed by the Thing, sitting against the wall beginning to change, who is burned while his legs move back and forth almost identically to the way it was done in the “same sequence” from the 1982 film.
The thing then tries to make a break for it by returning to it’s ship. I should also state that this film, while not telling the viewer directly that the ship belongs to the Thing, sure implies it, leaving the mystery out. I personally enjoyed the mystery of not knowing if the ship belonged to the Thing, or if the Thing merely infected whatever race was flying the ship, which is what cased it to crash in the first place. Even in this film it could go either way, but it certainly has an idea of where it wants to lead you.
So anyway, they enter the ship in a sequence that feels like a poorly executed scene from the original Alien, where the Thing starts up the ship in an attempt to escape. The engines, when started, melt the layer of ice covering the ship (you know, the layer of ice that was supposed to be blown up by thermite charges!!!). Of course the two characters to make it through this far are American. They kill the Thing with a terrible slow motion sequence of throwing a grenade into its “mouth” before making their way out.
She then burns her friend because she realizes he’s the Thing, leaving me to wonder why it didn’t attack her in the ship when they were alone, or again when they were fighting off the other form of the thing, when she was obviously outnumbered. But that’s splitting hairs again I suppose. So she burns him, and she lives.
Wait! What? But no one survived! Aside from two Norwegians, but wait, none of the Norwegian’s were even pilots, and what about the guy who slit his wrists and throat? How is this going to tie into the original? Enter, lazy shoehorning again…
She lives, of course (they can’t kill off the main American character)…what happens to her? We don’t know. But there are two vehicles sitting next to the dig site now that weren’t there in Carpenter’s version (ugh).
Here’s where they remembered they never showed how the guy slit his throat or wrists, well, they still don’t. They show the same aftermath as Carpenter’s film, almost as if they forgot about it, then realized at the last minute that they had to throw it in.
Then we have a missing helicopter and two Norwegians. Well, one of the Norwegians believed to have possibly been killed (but we never knew) is still alive. Okay, I’ll buy that, but they forgot the…oh, here comes a new character flying in with a helicopter, making this final sequence feel awfully forced. So the Thing takes the form of the the dog it kills earlier in the film and bursts out of the camp, where they chase after it and we’re tied into the opening sequence of Carpenter’s classic film.
So, there you have it. A biased account of why I hate this film with all that I am. Crappy characters, crappy effects, inconsistencies and forced tie-ins, making me wish I’d never seen it, so that the mystery of the Norwegian camp could remain untainted and left to the disturbing events my imagination could conjure. Maybe some of the deaths would have been more disturbing if I cared an ounce for any of the characters, but I didn’t, so I didn’t care that they all should have died.