Imitation Cheese 

The Thing: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Is No John Carpenter.

THE THING “Well, now we know not to microwave the cat.”

THE THING “Well, now we know not to microwave the cat.”

SO THIS IS A REVIEW of The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 horror/sci-fi B-movie The Thing. Elsewhere in this week's Film section, you'll find a review of Footloose, a remake of the 1984 dance flick. And also? A review of Guardian Heroes, a gussied-up version of a videogame from 1996. I'm not saying this week represents all that's creatively bankrupt about modern pop culture, but... eh, whatever. Maybe I am.

That's not to automatically shit on prequels or remakes: They can be solid, and Carpenter's The Thing has a built-in prequel just sitting there, right inside it, ripe for exploitation. 1982's Thing told what happened when Alcoholic Kurt Russell with a Beard matched wits with a shape-shifting alien that had already murdered a bunch of Norwegians. 2011's Thing is the story of those Norwegians. Not a brilliant premise, but hardly a busted one.

The execution, though? That's busted as hell. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. has clearly seen Carpenter's The Thing—his film is crammed with references to it—but he misses the cynical wit and creepy subtlety that made Carpenter's film badass. Instead he gives us cheesy CG.

The story's the same as in '82, but with more Norwegians! A few dickish Norwegian scientists recruit paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to investigate some weird shit in Antarctica. As with every science experiment in every movie ever, it goes awry—one crashed spaceship and one giant ominous ice cube later and boom, shape-shifting alien. Sometimes the alien's sneaky and disguises itself as a human, but usually it's lazy—in this age of cheap CG, the alien is largely content to look like a blobby, bloody fetus as it flails around, clumsily killing Lars or Henrik or whoever's unlucky enough to be within tentacle's reach.

Both larger in scope and smaller in ambition (here, we go inside the alien's spacecraft, only to discover it's the dullest place in the universe), this Thing swipes as much from Aliens as from Carpenter, but only the surface-level pulp. In '82, the alien killed by imitating humans and sowing distrust; in 2011, it bores everyone to death with easy jump scares. Carpenter's movie might've had a monster in it, but it was about the men who were being hunted—which meant it was really about the selfish desperation of everyday survival. This thing, though? This thing's just some stupid monster movie.

The Thing
Rated R · 109 min. · 1982
Official Site: www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/pages/themovies/th/th.html
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Bill Lancaster and John W. Campbell Jr.
Producer: David Foster and Lawrence Turman
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard A. Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney and Richard Masur

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