‘The Thing’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 10:05 pm,

A Review of The Thing Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead The Thing Review

Luckily for the filmmakers, the imitation of a good movie still results in a fairly suitable (if flawed) copy.

Much like the titular alien creature, this 2011 version of The Thing purports itself to be one thing, when it is in fact something else. While it is labeled as the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, in many ways – largely as a result of some derivative scriptwriting – this film is a beat-for-beat remake of Carpenter’s film, only with far less imagination and a forgone outcome.

Thankfully, the combined strength of the premise and an effectively scary monster save The Thing 2011 from being a total waste.

The story takes us back to 1982 Antarctica, where paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been recruited to help excavate the monumental discovery of an alien life form frozen within the tundra. Kate is trepidatious about messing with the fossil too much, but the team of Norwegian scientists – led by the cold Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) – want the glory and credit for making the discovery. Halvorson has his men drill into the ice to collect a tissue sample, and in doing so, awakens the long-dormant creature.

Things go from bad to worse as Kate makes a startling discovery: the alien is a mimic, able to copy its prey’s cells, thereby camouflaging itself in the skin of its victims. However, by the time Kate realizes that there are impostors in their midst, fear and paranoia have already begun to run rampant amongst the team, leading to the decimation of the camp, and the beginning of the mayhem depicted in Carpenter’s film.

The Thing 2011  The Thing Review

And so begins disaster…

Screenwriter Eric Heisserrer (A Nightmare on Elm Street remake) has once again managed to take a smart and rich horror movie concept and drain it of all its juiciest bits. With Elm Street, he reduced the imaginative machinations of a dream stalker to a drab and routine slasher flick; with The Thing, he manages to take a concept that worked so well as a tense, slow-burn psychological thriller, and reduce it to a frantic and clichéd horror movie formula.

At first it seems as though the movie is making the right moves: a good deal of time at the outset is spent establishing relationships between the core characters, such as the hostility between Kate and the dictatorial Dr. Halvorson, or Kate’s passing attraction to helicopter pilot Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton). However, once the creature is loose those relationships – which seemed like seeds for rich psychological horror – are totally squandered as victims are dispatched randomly and unceremoniously, leaving little for the viewer to care about or resonate with – other than the thrill of seeing the creature in its various twisted forms, or the cheaper thrill of watching the body count climb. The film also manages to muddle the entire franchise mythos by introducing expository facts which are totally contradictory to both chapters of the story – such as the alien not being able to replicate “inorganic material,” while somehow being able to replicate its victims’ clothing.

Former commercial director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. tries to recreate the world of Carpenter’s film, and for the most part succeeds. This film has many fun Easter eggs and nods to the original, but like the script, lacks true insight into what made the concept behind the story (based on the 1938 novella ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell Jr.,) so terrifying in the first place. Carpenter’s film wisely used cramped set pieces, time jumps, and selective editing to create its tense mystery and head games; Heijningen adheres to the more modern preference for ‘bigger and better’ movie making – i.e., bigger set pieces and wider spaces. But again, spreading things out completely invalidates the strongest aspect of this concept, which is the terrifying feeling of being trapped in close quarters with something akin to a terrible virus (as Kate herself states at one point in the film).

The Thing 2011 Dissection Scene The Thing Review

One of few non-CGI creature moments in ‘The Thing’

The creature in Carpenter’s film was famously brought to life by old school VFX master Rob Bottin through practical effects like puppeteering and animatronics – but thanks to an overabundance of CGI effects in this modern version, we once again have a hollow creation in place of a more believable, imaginative and original one. The most unnerving scenes of the creature are the ones where practical effects are still put to use, but these are few and far between. Still, to Heijningen’s credit, there are a few well-constructed sequences (see: the dissection scene or the ‘dentist’ scene – both direct echoes of Carpenter’s film), that manage to reclaim that great tension, if only for a few fleeting moments…

Another strong point of Carpenter’s film was that you were never truly sure who to trust, because even the presumed “hero” of the film, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), disappears and reappears and slowly starts to become as paranoid and unhinged as the rest of his crew. Kate, on the other hand, is clearly the protagonist of this horror tale, thereby limiting the delicious uncertainty and dread; she’s presented as the ‘cool under pressure’ type, who never once seems to lose her head or succumb to the rampant paranoia. Granted, not every movie damsel need be in distress, but as one of only two women stranded in the tundra, surrounded by potential threats, you’d think Kate would be a little less composed and rational than she is throughout the film.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton in The Thing The Thing Review

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton in ‘The Thing’

Another very odd choice was to make the cast of characters (except for Kate and the amusing Norwegian workers) almost direct echoes of the characters in Carpenter’s film. Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are almost carbon-copies of Kurt Russell and Keith David’s characters from the original; Dr. Halvorson fills the creepy science guy role originally occupied by Dr. Blair; Eric Christian Olsen’s character Adam is the same skinny coward as Thomas G. Waites’ character, Windows; Paul Barunstein’s Griggs is reminiscent of Donald Moffat as Garry – and so on… It’s almost as if Heisserrer constructed the story according to that old ‘If it ain’t broke…’ adage.

And therein lies the biggest issue with this Thing prequel: it asks us to believe that the same sequence of events could happen to two groups of similar people, all within a short time span (a few days). While the outcome was always predetermined, the filmmakers behind this new chapter missed the opportunity to put their own unique spin on how these events played into that ending. Even the end credit sequence – which directly connects this film to the opening scene of Carpenter’s – feels like a heavy-handed contrivance meant to remind us (in case we forgot) that this was a prequel, and not a remake. But again, like The Thing itself, it’s hard to make that distinction just by looking. Luckily for the filmmakers, the imitation of a good movie still results in a fairly suitable (if flawed) copy.

If you want to know if the film is worth your time, watch the trailer below. Also, rate the movie for yourself by voting in our poll below.

Want to talk about spoilers or the many nods to Carpenter’s film that are in this movie? Head over to our Thing spoilers discussion.

[poll id="204"]

The Thing is now in theaters everywhere.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. The whole idea of leaving the true shape of this thing unknown is stupid. All we know is that it’s on the cellular level, is it a microbe, or a parasite or what, what is its true origin and form?

  2. and how was it able to fly a ship of that magnitude alone

    • I think it/they snatched many other aliens before it arrives on earth, and one had a ship and crashed on earth.

    • In Campbell’s book, Who Goes There? it stated indirectly there was a crew..

  3. I disagree with the review, wholeheartedly. WIth the exception of Winstead, who has to play the “plucky heroine” that movies have become so fond of in recent times, I thought the characters were all right. Yes, the chopper pilot in this equates to MacReady, but I think youh connect Childs from the original to the black guy in this SOLELY because both are black. Griggs andthe characters are all pretty different from the original.

    The original movie makes the point that the creature has no shape of it’s own. The various cells work in tandem, but are distinct entities to do what ever function they need done. It has a pretty long reach. I imagine it can run a craft on it’s own…and we see that there can be MANY creatures from the one.

    The movie was a prequel. It is inane to think that they won’t connect the prequel to the original through the made-for-a-prequel chopper chase from the original. When it didn’t happen before the end credits everyone in the theatre was saying to each other…”What about the chopper chase?”
    I thought it was pretty good.

    • I totally agree with you piecar! first it is a prequel, altho there are similarities which I don’t mind. nor do I mind the cgi…it just enhances visuals. I thought it was great and fit carpenters nicely!

      • (For all those who DON’T think the prequel had shades of a remake all over it.)

        At a camp in the arctic there’s a mysterious occurrence. After the span of one night the camp inhabitants dissect a horrific corpse and discover there’s an alien shape shifter in their midst. the badass chopper pilot disappears and then reappears, unsure of who is still human. They come up with a test to test who is human but the alien surprises them and wipes out a good portion of their numbers. The alien then heads underground to activate a spacecraft so it can escape. The hero kills the alien before it can flee, but is left out in the dark, cold tundra with their camp (their only shelter) destroyed.

        Now… which film am I talking about?

        • The Thing?

        • Star Trek: Enterprise episode Cold Station? :-D

    • I kind of thought the implication was that the alien life form had attacked the occupants of the spacecraft the researchers found, and thus, crash landed on earth? Or maybe I’m reading in to it too deeply?

      • @Victor, That’s exactly what I think happened. Its said to be more like a virus and probably attacked the intelligent aliens flying the ship. “The Thing” is probably some dangerous equivalent of some Earth disease to inhabitants on other planets.

        • Yes indeed, it’s like rabies, but doesn’t only change your behaviour but also your body shape.

      • it doesn’t make sense that the thing would crash the ship after taking over its crew, only to try and use the ship to fly away at the end of the movie. Also, why was the ship there and a alien body frozen at the start of the movie. The ship was still clearly operational at the end of the movie. Why not just fly it the 10,000 years before when it landed there. was there a deleted scene when the thing fixed the ship during the movie.

        • and another note. in the kurt russel version, it clearly showed the thing trying to construct another ship from scrap parts.

    • you are joking right?mre organic? in the 82 version it clearly looks very mechanical,and saying it is very similar is true but they actually did a very good job at suspense and making you wonder who is the thing, this is not relative to this but really?Pa3 got four stars? that is pretty amazing.

  4. Spot on, Kofi, on all points. And I didn’t even pick up on the whole “clothes-inorganic material” thing. Seriously, might’ve been enjoyable if I hadn’t seen the first one, first.

    • P.S. the CGI effects of this movie couldn’t hold a CANDLE to the practical effects of the first movie. I was seriously disturbed after seeing the 80′s movie; this one…mneah, I squirmed a little.

      • CGI is better.

  5. I have a question for everyone complaining about this being too similar to the original. How different of an approach did you expect two teams of scientists to have once they encountered the situations in this movie? It’s not so much that they wanted to keep the movie similar (though undoubtedly they did) but more about how much variation can you really have in such a limited setting with such a limited range of characters?

    Also I feel the prequel tries to be a different type of movie than the original. More of a jump scare type of horror than a psychological horror movie. Which if you think about it makes sense since before the events in this movie the creature had no idea what humans were like as a species, but after the incident at the norwegian camp it could have gained a better understanding of how we think and opperate and changed it’s behaviour accordingly, thus giving rise to the more psychological thriller aspect of the sequel.

    Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

    • About as different as two DIFFERENT people in suppsoedly two different buildings with different stuff.

      If I toss you a ball you are going to catch it. If I toss it to someone else do you expect them to catch it the same way?

      Yes the ball will be caught but not in the same manner.

      Heck why not of had the ship crash somewhere in Norway and for safety purposes have it moved to where it was in the movie only to get free? Half a movie in a sterile environment and have it moved for fear of what could happen. There is a lot of leeway in suspense with has it gotten free before the move?

      Maybe because of the cold it could regenerate/come to life? It flourishes in the cold… oops bad mistake…

      • In the end though you’re still going to have two people holding a ball regardless of how different the methods of catching are. And I think that’s what everyone had been focusing on when saying the prequel is more of a remake than anything else.

        Also a key story point from the original movie was that the ship was frozen in ice that was supposedly millions of years old. That kind of kills any idea of having the ship be anywhere else but antarctica for the prequel.

      • Aknot, that’s just silly. The movie was a prequel set up to answer questions about things we’ve already seen on screen in the original. It’s main premise ties it to that story. It is REQUIRED by it`s own premise to be in the setting it was in. If there’s one thing I didn’t like it was the bit with inside the iced over space ship. What movie did you think you were going to see when you went? The story I wanted to see was what happened at the other camp. How did that brick of ice get in the room? Why did they cut the alien out of it? Why was the hatchet in the wall? What was up with the dead radioman? How about the dividing dead body? All of those things were answered, and cleverly, too. All of those settings were recreated exactly from the first movie. As for the “no metal” thing in…er…The Thing. I agree the clothes issue made it not perfect. I believe it was actually in the movie mostly because it retroactively answered the “Was Childs infected at the end” question, because Childs had a stud in his ear.
        The CGI stuff DID scream CGI. I assume it was a practical decision because onset SPFX is time consuming. I thought they married the two kinds of effects to a decent degree, but at the end of the day, that’s how the movies do things these days. It is what it is.

  6. People always seem to be concerned with answers, like where the alien comes from and what’s its true form. I think that’s pretty much the curiosity the characters have at first, but then after awhile they just want it dead. I really don’t care about how the space craft operates (though I think seeing the interior of the ship was unnecessary) and I don’t even care that this movie has some carbon copy moments with the original. I think horror movies are best when they reveal very little, leaving the unknown ever present and building fear in the viewer, but I also think that the ’82 Thing was deceptively a mystery. This ’11 release was not. The John Carpenter version had me guessing who would die next and who would reveal themselves as the thing. This version dispatched too many characters too quickly to build that sort of tension. And even though the inorganic material idea was a new twist I think there were other methods that might have been employed to unmask the alien, but of course those methods could not be explored with the minute by minute deaths that occurred. I still like this version (partly out of nostalgia) as I think it rates better than most of the cheesy horror flicks that are released nowadays. This version could have been stronger, but I think anyone who talks about it sucking is really only looking for a reason to use “epic fail” in a sentence.

    • What happened to the girl? Or will we see her in a sequel meeting up with McReady and child’s on their way to the Russian base. With one of them being the alien (child’s). Or the Americans and Norweigans sending a team because of loss radio contact only to find McReady, Childs and the girl and one of them being the thing but also the 2 countries trying to fight over control for access of the ships technology and finding out more about the actual owners of the ship and the origins of the thing.

  7. The Thing vs. Aliens anyone, …just kidding ;)

    • Aliens. The things DNA would not survive in the aliens blood

  8. What about those of us who haven;t seen the original? Will we find this entertaining, or will we walk out disappointed?

    • Melenie, it actually tracks on it’s own. It is the START of the story. You can see the 82 THING at home and it’ll fit together perfectly.

  9. I haven’t watched it yet, but Mary Elizabeth WInstead looks really hot in the trailers…but then I like the sweaty brunette look.

    • I agree with piecar…this movie was a prequel and it was very well tied together to the 1982 movie. If you were a fan of the 1982 movie, the big question at least for me was “What happened in the Norwegian Lab at the beginning of the movie? Again, very well done and excellant visual effects on the creature. And OMG…it has been done several time before that aliens can fly their own ship.

    • seen* spelling sorry

  10. Alright, look no on really knows how RNA in DNA works so any statement about “how” the organism does anything is a waste of debate time. They took a great movie remake by a great director/producer and destroyed it.

    Done. I fuggen hate this movie, I hate the people who did this to something I love. i absolve the computer animation and special effects team from my hatred. I love you guys, find real employers please.

  11. Being a huge fan of Carpenters film, I have dvd and blu-ray copies. I mean I could quote the original like Pythons The Holy Grail, but, liked this new The Thing, is there flaws, yes, too much CGI vs Practical, maybe. I see this film as kind of a chaotic introduction to the creature, I mean the creature has never encountered humans before, so maybe it would jump from human to human quicker, remember the more it imitates the more it learns. Thats why in Carpenters film, the thing doesnt go all shape shifty crazy to imitate a human. Its quiter, more unseen. The dog in the kennel is a perfect example of this theory. We being huge fans of Carpenters film get to debate endlessly on two films now. Now there are some things that made me angry, like the americans involvement all together. I agree with some of the other comments, I would be happy with an all foreign cast, I thought the cast was great, they all fit into their rolls nicely, but there was no need to have any americans involved at all. This was done as a marketing decision, solely to bring a wider audience to the film. So everyone needs to remember, that this is a prequel, we get to see what happened at the other camp. Also, So the girl just sat there in that vehicle and froze to death and how was one man and a dog able to survive the night, keeping in tune with the creatures thought process, why wouldnt the creature hunt him down and imitate him? I did like how they showed us the alien ship, but not so much that we wouldnt be able to question what everything was. Like what was that pix elated pillar of light, it seemed to be processing or scanning, maybe even analyzing information the creature gathered. In the end, it was an enjoyable addition to an already great film. (Carpenters) The Blu-ray comes out end of January 2012, I will be buying a copy to watch back to back with Carpenters.

  12. This film was rather enjoyable. Especially found the split-face scene very disturbing.

  13. How are Joel Edgerton and Adewale … that guy … ‘s characters carbon copies of Kurt Russel and Keith David’s?! The latter two hated each other

  14. What was that “glowing pixelated tetris tower” of sorts, inside the craft!?!?!? Anyone else wanna know, I can’t be the only one?

  15. I had to take two stars off and give it three, for two main reasons.

    I was fine with the characters and how things turned out. I’m still happy at not seeing the true form of the Thing as that keeps the mystery fresh, and also just reminds us that it has no true form. It is a virus, or parasite or living DNA strand that graduated to intelligence by consuming intelligent life-forms and thereby learned all they knew. I’m almost certain that the ship it came to Earth in is not its own, but belonged to he last race it consumed. It came in a physical body, but it doesn’t have it’s own physical, animal body. At least, as far as the info we have suggests. We really don’t know, do we? That’s the thrill.

    I think the device of the Thing unable to replicate inorganic material was cool. Despite what the review above says, it does not ignore the rules of the first film. The Thing that attacked in Carpenter’s film was hiding as a dog throughout this one and never became a human itself. Only its copies did. The copies ripped through human clothing and then put on extra pairs once it realized that it needed them. And so, later in the film when characters are attacked, such as the guy on the ship who lost his earring (I forgot his name), that particular Thing had experience in consuming humans, the knowledge from the Thing that created it by consuming the humans was passed on, and so it attacked that guy, quickly took off his clothing, copied him and then placed it back on, soaking up any blood on the clothes into itself, and presto, it defeats the rule of shredded clothing without dishonoring it.

    Anyway, as I stated, I had to take points off for two reasons. One, I hate that the girl survives and we don’t know what happened. I’m hoping she died by freezing after just sitting in that truck, because I do not want any other survivors who know about the Thing other than MacCready and Childs from the first film. And by the way, if you were wondering about the footage from the first film that shows them clearing the ship with thermite charges, we now know that they were only blasting the tunnel opening we saw in this prequel. MacCready and Co. didn’t see that tunnel in the first film because it was blasted into a shape like a hill with a hole at the bottom, if you notice. So MacCready and Co. came to the ship site from the other direction and the landscape hid the spot where the charges were set off.

    The second reason I took off a star was of course the overuse of CGI to create the Thing effects. Jeez, why? They knew it wouldn’t look as good and it would have been cheaper to buy the props and latex and fake blood for physical effects than to pay programers to make all that CGI stuff. I mean, yeah it allows the Thing to move around more realistically, but we can still tell that we are looking at a cartoon put next to a live actor, rather than a physical effect that you know is actually there next to the actor. If they insisted on CGI, why not go for the textured realism that was used on the T-Rex from Jurassic Park or Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean, both of which are the most convincing CGI creations ever. If they had used that level of detail, this version of the Thing would have been more satisfying, I think, on a technical level.

    But, aside from those complaints, I see this film as worthy of the Carpenter film, and I hope it inspires Universal to allow Carpenter to do his long contemplated sequel and get some closure… or not. The original’s unresolved ending was a good portion of the fun of the film, so maybe nothing more needs to be said. We’ll see.

  16. I really liked this movie. Personally, my favorite actress ever is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. To me, she makes the movie all the better!

  17. I don’t know why any of you complain about it! So what if they made a prequel?! You guys just enjoy putting people down and that scares me a bit. This movie destroyed absolutley NOTHING!!!!!! It was an amazing movie and does not deserve such comments. CGI was amazing, actors and actresses were amazing, sound effects, props, location, script! They were all detailed and great. It’s not fair to judge movies because you guys THINK it ruined an original. Sure, The Thing (1982) was an outstanding movie but, so was this one. And for Kate being the protaganist… why does that bother you?! Are you just being sexist?! There is nothing wrong with a girl being the hero of a movie! Sheesh! Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a great actress and also doesn’t deserve to be put down in such a manner. She played the role perfectly. If you GUYS ever listen to the commentary in the bonus features section of the movie they tell you that they were trying not to repeat what had happen in the first Thing movie. They did a great job of that goal. This generation of horror and suspense movies is all about trying to scare the veiwer and being ‘disturbing’ is a way to help. Maybe you guys should check your movie ego’s at the door and appreciate what movie makers hand you.


  19. I really liked the original (1982) John Carpenter’s ‘THE THING’ cause the storylines was a little comical but very dark, creepy, and horrifying at the same time and their acting was great. Rob Bottin’s Monster Special Effects are professionally, realistically rare and yet very terrifying especially. I say the new horror filmmaking guys should think about doing many monster FX, Bladder-FX, and Makeup FX movies because The REAL Puppetry SFX, and Makeup SFX are 90X more real and horrifying than CGI SFX; and they should go back into hiring thousands of monsters, makeup FX artists to get a lot of good puppetry rubber materials, makeup latex, air-tubes and bladder materials, props, and all other real good materials.

    What people did in this (2011) prequel film ‘The Thing’ is the great horror sci-fi film, and their whole story plots are as good as the (1982) John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ because they explained it little more details about how these alien monsters first started. They also should think about make the new sequels of ‘The Thing,’ but instead of phony cartoonish CGI they really should take their time of doing a lot of creepy Special Makeup Effects, Air-Bladders Special Effects, and many, many Monster Puppetry Special Effects to make them even 10X horrifying than ever and should do hundreds or thousands of body monster transformations Bladder-FX scenes. I really hope they will be coming up a great creepy ideas of make many new ‘THE THING’ movie sequels.

  20. WOW, I hate when fans do this. Too many fans of the John Carpenter original are projecting a idealized version of that film that is not the actual original film itself. People saying the effects in the original were superior is a great case of that. Oh come on people – John Carpenter, if given the choice, probably would have preferred to have had effects like the second movie in his version. But maybe he did say – “not fake enough!! I need to see more rubber and be able to detect the puppeteers and stop motion from the get go!!” Or not. Too many fans of the 1982 version obviously decided they didn’t like the remake/prequel long before they actual saw it, an extremely common phenomenan in far too many fan circles. The real problem for these fans is they hate (or just don’t get) the european sensiblity that obviously informs the 2011 director and actiors. Around the world, Americans are famous for their inablity to handle nuance, and the new film is packed with nuance that apparently many Americans just cannot read. From the get go, the relationship between the head researcher and the woman is charged with animosity and tension. But I guess the american fans needed a big red flag and a few explosions to get that pont. they can’t recognize acting as good unless there is far more foot stamping, yelling, overacting, and scene chewing, and lot more yelling. Europeans, due to cultural differences, are better able to read people in a quietly unsettling, nuanced, and claustrophobic setting, as europeans tend not be so demonstrative as Americans. Just compare the enitre history of euro and american film to see what I mean. All that is highly ridiculous when you consider the fact that Carpenter, as a director, is obviously more informed by a stripped down European sensibility, which shows in the 1982 film in many wonderful ways. Maybe Kurt Russel doesn’t always convey a european tone, but did you catch the part in both films when they mentioned the first event takes place at a NORWEGIAN base? I really wonder – if the norwegian characters had acted like stereotypical vikings, like a campy Thor in the Hemsworth film, would the americans be more satisfied by the film? I think they would have. But ultimately, too many fans and reviewers (shame on you) were obviously determined to not like the film befoer they saw it, no matter what the director and the actors did, and some foreign sensiblity where they can’t read the characters (not yelling enough) was just not good enough for them. The bias is so strong, they make all kinds of weird assumptions that I just don’t get – did I see the same film? Its wrong for being a prequel, its wrong from being a remake too, and its wrong for not being just like the original, and wrong for trying to be too much like the original. Whatever, I bet this film will do lots better in DVD among people that just want to see a really, really, really good horror movie, and are less interested in the fan politics and and their various fan agendas. People worked hard to produce this film. Not taking an open mind into the theater is an absolute insult to all that work. I feel sorry for the filmakers, but I bet they made a ton in Europe. Americans just can’t manage that nuance and unless someone like John Carpenter can translate it for them and put it into a form they can enjoy.