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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Thing (review)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton in The Thing

The beauty and the wonder of science fiction is that the genre allows almost any kind of story to be told, and by its very nature has room for breathtaking creativity and wild invention. And yet cinematic science fiction keeps telling us the same stories over and over again… in this case, that’s the literal truth. This useless, entertainment-free xerox copy of John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name purports to be a prequel, in that it wants to tell the story before the story, and in the process ruins the wonderful mystery by lifting a veil that didn’t need to be lifted and then offering nothing in the least bit interesting or even varying from the story we already know. Seriously: everything that happens at the Norwegian Antarctic research station in the wake of the resident scientists’ discovery of an alien spaceship buried in the ice is practically beat for beat what will happen at the American base a few days later, as depicted in Carpenter’s film. But while screenwriter Eric Heisserer appropriates 1982’s plot, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. either cannot be bothered or is completely incapable of replicating the menacing paranoia and claustrophobia Carpenter brought to his film. (Van Heijningen has never made a feature film before, and, I would argue, he still hasn’t. Heisserer is also responsible for Final Destination 5 and the 2010 iteration of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and thus appears to epitomize the career of a Hollywood screenwriter: success comes by steadfastly refusing to have an original idea. I’m sure both have many big-budget studio projects lined up. Beware.) The cast mostly appears bored and fully aware of how wasted they are, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as some sort of paleobiochemist brought in to be Ellen Ripley, and the usually incandescent Joel Edgerton, his vigor dampened, who seems positively itching to do something with his role as a helicopter pilot. No such luck, dude. The logical inconsistencies in the plot are, therefore, barely worth mentioning, though I will bitch about an ending that is less ambiguous than it is plain unforgivable… unless someone is intending to continue the story in a film that would be sequel to both this and Carpenter’s 1982 flick. If there’s any reason at all for this movie to exist, it’s that: to set up a franchise we desperately do not need.

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watch at home

The Thing (2011)
US/Can release: Oct 14 2011
UK/Ire release: Dec 2 2011

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated FFR: failed franchise reboot (or so we can hope)
MPAA: rated R for strong creature violence and gore, disturbing images, and language
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong gore, violence, horror and language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine

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