Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd.
The Thing: No More than a Boring Retread
Originally posted in First Run: A Film-Review Blog, by Timmy Semenza.
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Braunstein, Trond Espen Seim, Kim Bubbs, Jørgen Langhelle
What's Up: In 1982, scientists discover a 100,000 structure beneath the ice in Antarctica. They need a paleontologist to figure out what it is, so they hit up Kate Lloyd (Winstead), who is accompanied to the tundra by pilot Sam Carter (Edgerton) and colleague Adam Goodman (Olsen). After they excavate the body of something that appears to have been alive at some point, things quickly spiral out of control once that thing wakes up and starts murdering people. The catch with the monster is that it somehow mimics the people whom it attacks, plunging all of the people on the site into suspicion. Dr. Sander Halvorson's (Thomsen) single-minded pursuit of ownership over the scientific discovery endangers them, as does the encroaching blizzard…
The Deal: This not-quite-a-remake (it's a prequel to the John Carpenter version) commits what I believe is the worst crime in cinema: being mediocre. It's hard for me truly to hate it, because there is nothing about it that is particularly bad. The whole product is merely serviceable from head to toe. What's bothers me is that it's so uninspired, so derivative, so utterly familiar that I really cannot recommend it. I suppose if all you ask from a horror movie is that people get killed in gruesome ways, you will get that. But don't expect any creativity or innovation, because you'll be left feeling as cold as the characters stranded in the snow.
How Blah Art Thou?: Let me count the ways. Winstead and Edgerton, the biggest names on the marquis, phone it in—hell, neither of them are particularly interesting actors anyway. Olsen seems to be trying hard, but his effort is wasted. The script never really misfires all that badly, but that's mostly because there's mercifully not too much talking. The direction presents the action clearly, but there is nothing artful about it. (It was done by über-Norwegian Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., whoever that is) The special effects are overused and murky. The only offensive thing is…
It Takes One to Know One: This dumb movie thinks you're dumb because, towards the end, it points out something to you that any person with a functioning brain could figure out based only on the shots. This is a mistake that a diffident director would make, and that's the impression I got. It was the final nail in the coffin for me.
Oh, I Guess This Was Neat: The very ending ties directly to the beginning of Carpenter's film. I wouldn't know how exactly 'cause I haven't seen that one. But if you don't know that going in, it seems like it's being ambiguous and artsy. Trust me, it's not.