Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing (2011)

It's Not Human... Yet! 

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Writers: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr (short story "Who Goes There?")
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Braunstein

SYNOPSIS: At an Antarctic research station, scientists discover an alien spacecraft and a frozen specimen from within its chambers. After taking a sample from the block of ice, it becomes apparent that members of the team may be affected or infected.

REVIEW: Hard to pronounce and spell new feature film director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. takes on a cult classic thriller. Any sci-fi fan will instantly recognize character names Childs, Blair, Nauls, Windows and MacReady. In 1982, John Carpenter reinvented and remade an earlier film, 1951s The Thing from Another World from John W. Campbell Jr's short story "Who Goes There?". John Carpenter's and screenwriter Bill Lancaster created The Thing and raised the bar on sci-fi thrills with practical and stop-action special effects from industry veteran Rob Bottin that still hold up today.

Many fans would have loved to see what happened to Kurt Russell and Keith David in the snow and dying flames of the research station.  Dark Horse Comics released a two-part comic series that extended the mythology of MacReady and the thing from outer space, but it wasn't the same as having Russell and David return to the silver screen and the white wilderness. Dark House Comics also released three other The Thing miniseries. Now, we are treated with what comes before Outpost #31. At the beginning of John Carpenter's The Thing, two Norwegians with rifles in a helicopter try to shoot a dog running across the Antarctic tundra. In the 2011 version of The Thing, Heijningen Jr. and Eric Heisserer take on the events and prequel story that lead up to everything we know.

After a scientific research team responds to a strange signal in the Antarctic wilderness, Dr. Sanders Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his research assistant Adam Goodman (Eric Christian Olsen - NCIS: Los Angeles) requests the skills of paleotologist Kate LLoyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to assist in the ice retrieval of an unknown specimen found outside a mammoth structure buried under the snowy terrain. Coptered out by American helo pilots Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton - Warrior), Jameson (Adewale Akinnupye-Agbaje - Lost, Killer Elite) and Griggs (Paul Braunstein), Kate joins up at the Norwegian research station with the rest of the science team. After the successful retrieval of the specimen and the controversial tissue sample requested by D. Halvorson, the team celebrates their discovery. Soon, though, the life-form awakens and escapes, putting everyone on high alert. One by one the creature absorbs members of the research team, replicates their cells, impersonates the host body, and hides within until the chance to attack and convert another unsuspecting person. Kate realizes some of the staff is "off" and tries to uncover who is human and who is an alien, all while keeping the entire base under quarantine.

The predominantly Norwegian cast gives the film the authenticity that it deserves. If you are going to tell the tale of a Norwegian scientific research station, you certainly have the right cast. Thomsen's Dr. Halvorson is ambitious and brooding, Trond Espen Seim's base chief Edvard Woiner is both commanding and deferential. Jorgen Langhelle's Lars doesn't speak English, but does pack quite a punch. Kristofer Hivju's Jones is delightful with every wide-eyed look. Throw in a couple of other Europeans with Juliette (Kim Bubbs) and Colin (Jonathan Walker), and the Americans (Goodman, Winstead, Edgerton), and you have a melting pot of boiled over tension. The only downside to authentic Norwegians is that there are plenty of sub-titles to read along the way.

Using many of the same devices from John Carpenter's film, The Thing focuses on two things. The first is the claustrophobic tension that comes from a isolated location where the people do not know who is human and who is almost human, Even the host body doesn't know that they have been replicated. The second is the ever-changing alien life-form, a gory and fluid symbiotic parasite that combines and tears apart the very flesh it embodies, or has embodied in the past. The story runs along the same lines as MacReady and Childs - paranoia, suspicion, and tension ever building once the alien thaws out. Arms with guns and flamethrowers, it seems that every Antarctic outpost, or research station, whether American or Norwegian, comes with the same armaments. Finding out the who is human or not starts off with the same thought of blood tests, but takes a more scientific turn when that avenue fails, opting for inorganic material rather than a heated piece of copper wire in a petrie dish.

The Thing (2011) may not be what the fans have been waiting for, but the film does entertain and fill in plenty of back story leading up to a helicopter, a Norwegian rifleman, and an escaping Husky. The mix of CGI and practical FX effects may not have the complete look that Bottin brought the screen in 1982, but the new work doesn't disappoint. What The Thing does show is that we were very lucky that the spacecraft crashed into the Antarctic. Because if the alien had found its way out of the craft in a warmer, more populated climate, we would be done for.

NOTE: Be sure to stay for the first part of the credits so you can see how 1982 and its 2011 prequel tie together.

WORTH: Matinee or DVD (for the franchise fans)

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