The Thing is a movie I will happily interrupt my life for.
If it comes on TV while I'm prepping for a job interview? Well, there is always another Burger King. Honeymoon? The moonlight on the waves is quite romantic, but this guy is about to get his arms chomped off by a stomach-mouth. Look, what does it matter if I miss one funeral in favor of watching Wilford Brimley whaling on a fire axe with a computer? That's why God gave us two parents.
But when I saw there was a prequel for The Thing that looked an awful lot like a remake, I wasn't all that bothered. Like that other known substance, remakes happen. The only thing they can ruin is themselves. And possibly a few careers that should be ruined. Which, after watching the new The Thing, just might be the case!
In Antarctica, a team of researchers has discovered something long-trapped in the ice. Their find is unbelievable: an alien ship. And its pilot, which has been frozen for thousands of years. Overseer Ulrich Thomsen flies out to bring in paleontologist Mary Elizabeth Winstead to help document their subject.
Until the alien revives, killing one of their crew. With the ability to absorb and mimic human life, it could be any one of them — and if it makes it to civilization, untold lives could be at stake.
Which is funny, because the new The Thing is like if the old The Thing were absorbed and mimicked by another movie from an alien planet where everything is crap. Is it fair to compare a prequel/remake to one of the most beloved horror movies of all time? Well, is it fair that the people who made this movie are making snowmen out of $20 bills and then dressing the snowmen with sunglasses made with fifties while you're reading a disgruntled ramble about The Thing's failure that is probably going to spend too much time talking about the thespian greatness of oatmeal pitchman Wilford Brimley? Reconcile that with your notion of a just and logical universe.
It is almost unfair to compare the two. Winfred's no Brimley. Chopper pilot Joel Edgerton is no Kurt Russell. An ensemble cast of Norwegians and people who've tricked me into believing they're Norwegians does a fine enough job, but writer Eric Heisserer, the crayon-chewing genius behind Final Destination 5 and the horrible A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, makes the heroic choice to render his side characters perfectly indistinguishable. They're so identical that if there were a make of car with an engine made out of bearded Norwegians, The Thing's cast could service a fleet of cabs for years.
Even on its own merits, The Thing is pretty crummy. The dialogue has less flavor than Wilford Brimley's favorite breakfast. The most well-defined character of the bunch is Thomsen as one of those scientists who's so arrogant he won't stop doing the science even after it unleashes the venomous dinosaurs or the animatronic robots with the unnecessarily jagged teeth. There's no one to root for in their battle against the shape-shifting monster, stealing any triumph from their momentary victories.
I guess I can praise the special effects. Those are nice! A lot of them are practical effects, too. Practical effects are good for you. Just ask your doctor. Don't actually ask your doctor. That would be a waste of his time and yours. Another plus: it has a few moments of suspense.
But that leads me to another problem. The original version played heavily on the paranoia of not knowing who was human and who was murderous alien. Its characters fought back with careful logic. The remake tries to preserve all that, but is also way more of an action monster movie, watering down the psychological terror without replacing it with the visceral kind.
The Thing is instantly forgettable. Somewhere, I can only hope Kurt Russell is strapping on his flamethrower and comically oversized hat to do battle with this new monster.