The Thing seeks
to piggyback on John Carpenter’s 1982 horror pic of
the same name — not to mention Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’sThe Thing from Another World, the
original 1951 sci-fi pic Carpenter was paying tribute
to. But the remake/prequel doesn’t have the wit or the know-how to carry it
Near the Thule Ice Station in Antarctica
in the winter of 1982, a squad of Norwegian scientists is motoring across the
frozen waste in a snowcat. One of them is telling an
off-color joke, which means that something horrible is just about to happen —
no dirty joke ever goes unpunished in this type of brainless horror movie. Sure
enough, they accidentally discover, under a glacier, a gigantic cavern big enough
to be a sports stadium parking lot. Parked there, ready for a tailgate party,
is a humongous space ship and locked in the ice nearby is a … Thing. A Thing
they simply must thaw out immediately. Uh-oh.
Anyone who has watched even one horror/science-fiction movie
knows that when the critter finally emerges from the deep freeze, it’ll be a
slimy, insect-like doohickey with claws, beaks, and tentacles, sort of a
reptile-bird-side-of-beef hybrid with mammalian meaty entrails popping out all
over the place. It will also move very rapidly and not have much to say for
itself. Nature abhors a chatty Thing.
The baffled Norwegians are so excited about their find that they
call in a team of Americans, including pretty paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary
Elizabeth Winstead) and helicopter pilot Braxton
Carter (hard-working Joel Edgerton from Warrior).
The Yanks immediately lock horns with the leader of the Norse team, stuffy Euro
wonk Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen), and this sets up a key element in
the cat-and-mouse brouhaha that follows.
Turns out the monster is one of those self-replicating Thingies
that inhabits an unfortunate human’s body until just the right moment and then
explodes out of him/her, sending blood and gristle everywhere, en route to
grabbing and eating the next victim. So we never know who’s human and who’s a
beast. This calls for careful judgment when a nervous
guy named Jonas has his finger on the trigger of a flamethrower. You wouldn’t
want to jump to conclusions. Norwegians would, but you shouldn’t.
If all this sounds suspiciously like JurassicPark
or the Predator series or the Alien movies, you win the booby prize.
Director Matthijs van Heijningen
Jr. and screenwriter Eric Heisserer — adapting John
W. Campbell Jr.’s original story — load up their
dull, torpid monsteroo with leftover riffs from all
those movies. For a better time in a similar Northern vein, search out a pair
of recent Scandinavian fantasies: JalmariHelander’sRare
Exports: A Christmas Tale and André Øvredal’sTrollHunter. They offer a satisfying full meal compared to The Thing‘s stale burps.