Review in a Hurry: In 1982, John Carpenter knew how to do a remake. Take the basic idea of an older horror movie (and its source novella), radically reconceive the monster and do an original take. This “premake”—officially a prequel, but beat-for-beat pretty much a remake—is the opposite. Like the creature of the title, it offers us a juiced-up but inadequate copy.
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The Bigger Picture: What really happened in that burned out Norwegian camp they found in Carpenter’s The Thing? Were you dying to know? Was it not sufficient to have a pretty good idea that a shape-shifting alien monster ran amok prior to taking on Kurt Russell? Not when there might be money to be made. So here we flash back to before the burning and are presented with yet another tale of a monster in an isolated place knocking off characters one by one, generally leaving the more famous names for last.
Since this movie had to exist, it was a good call getting Mary Elizabeth Winstead for the lead role, both because her performance is solid and because the complete lack of any female characters is strongly suspected to be one of the reason’s 1982′s iteration initially failed at the box office. Sticking to the story so slavishly, however, was a mistake that leads to massive leaps in logic. These guys discover a massive space ship under the ice, and a frozen fossil (they think) of its pilot. And yet they spend all their time on the fossil?
What about that creepy guy who’s in charge of the mission? He seems to know more than he lets on, right? Could that lead to an interesting twist? No, because they never go anywhere with it; he’s just a dick, apparently. As for the monster itself, we’re told it can’t replicate inorganic matter like metal fillings. Yet it is either capable of imitating clothes exactly, or it’s damn good at putting pants on one leg at a time…for a flailing mass of tentacles and teeth.
With the advances in special effects, one would hope at least for a better beastie. Conceptually, there are some decent ideas here, albeit many that have already appeared in Resident Evil games.
Considering the material, it’s to the cast’s credit that they don’t phone it in. But with no surprises and not much plot, it’s impossible to recommend this to anyone who either has seen or wants to see the ’82 model.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Stick through the end credits for the only nod to the earlier film that matters.
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