Thingly thing that thinged my thingy thing thing with a thing that could not thing its thing, ya thing me? Things thinged in The Thing.
Back in 2011…
Let’s rewind back to the year 2011; I was 19 years old, about a year into my miserable stint in the Art Institute and I first heard about there being some sort of new movie that would be a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was simply called… The Thing… I saw the trailers for it and I avoided that sh*t like the plague. I loved the ’82 picture, there was no way I was going to put myself through hell for Universal Studios to make a quick buck off of the name. The movie came and went in theaters, I didn’t bother going to see it and neither did my family. That was basically the end of that.
- 'The Thing' (1982) Movie Review
I take a look at probably what is the best horror remake ever made, in John Carpenter's 1982 classic, 'The Thing'.
Early 2012, I was starting to grow my movie collection and I came to the frightening realization that I didn’t own John Carpenter’s The Thing. Not even on VHS, for some reason my family felt no need to buy it since we continuously saw it pop up so much on movie channels. Being the film fanatic that I am, I felt the need to officially own the movie. For the most part, I hate ordering movies from online, it’s not nearly as satisfying as when I would accidentally by happenstance come across a movie while skimming through the DVDs inside of a shop. This time though, I really wanted The Thing and I was having trouble finding it in stores. So I went onto Best Buy’s online store, ordered Carpenter’s The Thing, and I was set to pick it up that very week.
Come to find out, when arriving for the pickup, there was some sort of mistake… they had 2011’s The Thing ready for me at the counter instead… At first I thought to myself, “F*ck this”. Planning on immediately returning it, then I thought a little more. Thinking again to myself, “Maybe this was destiny. Maybe this was the cosmos trying to signal to me that I should give the new movie a shot. It might actually be alright.” So I walked out of the store with my copy of the 2011 prequel.
There I was that night, ready to go with some snacks while full of optimism that this was going to be a decent time. I hit play under the impression that it probably won’t be nearly as good as the original, but it will probably be a fun enough creature feature.
103 Minutes Later…
Me screaming at the screen, “F*CK THIS. F*CK THEM. F*CK BEST BUY. F*CK EVERYONE. F*CK THIS BULL SH*T.”
Went back to Best Buy the next day and told them there’s been a God damn mistake and I need the John Carpenter version, stat! Got the right movie, went straight home and popped that sucker in as soon as I could. Felt so much better.
I was livid with everything that they did in that prequel. Re-watching it seven years later, my opinion really has not changed. However, I do have more perspective in terms of film and the results of production hell… so I will certainly be unleashing some rage later on. For right now though, I’m going to be as civil as I can. But it’s going to feel so good when I burst… you read that exactly how I wanted you to.
Taking place within a matter of days prior to the events of the ’82 film, an Antarctica research site has discovered an alien spacecraft buried below 100,000 years’ worth of ice and snow. Not far off from the crash site lies frozen an alien-being as well. The Norwegian research team brings the alien encased within a block of ice to their station where the creature escapes, causing much mayhem and death, revealing that it has the ability to replicate living beings perfectly. It’s up to the American graduate student (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and the Norwegian team to stop this monster before everyone becomes consumed by… The Thing!
Where to Begin…
Supposedly The Thing prequel fell victim to some post-production issues and possibly studio interference as the initial screenplay and original cut of the film was drastically changed between the completion of principal photography and the newly scheduled release date that was postponed for a six month delay. This six month postponement included a number of reshoots to “strengthen” the scares and story, creating an entirely different climax and ending, and significant post-production special effects work in order to entirely remove every frame of practical effects used in order to overlay almost every scene with computer generated imagery instead. Let me tell you something, it shows. Every bit of the problems I just listed are apparent from start to finish in this hunk of garbage.
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The story is a colossal mess that goes from zero to eighty in a millisecond, there is no depth to any of the characters, the ending made no sense whatsoever, and the special effects are barely a notch above seeing the Scorpion King in 2001’s The Mummy Returns. Seeing how this is a first (and only) time director for a full length feature, I can only assume one of two things happened here. Either he didn’t have enough faith in the project, so he retroactively botched his own film or the studios saw it and demanded certain changes to be made. Either f*cking way we’re left with a total piece of sh*t!
I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I said I’d be civil, but it’s tough when this falls so far and so hard on its face for no good reason whatsoever. This movie could have been perfectly fine, maybe not great, but fine. Sadly, it shot itself in the foot. With a bazooka. It’s awful. I researched a lot about this film over the last few years, simply because I was curious as to what went wrong. There was quite a fair number of practical effects that were built with crucial amounts of puppeteer work performed during the initial filming. The original script itself even contained some ambitious ideas, specifically in its third act, eluding to interesting and creative possibilities. None of that is present in the final cut. None of it. This trades in on what could have essentially been a passable, at the very least a watchable, film. Instead making a train wreck onscreen, trying to be a generic modern day horror flick, yet couldn’t even manage to be halfway decent on that level.
Original Ending Set Piece
The First Forty Minutes
There really isn’t a whole lot to become invested in for the first act of the film as the characters are all generic and forgettable, containing no attempt of a charismatic or engaging performance from any of its cast members. The opening scene felt entirely tacked on with a sort of action beat to start off with, which felt like a last minute addition to shallowly bump the excitement factor up a tad. However, because I don’t know anything about these three characters that we start off with, nor am I supplied with any reason to care, then all I’m doing is watching things of no consequence happen onscreen. Doesn’t help that we barely get anymore screen time later on with these three since they aren’t the leads. Plus, I’m also wondering as to how they even got out of being stuck from that predicament of falling down into a giant crack of ice in their giant vehicle.
Present were also a couple of softly failed attempts at false jump scares, only resulting in me rolling my eyes. The jump scares never became too frequent though, in all honesty it probably only happened once or twice, but when they did happen they were annoyingly lame. Once the Thing escapes the ice block about twenty-five minutes in, the pace did pick up slightly and the jump scares ceased. Again, never crossing the line into being anything great, but it was at least livening up a little bit. Even holding some of the few and rare shots of practical monster effects that can be seen without being digitally erased entirely from the frame. There’s still a large portion of CGI present, it’s simply not as abhorrently executed as it is later on. The characters become rather moronic though when it comes to facing off against the Thing or on other matters pertaining to urgent situations. Pretty much the first forty minutes can be broken down as being a slower, dumber, less exciting, less intense, uninteresting version of Carpenter’s The Thing with the setup of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park put in place instead.
This is the exact moment when things radically go south. With a vengeance. So somehow, I have no clue as to how, but somehow the Thing supposedly infected some of the Norwegian crew members in between the time of breaking out of the ice and when the team kills it. Unlike in Carpenter’s film, it makes sense why Blair (Wilford Brimley) would come to the conclusion as to the possibility of someone being infected. The dog, that was secretly the Thing, was roaming around the station unsupervised for pretty much an entire day. Several members being left alone with it for extended periods of time before ever discovering what it actually was. In the 2011 prequel, the Thing breaks out of the ice, team hunts it down and finds it within minutes, killing it on the spot. In between point A and point B, the Thing somehow found the time to kill a dog and clone, not only one guy but three, while leaving almost no trace.
Anyways, the movie is dead set on forcing the audience to believe the Thing is one of the no-name supporting characters so that it can pull a bait n’ switch on us. When it is finally revealed as to who one of the infected members are, it is so dumb. It makes absolutely no sense as to why the Thing would do what it does in that moment as it effectively killed itself because of its actions. In order to explain exactly what I am talking about I’m going to have to get into spoiler territory, so spoiler alert from here on out.
One of the crew members succumbs to trauma after witnessing his friend being eaten by the Thing. The three transportation unit members take the ill man onto their helicopter to get the man some medical treatment elsewhere. During their takeoff, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character discovers blood covered all over the walls of a shower. Which apparently no one else noticed, so Winstead immediately runs outside to flag down the pilots to hopefully signal for them land back at the base. They see her and begin their descent. For no reason at all, the Thing freaks out by bursting its host wide open with some of the worst special effects that I have ever seen, causing the chopper to cartoonishly crash somewhere into the mountains miles away. Resulting in its own demise. Stupid.
Now to some, that might not sound too farfetched since it’s a creature that just might not know any better or whatever flimsy excuse someone might want to wedge in. But because I’ve seen the ’82 film, I know that the Thing is smart. It plays the long con, clever and methodical in every move it makes; it doesn’t just randomly reveal itself for no reason unless absolutely necessary. Such as being backed into a corner with no possible way out without a fight. This Thing did it because the movie needed more monster screen time. That’s it. There is no logical progression to its actions, no semblance of consciousness, it’s just a mindless creature that attacks at the convenience of the filmmakers’ say-so.
Meanwhile at Base Camp Dumbass
After the helicopter crash scene, Winstead discovers that all of the blood in the shower had been completely cleaned up. Leading her to believe that someone is in cahoots with the Thing from the helicopter. Why this Thing didn’t think to clean up earlier, I have no idea, other than we needed a forced reason for Winstead to catch onto what’s going down. Winstead gathers everyone into a room to go on this long spiel about how anyone could be the Thing and no one should be trusted. Immediately after her own speech, the only other female crew member comes up to Winstead and convinces her to go into a secluded room away from everyone. Can you guess where this is going? It’s exactly where you think it’s going. Turns out that this woman is the Thing and tries to kill her. What a twist! Seriously? Literally only seconds after saying that no one can be trusted, Winstead trusts the first person that talks her into believing that someone else is the Thing? Really?? F*ck off! Why should I root for this character when she’s clearly an idiot?
Why Be Original When We Can Borrow Things?!
Once the crew kills this woman Thing, the movie starts crossing more and more into remake territory. Recreating scenes in an attempt to ape the first film, but not doing it nearly as effective. Whether it’s the scenes centered on the group discussing what their next move is while burning the remains of the Thing and its victims outside in the snow, concocting a blood test that will surely determine who is human and who isn’t, the blood test mysteriously gets sabotaged by an unknown assailant, so the team resorts to performing a makeshift test on the spot to hopefully figure out who isn’t infected. Only this time around the makeshift test they come up with isn’t the characters testing to see if their blood involuntarily reacts to scalding heat, but rather checking to see who has fillings in their teeth and who doesn’t. To an extent, fine, I get the character’s reasoning. But that, to me, doesn’t prove jack sh*t and only feels like a hollow excuse to create paranoia amongst the group.
Would You Believe It?
Turns out that the two pilots from the helicopter that crashed earlier miraculously survived and hiked down the mountains, all the way back to the research station. The pilots are played by Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. That’s quite the mouthful. Anyways, in this freezing cold film set, the two arrive back to camp to being greeted with flamethrowers aimed at their face. Understandable, seeing how it makes no God damn sense how they survived any of that and literally walked out of it without a scratch. Doesn’t matter since it turns out they were human the whole time. Stupid humans at that since they knocked out one of the crew members to steal their flamethrower, causing this contrived confrontation between the pilots and the rest of the crew. Because of them all being stupid, conducting a meaningless yelling match rather than actually communicating with each other and simply telling one another the vital information that they could easily share, they don’t. Which results in the pointless death of another one of the group and more bad CGI.
References For the Sake of References
When the film closes on the second act and enters the third, the references to Carpenter’s movie start pouring in. Some do make sense, to an extent, such as with the two-face melting Thing. The rest are forced in about as well as a jackhammer in someone’s mouth. In other words, they don’t f*cking work. Remember the frozen man found inside of the destructed building from the original with his throat slit to the point of damn near decapitation? Would you like to know how or why that happened? Would you like to know the story of this man and what drove him to such a gruesome demise? Too bad. It’s an insert shot in a post-credits scene of the dude already dead. We don’t know who this random guy is. We learned literally nothing about this character. We don’t know what events led him to practically cutting his head off. This horrific element from the original is now practically brought down to being a sight gag.
Remember the axe in the wall from the first flick? So does this movie. Guy swings it into a wall to chop at the Thing. He goes back to grab it, Mary Winstead says “Don’t”. Why? I don’t f*cking know! There’s no reason whatsoever as to why he can’t take this damn axe out of the wall. She just says, “Don’t”. So we pause for no reason to bring attention to this pointless moment. Want to know the real reason why she told him to leave the axe in the wall? Because the writers had no idea how to weave that specific reference into the narrative so they dicked it in with no lubrication. That’s why it’s there. Bam! Mystery f*cking solved. Was it really that hard to write in how the axe got into the wall and remained there instead of a character saying, “Don’t”. Here. How about this? Edgerton lunges at the Thing with an axe, misses and he gets thrown backwards by the creature, Winstead engulfs the Thing in flames with the flamethrower, catching the wall completely on fire and cutting the characters off from being able to reach the axe. Ta-freaking-da. I fixed your stupid problem. You’re welcome. No need to thank me. Just pay me for watching your crummy movie. Jackasses.
Don’t mistake what I’m saying here as, “Because this movie has references to the original, that means it’s bad”. That’s not what I’m saying. Carpenter’s The Thing had a number of references to its 1951 predecessor, The Thing from Another World. So references can certainly work within this genre. What I’m saying is that the 2011 The Thing handled them lazily. The references never felt natural with what was going on narratively, they were forced and completely distracting. For reasons that could have been easily avoided if the writers had given this all of five minutes worth of thought and effort, rather than cramming them in because they’re things that happened in the original. That’s it. Some sort of development or explanation is all I’m asking for, is that too much to ask?
The Climaxing with No Bang
This is when it feels like the filmmakers say, “F*ck it. We don’t care anymore.” Because there is no rhyme or reason as to what happens or how certain revelations transpire. The movie basically starts making up its own rules as it goes along. Now this person is the Thing; how, when, where, why? Don’t know. Don’t care. Now the Thing is trying to start up the spaceship and blast off. It couldn’t have done this earlier? Magically the giant layer of ice completely vanishes from above the spacecraft. How? I guess it melted real quick without leaving any remains of smaller broken parts of ice or even water behind. Then the film just stops. I won’t even say it ends, endings have some sort of resolution. In this, Mary Winstead kills the last Thing, which made no sense how it was Edgerton, but whatever. I digress. She gets into a vehicle. Fade to black on her face. Roll credits. Then after a couple of the credits have gone by, the movie last second remembers that it has to segue from the prequel into Carpenter’s film. A-Doy! So the movie interspersed along with the credits shows these two random Norwegian guys, that we don’t know at all, discover a dog running from the wreckage of the research station. They chase it down in their helicopter with their poorly rendered green screen. The end.
After All is Said and Done
After all is said and done, by the time the credits rolled, what have we learned? Nothing. We didn’t learn dick about anything that we didn’t already gather from the original. We learn nothing of interest or value about the characters. The characters in which bring no form of charm or personality whatsoever. We learn nothing new about the chaos that went down at this Norwegian base, other than it was a mediocre version of what happens at the American base later on. The language barrier between the Norwegians and the Americans hold no barring at all between the characters, which was a hugely wasted opportunity to provide some sort of tension. We learn nothing new about the Thing itself. It is the same creature; minus the impressive effects, intelligence, and intimidation factor. The film at no point was ever scary or intense because of its lame predictability and lack of suspenseful buildup. We come away with literally nothing new from this hunk of regurgitated horse sh*t. Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even any sort of entertainment that could have been had is entirely vacant from this lifeless shell of a film. I can’t even enjoy it on a “so bad, it’s good” quality because it has no amount of effort even thrown into that aspect. It just sucks. It sucks and I hate it. I hate it so much because it didn’t even have to exist. The Thing could have been left entirely alone, but the filmmakers here clearly wanted to remake Carpenter’s film and then lazily slapped on the title of being a prequel at the last minute, as it barely incorporates much to linking the two films in that sense. It’s focus is to recreate iconic scenes from the original, rip-off the character of MacReady by basically making the entire cast that character, and trying to be “bigger”. It fails. It fails on every level. It fails at being a horror film, it fails at being a successor to Carpenter’s film, it fails at being entertaining, it fails at being a stand-alone piece, it fails at everything.
Originally, I was going to include a section touching on my opinions of the characters, but I think I’ve said all that I needed to on that subject. They’re all ‘nothing’ characters. The Thing itself, the actual creature, I want to go more in-depth about. The initial film’s draft planned that during the climax for the Thing to be revealed as a prisoner of the spacecraft, where two alien pilots had captured it and locked it up, only to escape and resulting in crashing the ship onto Earth. This whole third act involving that premise was actually filmed and was part of the first cut of the movie. Unfortunately all of that was totally scrapped and reshot later on to give a simpler climax of Mary Winstead and Joel Edgerton roaming around the spaceship aimlessly while eventually being chased down by the Thing and blowing it up. What’s left of the original ending only exists in still shots and behind-the-scenes footage. So there was potential to have created some sort of backstory on the Thing that could have maybe been somewhat interesting, and it was shafted because test audiences wanted something more conventional with more explosions. Yes, because listening to test audiences has worked out so well in the past for horror films such as Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. Both of these films were edited to a terrible degree by their directors because they wanted so badly to appeal to the moronic masses, both times it blew up in their faces. Good job!
I can’t say outside of the third act that I know how much of the first two acts were changed from the results of the reshoots that took place, but I can only assume that there were specific plot points reworked and removed entirely. There are a number of times in the first act that elude to the doctor in charge of the operation might be up to something diabolical, or because of his actions, may have resulted in the infection spreading within the group, including himself. None of this is never touched upon again, nor is he actually infected until we reach the climax of the movie so that isn’t a possibility either. Whenever it turns out that someone is actually the Thing, there’s no particular rhyme or reason as to how it’s them. The movie sort of randomly picks and chooses who the creature will be next. Carpenter’s film felt as though it contained an absurd amount of attention to detail in forming timelines as to how someone could have been infected. This movie, “Okay, he’s the Thing now. Just ‘cause.”
2011 made the Thing into a generic movie monster that attacks for no reason. I don’t know if it was the writers or directors or the studios or the reshoots at fault for this, but I never felt like the movie understood how the Thing worked in Carpenter’s iteration; the Thing always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone, it wanted to hide in plain sight, go completely unnoticed by its prey in order to stay alive because it knew that it was vulnerable when against enough of a strong force. The prequel simply has it kill people and expose itself at a whim no matter where, when, or why. It could be perfectly fine and hide, but then because the movie wants an action beat, it comes out to play. It’s never intense, I suppose it is surprising in the sense that I wasn’t expecting the Thing to do something so needlessly stupid. That doesn’t make it good though.
The Designs and Gore
I am strictly talking on a concept design level. I am not talking about the actual special effects that were seen onscreen to achieve these designs. I am speaking on the matters of the artwork that went into the creature designs and gore imagery for the movie. On that level, there are some creative and true artistic merit to be seen here. The creature designs and the designs of how they rip apart the human body is deviously inventive. I do enjoy seeing these designs that the creators clearly had a lot of fun coming up with and building the props for. The practical effects that were crafted with these designs are pretty cool and I wish we could have been able to see more of the physically made costumes and props in the actual final product, sadly they also only exist in behind-the-scenes footage. However, they are definitely worth witnessing how much effort went into the mechanics and everything for these gorgeous looking designs. Aesthetically speaking, I do wish it could have taken a little more inspiration from the Carpenter film, but overall I still dig the artwork.
Like I had mentioned previously, for the first act, there are a fair amount of practical effects that can be seen in the film. There’s still plenty of CGI, but it mostly sticks with in-camera work which looks good. Then an overabundance of terrible looking CGI takes over. For no good reason either because a lot of these effects were already achieved through practical means, but supposedly after the test screenings didn’t go over so well, the director had a company digitally cover up the practical effects with CG effects instead. And they look awful. It seriously turns into an ugly looking cartoon and I’m not afraid of these Things in the slightest. It never looks like what I’m seeing is real or actually onset with the actors, even though there were actually animatronics and props onset for the actors to interact with. Apparently the director’s biggest complaint about the practical effects that he personally had was that they “looked too much like an ‘80s movie”. I’m sorry, so what you’re telling me is that the movie looked too good? That the effects were too convincing and visually appealing so you superimposed a bunch of lifeless pixels on the screen instead? Is that what you’re telling me? You God damn moron! I’m sorry, if a criticism someone has about a movie is that it looks “TOO MUCH” like an ‘80s flick, that is not a negative and they are an imbecile. There are no if, ands, or buts about it. The man is too brain dead to helm a film and he doesn’t deserve to direct ever again. When someone ruins their own movie because they’re too stupid to realize that a special effect that looks more convincing and real is a good thing, so they replace them with poorly rendered CGI puppets amidst destroying the narrative. They don’t deserve to ever sit in the director’s chair.
I apologize for going on such a rant about the argument on practical effects versus CGI, but when a movie is trying to compare itself with a classic where the practical effects were truly flawless and perfect in every way, then that movie better step up its game. This movie didn’t. It chose to go with a more modern look with CGI because the director or the studio didn’t want to deter younger audiences with effects that were made in-camera. I will admit, when it comes to CGI I have a detest for it in some regard. When it is used properly and attentively, CGI can look great. CGI is like any other tool, when it is good, it can be effective and convincing. When it is not given the time or effort is requires though, it looks like trash. Unlike a practical effect though, when CGI isn’t convincing, it legitimately looks like a floating thing that isn’t actually there or at times can be unintentionally creepy. When a practical effect looks bad, at the very least I can say that I am convinced that it is something that looks totally present within the world of our characters. The Thing prequel, does not have good CGI. Even its background matte paintings of the snowy mountains always looks fake to me, never making me feel like these characters are actually in a freezing cold environment, but rather a sound stage. Nothing is convincing, nothing feels real, because it technically isn’t. It’s a bunch of pixels on screen surrounding these people, no more and no less.
It’s generic. I mean, completely bland and uninteresting, up until the ending credits when it finally starts playing the soundtrack from Carpenter’s film. Not that it would have made much of a difference, but if the filmmakers at the very least included the original score, that could have been something for me to latch onto and enjoy. Instead they settled for a stock movie score that sounds like any other movie ever made. There’s no life to it, there’s no vibrance to the instruments. The musicians do their job and the conductor grabbed his paycheck for the day I’m sure. If there even was actual musicians hired. I wouldn’t be surprised if a sound editor slapped this together from a website that has a bunch of free music tracks. It’s that bland.
I Hate This Movie
I really do. I do not like 2011’s The Thing. For the first act, it’s boring. Then the next hour is a violent and rage inducing mess. It radically flies off the tracks in nonsense and stupidity. Everything about this is a travesty. It’s a remake disguised as a prequel, which is despicable in its own right. It retroactively sabotages itself by trading suspense and provocative ideas for a generic monster movie that is easily digestible for the masses. No pun intended. The pacing is either so slow I could take a nap, or out of nowhere balls to the wall that I want to shoot myself. To sum it all up, it’s a bad time. There’s no getting around it. Honestly, if it were scary then I could forgive the dumb characters, gaping plot holes, and even the bad CGI. It’s not scary. I didn’t jump once. I sat there anger-watching the screen until it finally stopped performing its terrible atrocities in front of me. I loathe this film. I detest everything about it and everything it stands for. It sickens me. If I never have to see this damn, god awful, piece of fecal matter ever again I will die the happiest man on Earth. You can quote me on that. I will never watch this movie again. If I ever date someone that says that this film is her “jiggy-jam” and she likes it more than Carpenter’s masterpiece, that relationship is immediately dead to me. I don’t care if it’s in the dating phase or we’ve been happily married for forty years with a whole family we’ve raised together, I’m getting a divorce. It’s over. We’re done. I’m done. F*ck this. Why the hell did I bother watching this when no one gives a crap about my opinion on The Thing that everyone has already forgotten. This movie is already dead. I’m done. I can’t keep ranting anymore, I’m pissed off and ready to leave it in hell where it belongs. I’m going to go watch a good movie now, goodbye!
What's Your Favorite Thing?
- 'The Thing from Another World' (1951) Movie Review
Up in the isolated arctic at an American outpost, there's an alien that wakes up from a deep sleep, freed from a frozen block of ice and wanting the blood of humans. Can our heroes survive and get the girl by the end of it all?
That’s All Folks…
This may be my longest rant that I’ve ever done on a film. I did not expect to rage that much for that long. If you’re reading this and somehow made it all the way through, I applaud you. What did you think of my review? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Think my mouth is too big? Comment down below and let me know! And if you so happened to enjoy my review, please share my article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading, have yourselves a 2011-less day.
© 2019 John Plocar