The Thing
dir Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
scr Eric Heisserer
prd Marc Abraham, Eric Newman
with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Braunstein, Trond Espen Seim, Kim Bubbs, Jorgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Jo Adrian Haavind, Jonathan Lloyd Walker
release US 14.Oct.11, UK 2.Dec.11
11/US Morgan Creek 1h43
The Thing
Alien invasion: Winstead and Edgerton

thomsen olsen akinnouye-agbaje
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The Thing The makers of this reboot couldn't be bothered to come up with a new title. Or anything else for that matter. Despite a potentially interesting premise, everything about this thriller feels overfamiliar.

At a Norwegian base in Antarctica, a scientist (Thomsen) has assembled a crack team to investigate the discovery of an enormous flying saucer under the ice, complete with an alien creature frozen into a nearby block of ice. But palaeontologist Kate (Winstead) barely has time to examine the specimen before it explodes into the night with some secret weaponry that's rather tricky to fight against. Kate and her colleague Adam (Olsen), along with tough-guy American helicopter pilots (Edgerton and Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the Norwegian team are all at risk now.

Billed as a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 remake of the 1951 classic, this film isn't much more than a remake itself, telling the same story with different characters while dropping in clever details for die-hard fans of the earlier films. But this is one of those thrillers that never manages to generate any honest suspense because everything is done by-the-books. We know exactly when something is going to leap out to try and scare us. We know who's going to die next. And even the nutty twists are fairly obvious.

Fortunately, the film has a terrific cast who make the most of their thinly defined roles, even if they're never much more than one characteristic: plucky, feisty, macho, bullheaded, idiotic. Some characters by definition must become villainous, others heroes, and none of it feels remotely organic. Amid suspicious glances and light flirtation, everyone also does something breathtakingly stupid as a big storm arrives and the radios all stop working on cue.

The fact that there's blazing sunlight in middle of the Antarctic winter tells us pretty much all we need to know about the care the filmmakers took while working on this. And the musical score tells us exactly how we should feel at every moment, through each random-feeling plot turn. But clearly the film's real purpose is its enjoyably yucky effects work, combining nasty noises, tentacles, insect-like limbs and much worse in increasingly manic ways.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Oct.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall