The Thing

Once upon a time, a crazy Norwegian man in Antarctica tried to shoot a dog, and before anyone knew quite what was happening, a horror movie called The Thing broke out. Now yet another horror movie called The Thing has popped up out of nowhere. Well, yes, out of Antarctica again, but that's basically the middle of nowhere. This flick is, as you may have heard, more a prequel than a remake of the original, though I'm told some scenes are fairly similar. Yes, it's yet another thing from the eighties that I haven't seen, though in my own defense, I was way too young to be watching R rated movies when this one came out.

Anyway, Bruce Willis' daughter stars as a paleontologist named Kate Lloyd. All right, she's Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the same actress who played Bruce Willis' daughter in Live Free or Die Hard. She's worked on several cold-weather digs, so Dr. Sander Halvorson, played by Ulrich Thomsen of Season of the Witch, wants to fly her down to Antarctica to help get a sample. When she wants to know what sort of sample -- a perfectly reasonable question -- she's told only that there's a specimen and a structure. Yes, a structure. Buried under shelf ice in Antarctica. She clearly thinks that Dr. Halvorson has been cooped up in his lab a little too long, but she's a scientist and therefore can't resist the possibility that she isn't flying 10,000 miles just to discover that a once-reputable scientist is now a raving loony.

And Halvorson might be a loony -- he's usually frighteningly calm, for instance -- but not about this. 'Structure' is putting it mildly; it's at least the size of a football field and Trond Espen Seim, who plays Dr. Edvard Wolner, leader of the group that found it, says that it's been there for about 100,000 years. Their base is a place called Thule (pronounced tool) Station, which isn't an actual Antarctic station. It's an actual Arctic station, though, in Greenland. Thule is a name first used by the ancient Greeks to describe a semi-mythical island to the far north, which was probably actually Scandinavia, so it seems an odd choice of name for a place in the far south. Maybe they were trying to ward off homesickness, since the group is mostly Norwegian.

The point is, there's this Thing. It makes for awkward conversation when people think you're being vague, but you're actually being as specific as you can by using the word 'thing'. It was frozen solid and is, unsurprisingly, pretty unhappy about that. Unfortunately, it expresses its unhappiness through eating, and it thinks people are really tasty. Also unfortunately, it doesn't just eat people; sometimes it sort of absorbs and fuses with them, to create these bent-over, misshapen monstrosities that you probably won't want to look at too closely. They're like the bent-over thing from In the Mouth of Madness (also directed by John Carpenter, which I happened across on TV years ago and was scarred for life), only worse.

Also on the menu are two Americans, Carter and Jameson, played by Joel Edgerton of Star Wars, episodes II and III and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, recently reviewed in Killer Elite. I think they're soldiers, but I'm not sure. They fly helicopters, anyway, and they actually have some sense. To start with, shockingly, everyone has some sense. Not once did I hear anyone say, "We have to keep it alive so we can study it!", which has to be one of the top twenty things never to say in a movie. Kate is basically the only person who shows sense all the way through, though, which is a little odd. Don't get me wrong, it's great that she didn't just scream a lot, but I think now the pendulum might be swinging a little too far the other direction. Horror movies especially need more people with sense, regardless of gender.

Three and a half out of five. It's a good, solid action sci-fi sort of flick with no serious plot holes, which is a lot rarer than you might think. Well, I always hope it's rare, at least, and I'm usually disappointed. But the filmmakers said that they didn't really want to do a remake, since it would be like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Why don't other filmmakers feel that way about remakes? The movie world would be so much better off.

Image: 
Movie posters one and two.  Or two and one, depending on how you look at it.

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