The Thing was just trying to fit in
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bill Lancaster
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley and Keith David
Like ‘the thing’ itself, the central idea behind John Carpenter’s 1982 alien classic has taken on many forms from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Alien.The most awesome thing about Carpenter’s remake, however, is the special effects, with writhing tongues, hairy spider legs ripping out of skin and pus oozing everywhere in syrupy goodness. But what starts as an intriguing and well-paced story slowly transforms into a rather dull and disappointing conclusion that slowly thaws the original tension and excitement away.
When a U.S. research facility is taken by surprise by a Norwegian helicopter, shooting at a rather cute dog, they don’t realize what they’ve just let in to their isolated camp. As the scientists discover they are at the mercy of a morphing alien that enjoys imitating different life forms, they must rely on their trusty flame throwers and keep their cool in order to stop themselves from turning on each other and losing their sanity.
The set up is fantastic for an original and exciting sci-fi film. In the atmospheric expanse of the Antarctic where cabin fever is common and the companionship of your fellow researchers is essential, The Thing isolates distinctive characters in a who-dat mystery that has the audience involved in figuring out who will survive this rather traumatic experience.
While at first it seems as though The Thing is feeding us small clues and cut-away cliff hangers that are perfect for drawing out a golden sci-fi idea, it begins to get sloppy with its storytelling, relying on a rather outdated computer to tell us the important information and reaching climaxes that fully rely on the gore and outlandish forms of THE THING. Apart from the young Kurt Russell and his healthy head of hair, the characters also seem to prove rather boring and don’t take full advantage of their defining personalities that were introduced to us at the beginning of the film. In fact, as things get more intense, their individuality sort of wean out into wimpy and rather bland expendable types.
Nevertheless, The Thing is a fun watch. With enough staggering alien groans and thick blood to last you a trip to the moon, The Thing is entertaining at best and paces itself in a clear and simple progression that we don’t get very often in sci-fi’s latest attempts to be clever and original.