Why Go There?

The Thing, written by Eric Heisserer, based on the novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. and The Thing (1982), written by Bill Lancaster, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate Lloyd), Joel Edgerton (Sam Carter), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Jameson) and Ulrich Thomsen (Dr. Halvorson) (2011): Totally pointless prequel to John Carpenter’s gory, gonzo adaptation of John Campbell, Jr.’s 1938 sci-fi-horror novella “Who Goes There?”, which itself bore more than a few suspicious resemblances to H.P. Lovecraft’s 1936 sci-fi-horror novella “At the Mountains of Madness.” Here, we follow the adventures of the (mostly) Norwegian Antarctic base scientists who first discover the eponymous Thing and who, reduced to two guys in a helicopter at the very start of Carpenter’s Thing, try to stop the creature from reaching the American base of that film. Got all that?

Carpenter’s film wasn’t truly great — the dialogue and plotting needed a bit more zip for that — but it was improved immensely by its cast of character-actor All-Stars and its ground-breaking alien special effects work, which still looks amazingly creepy and goopy and disturbing even now. Unfortunately, the CGI here suffers from underdone CGIitis, with the alien, while far more complex in several of its manifestations, lacking weight and heft regardless of its size on the screen.

It doesn’t help that the Thing has lost about a 100 IQ points, bursting out of hiding at several points when pretending to stay human would have secured its supposed goal: getting off the isolated Antarctic base to a more populated place with better transporation options so that it could, given its biology, eventually replace everything biological on the planet with itself. Instead, it pops out at inopportune moments so often that one eventually believes that it’s actual purpose on Earth is to run around scaring people and breaking shit.

The people aren’t much brighter. At one point, a group of them locks two suspicious helicopter-crash survivors in a shack because doing so will protect the group in the event that the survivors are really the Thing. But we’ve already seen the Thing shoot twenty feet into the air and through a roof from a standing start inside a giant block of ice that it’s been trapped in for 100,000 years. How is the shack going to stop it? Oh, well.

Perky young protagonist Mary Elizabeth Winstead (the roller-skating, Amazon-package-delivering love interest in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) plays a character from the Bones school of incredibly young bone experts. Everyone else is pretty much interchangeable except the actor who played Mr. Eko on Lost, criminally underused here, and the guy playing the base commander, the latter of whom looks like Sting during his Mandolin-playing German-pimp stage. Boy, Sting makes a lousy Antarctic base commander. No wonder the Police broke up. Not recommended.

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