Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen
Plot: A group of Norwegian and American scientists discover a spaceship and an alien life form encased in ice down in Antarctica, and soon find themselves being picked off one by one by the alien, that has the ability to replicate anyone it kills.
Review: I only have a few vague memories of John Carpenter's version back in 1982, thus I may have a slight advantage over everyone else who have made comparisons between the two versions. Even then, this version is supposedly a prequel and not a remake (premake?) of Carpenter's film, which itself is a remake.
The new Thing is directed by first time director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, who directed commercials back in his home country. As far as set design and visual effects go, he's got it mostly right. The vast snow and icy landscape of Antarctica look really gorgeous and scary at the same time here. The visual effects actually look pretty good too, even though I've heard critics complain about it being choppy. The transformation from human to Thing once its ruse has been discovered is awesome, and quite gross too, which really helps the film a lot.
However, that's just about all the good things I can say about this film. Overall, the film needs a lot more than that. The horror of being trapped in the middle of nowhere with an enemy hiding amongst people you know and likely trust, isn't present. There ought to be tension everytime you look at the person next to you, and as a viewer, I didn't sense any tension whatsoever. I can see that the cast is trying to create the tension on screen, but it just doesn't happen. The main reason for that is the predictability. It's easy to guess which human the alien has copied, I guessed all of them correctly. On top of that, the 'test' that they use here to separate the humans from the impostors is pretty lame and not to mention flawed, compared to the one in Carpenter's version. The dialogue is rather dull and uninspiring too, with an absence of good one-liners and no guy with funny lines to quip (though the film does open with a guy telling quite a funny joke).
I'm also not happy with the choice of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the lead heroine Kate Lloyd. Yes, she can act, but I have trouble buying her as someone capable of leading this story. I would have preferred a more seasoned actress to play this role. Winstead gets to be Ellen Ripley in the second half of the film, but seriously, who can be Ripley besides Sigourney Weaver? The focus on Winstead's character makes her mostly male supporting cast seem insignificant, including the talented Joel Edgerton as Carter the helicopter pilot. The actors playing the Norwegians seem interesting though, too bad they mostly end up being alien victims.
In essence, this is a gallant attempt at remaking a classic horror film, but it is severely flawed. if you've seen the original, you'd probably want to go back to it. If like me, you don't remember much of the original, or you haven't seen it at all, you'd want to find it instead. (3/5)
P.S.: A final scene during the closing credits leads straight into Carpenter's film opening.