Blu-ray/DVD Review: The Thing

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Matthijs van Heijningen | CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kim Bubbs
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/31/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $34.98 , DVD $29.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted and extended scenes
SPECS: R | 103 min. | Science fiction horror | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

It’s easy to dismiss a remake or a sequel or a prequel or a “re-imagining” of a not-all-that-old movie as simply being not necessary. It’s a cop-out of sorts that reviewers shouldn’t fall prey to, but it really must be said in regards to 2011’s The Thing.

A prequel that serves as a sequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing, which was itself a remake of Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks’ 1951 film of the same name, this latest version, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., isn’t even a fresh “re-imagining” of the story, but rather a replay of what we’ve seen in the earlier films.

The Thing movie scene

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ulrich Thomsen check out The Thing.

Like its predecessors, The Thing unfolds at a remote Antarctic research station where a group of scientists discover a mysterious organism that’s been buried beneath the ice  for thousands of years. Apparently an extraterrestrial lifeform (the buried spaceship uncovered near its body is a dead giveaway), the strange creature proves to be a gooey, mean-spirited, shape-shifting alien that’s eager to infiltrate the camp, unleash a flood of paranoia, wreak havoc and kill everyone.

The Thing’s action takes place in the weeks prior to the 1981 version of the film, ending at exactly the point where Carpenter’s version kicks off. That said, much of the action and slimy visual effects (a not-bad amalgam of CGI, models, prosthetics and splattery make-up) are nearly identical to that seen in the Carpenter version. There are some minor variations and flourishes to be found, but not enough to warrant a “re-imagining” or sequel or prequel or whatever you want to call it. Again, why make it if there’s nothing new to be said?

Leading lady Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) offers a little relief from a mostly forgettable cast of men who don’t have all that much do apart from fighting amongst each other and dying gruesome deaths. She definitely deserves a better genre project, though she does wield her flamethrower with confidence and style.

Picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are solid, even if the movie is not.

The bonus features are rather standard, with a chatty commentary by director van Heijningen and producer Eric Newman and a pair of featurettes that look at the action scenes, visual effects and. It’s worth noting that virtually everyone involved has serious admiration for the John Carpenter film. Yes, we admire that one, too.

Buy or Rent The Thing (2011)
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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.