The Thing (1982) (R)
It's an odd world we live in. Not for the fact that squids exist, though that is one of them; but by a pure act of coincidence I had already seen the movie that John Carpenter's "The Thing" was based off of. "The Thing from Another Planet" which was made in 1951 (ironically not a wholly original work either, it's based on a story called "Who Goes There?") is this movie. I'm not sure how I managed to see it, but I did. Perhaps it was my father's idea of a laugh—he enjoys seriously B-movies, if only to make fun of them. Yet there I sat, watching a group of very unintelligent scientists slowly get picked off by an alien (who I think was a walking vegetable...meaning the plant...yeah, I didn't get it either). This alien loved the cold and if memory serves right (SPOILER) they ended up frying the thing to death using electricity somehow...but I could be wrong.
Anyways, because I had already seen this movie, it wasn't exactly surprised by the dramatic turns and twists that "The Thing" took. There was nothing new for me, nothing surprising, and certainly nothing frightening.
"The Thing" begins with an alien ship flying to earth, we see it disappear into the atmosphere from space...then the title sprawls across the screen. This was erroneous decision #1 because the confusion that the characters are having cannot be duplicated within the viewer...they already know what's going on. Then, when the first person makes the logical jump and says the word "alien", it's accepted way too easily...though they do have very convenient proof.
There is a great stillness to the Antarctic. The white snows stretch on for eternity, the wind slowly sinks into the background, it is motionless.
The opening sequence involves a helicopter and a dog. A husky runs across a large opening and it is chased down by a helicopter. The men in the flying vehicle lean out the window and shoot at the running animal...and they shoot and shoot and shoot. I'm not saying that hitting a moving target is easy, but these guys are really terrible at aiming. They lob grenades at the unfortunate creature, which eventually makes its way to a United States research lab. The scientists run outside to see what the commotion is about, then the plane blows up and they have to shoot one of the remaining crazy people.
To make a long story short, the group of men (lead by Kurt Russell) are shut in with a morphing alien...it could be any one of them and they are slowly getting killed off.
It sounds like a good premise and it easy; but the over indulgence in the grisly special effects turn "The Thing" from a thriller into a "vomit-er". There are so many gag inducing moments that they cannot be counted. Sure, for an audience in the 80s, this would be terrifying...now it looks kind of comical. The film is too dependent on the moments where the special effects team get to stretch their creativity.
On a side note, if this movie is only rated "R" then there is no way that the rating of "The Evil Dead" should be disputed...I can hardly see making one "NC-17" without including the other one.
Naturally, our lead character is a ice cowboy. Rootin', tootin', shootin', bootin', drinkin', and completely irrational. Near the beginning, in an attempt to be humorous, the film has the main character being beaten in chess by a computer. He opens up a compartment and pours his drink in, frying the computer's brain...then he calls the computer a "cheating b***h". Right, so this (in the first few minutes of film) already lines us up to see a few things.
1. This isn't a very well-written movie.
2. The characters have no permanent characteristics.
Why would a man who is going to be stuck for months in the cold wintery world destroy the one thing that could keep him occupied? Why would he waste his drink on the computer instead of smashing it? Certainly there isn't a life supply of alcohol.
I doubt the movie should be logically picked apart.
It is a curious thing because a lot of the action happens off-screen. A lot of the conversations aren't heard and the always employed fade outs seem to cut the action right out of the scenes. This is steady until we finally get a glimpse of the odd creature.
The morphing process is a bloody mess...no more words are needed.
For a movie devoid of the female figure, "The Thing" leaves us asking what would have happened if one of the scientists was a woman. Hopefully there would have been more realistic behavior. I'm not trying to say women are better than men, but "The Thing" has stereotypical male figures...ones that rarely use their gray matter.
All my qualms with the film—and they totaled very high—could have been forgiven if "The Thing" lived up to its branding.
Horrifying? Perhaps, but only because no film should look like this.
"The Thing" isn't even that entertaining, and its plot is riddled with alien-sized holes.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones