The Thing (2011)
In a place where there is nothing, they found something.
The Thing, again! Surprisingly, although you would assume it from the name being the same as Carpenter's earlier version, this one is actually a prequel instead of a remake! Now we get to experience what happened to all those Norwegians at the hand of our creepy extraterrestrial friend. Granted, I'm gonna spin this a bit - we are gonna start this thing off with an approach where it's all it's own movie (as though you haven't seen the other Thing), and then get into how it ties into it afterwards. So what'll it be? The perfect copy, or just a cheap imitation.
We start things off to the sounds of the great antarctic - cold winds, a tractor, and a whole lot of snow to see. The aforementioned tractor is just zipping along the snow, filled by three jolly Norwegians chasing down a signal their radios have been picking up. They don't really know what the signal is, but if it's something to discover it's their duty as scientists to go ahead and chase that thing down - but they aren't about to let the gloomy cold bring down their mood, as we see by the crude (yet humorous) joke being told amongst them. When they track the thing down to it's apparent source, they are in for a great surprise when the earth breaks apart on them and they slide down the fault towards doom! Lady luck is on their side though, and their tractor gets wedged between the walls and their lives appears to be saved. Obviously excited by this, their excitement is only going to raise to higher levels when they catch wind of the thing below them - illuminated by the headlights, a gigantic spacecraft lies waiting. Even better than that, some creature-like thing lies off in the ice just a ways away on the surface.
Enter the heroine. A nice lady scientist is examining some long-dead frozen beast, apparently forgetting about a meeting she had with a guy a friend knows. It's no biggy though, as he brought the guy along with him - and the guy has a wonderful work proposition. You see, he needs someone with her skills to go with him to the Norwegian camp to help in investigating the two things they found ("all I can say" cliche). Given the option of taking a wonderful trip out to the frozen polar regions of the planet to investigate mystery things being every scientists dream, she obviously agrees to go even though she has such a short notice. Along the way, the helicopter ride introduces us to some more americans, and after finally arriving at the base we get things moving and proceed to the movie proper.
Of course, we get some interesting scenes of excited people enjoying the things they discovered, and the fact it very well will probably make them all famous. Course, things can't all stay hunky dory for the group and the thing miraculously breaks out of the ice. It's not before long people start dropping and mystery starts deepening. As the true nature of the creature starts to come to light, things get even worse when trust starts to degrade and their numbers thin even more. Can anybody, including but not limited to the thing, make it out of the danger zone that the Norwegian base has become?
Effects here does include a good deal more CG than older horror/creature flicks, but less than a lot of more modern horror/creature flicks. It's not always the best handled thing (some of it is noticeably CG), but the majority is handled in a manner that looks fine and doesn't detract too much from overall enjoyment. Things are certainly a bit grosser as far as the creatures go, although the use of CG can also betray some of the mystery reveals (when you notice the person is no longer a live person, it becomes incredibly apparent that they are going to transform). For the most part, it doesn't effect the jump scares they throw at you though.
The soundtrack is creepy and atmospheric, and the actors all do a pretty good job acting. It's hard to really call it entirely, as there is a good amount of Norwegian and subtitles in the movie - but in general when one is using emotion it's noticeable. Every now and then a performance is less than stellar, but on some instances it's hard to tell if thats how the character is actually supposed to react or not. That being said, the inclusion of so many of the americans seems... unnecessary. I'm not sure the reason for it entirely (unless it was to give a reason for the Norwegian camp to not speak in permanent Norwegian for all the english speaking watchers), and I guess it's really not a big deal - but they really do feel out of place at times, or as though they are just there to steal the show (even though the character Lars is by far my favorite in the film).
So, as a stand alone movie, does it hold up? Yes, it does hold up pretty well - assuming you like more modern-style of movies. I mention this because if the older monster/scary flicks didn't use as much action to build things as much as keep everything in the dark and build tension - probably in part due to budgets and technology of the time. The thing itself does get a pretty sizeable chunk of screentime in various forms, and I can't help but feel some of it is due to the inclusion of the CG making things "easier' to do. That being said, it's not bad even by the old standards, it's just a matter of you should be aware that it is going to contain a good deal more of an action-pacing then what you might expect.
So how does it hold up to The Thing it was meant to prequel? Well, it does a good job and at the same time a kind of poor job. The inclusion of the americans makes it a wonder that nobody has heard of any of these events come time for Carpenter's thing - obviously some form of word was passed around, regardless of how vague, in order to get them all out there. Beyond that, it seems pretty iffy as it goes, but they do somehow get a lot of things tied up and in-line with what happens by the start of Carpenter's entry. Effect's are more impressive in the older one - mainly due to what they accomplished with the limitations, and that little extra physicality that comes from props that exist in the real-world. All considering, there is quite a few references/rehashes from the sequel as well ("Oh no, air in the tank", Who's who scene), which can be great or annoying depending on how you look at it. Is it worth watching? Honestly, I felt they did a good job with it - even if I still like the older Carpenter version more.