Some horror reboots are just plain awful and misguided but others fit into a strange category of being earnest, competent yet utterly pointless. That’s where 2011’s reboot of The Thing belongs It is pitched to viewers as a prequel, complete with an epilogue that directly links it to the opening moments of John Carpenter’s once-reviled, now-beloved 1982 remake.
However, it really uses its prequel status as a disguise to recycle most of the best moments of the Carpenter version: its do-it-again template consists of an alien ship discovery, an “awakening” of the alien inside, chases in a facility’s cramped quarters, sudden betrayals by alien-replicated friends, a nervous scene where everyone is tested to determine who is infected, divide-and-conquer paranoia between the survivors and a finale where the last two humans standing square off with the alien foe.
The only new wrinkles are the presence of a female amidst the otherwise all-male cast and an extension of the finale that incorporates the alien spaceship in a way that boosts production value while doing nothing of note for the story. Depressingly, the ace makeup effects of the 1982 version are traded for humdrum, intermittently convincing CGI effects.
The best element is the cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as the female lead, Joel Edgerton has fun doing a Kurt Russell impression as the most macho member of the team and Ulrich Thomsen is effective in an otherwise uninspired “alpha-jerk scientist” role. Behind the camera, Matthijs van Heijningen’s direction offers a smooth, chilly approximation of the Carpenter style, minus the sarcastic humor, but the film just marks time with its recycled story beats. The end result doesn’t offend the intelligence but it doesn’t really have a reason to exist beyond recycling a cult property for its parent studio.