It's another one of his reviews that focuses less on the craft or the plot of the movie itself but more in the illogic of the creature imitating people and then exposing itself as a fraud. It's a bit more detailed than his "Nemesis" review where he criticized the movie for not lining up with how he thinks electricity will work in 400 years, but it's another one of those reviews where the movie's plot illogic overcomes the "craft" of the movie.
That's not at all what Ebert's review of Nemesis was like. Disagree with the man all you want, I often do, but don't just blatantly make things up.
I just re-read it. I may have over stated things, but he does spend more time nit-picking the movie more than he does discussing the actual aspects of the movie like plot, story, acting, stuff like that.
My Grade: B+
John Carpenter's "The Thing" is one of those 1980s classics that's just a testament to the kind of story teller and craftsman he is. The movie focused on an isolated group of Americans at an Antarctican base dealing with fear and uncertainty when faced with a new danger. The movie would work alone if everything was just manifestations of their madness while isolated during a Antarctican winter storm but whole new element of terror is brought in with the memetic-creature that terrorizes the base over the course of the movie.
Itself a remake of a 1950s movie, Carpenter's "The Thing" is a classic that is often imitated or referenced to in other places -most notably an early episode of "The X-Files."
Here we are over 20 years later and we're presented with a "prequel" movie that gives us some back story about what happened at the Norwegian base an hour away from the American one from several days before hand literally right up to when the first movie began.
It's 1982 and an American researcher/scientist in the field of paleontology is tasked with traveling to The South Pole for a group of Norwegians to give her professional opinion on an amazing discovery. That amazing discovery turns out to be a space-ship buried under the Antarctic ice for 100 millenia along with the frozen form of an unknown creature.
Before too long the frozen creature escapes and the researchers discover that the being is able to imitate the form of a biological creature in comes into contact with almost perfectly.
The movie is almost note-for-note the same as the original, paranoia sets in with the group over who is real and who isn't, a simple test is worked out to figure out who is human and who isn't, and we're shown that high-level explosives, fire-arms, and flame-throwers are apparently standard equipment for South Pole research.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is our lead character, the called upon American scientist, and pretty much plays the Kurt Russel role although with a lot less badassness and a lot more hotness, though she certainly has her moments of badassery.
The special-effects (re: CGI) is used pretty well here in depicting the creature and how it imitates life forms and the movie does a great job of showing nods to the original even setting up a few key, and subtle, plot points and details. The usual paranoia sets in with the usual suspects given the unreasoned stink-eye, the lovable screw-ball characters and maybe the occasional "oh no, that guy got it!"
In short, it's a fun movie that any fan of the original is sure to enjoy. The effects are good, action pretty decent but much of the charm just comes from the cues to the original and setting things up. There's even a crack in the door open for a possible sequel. Or a coincide-quel? A genuine, chronological sequel?
Just a couple of nit-picks I want to make: (SPOILERS)
1. When Katie Lloyd (MEW) rides in the helicopter en route to the Norwegian base a fellow American -working at the base- asks her how a basketball team he follows is faring, seemingly under the impression they're playing. We're told through both dialogue and opening credits that it's Winter in Antarctica (as it is in the original movie) which means it's Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and basketball is played in the Winter. This is fairly "common" in movies or stories that take place in the SH but with reference to the NH (or vice/versa), they don't always acknowledge the seasons in the NH and SH are opposite one another.
2. The movies explains quite a bit about the events between the two movies, but doesn't seem to explain why the spaceship is missing by the time the Americans get to it in the opening to the original.
3. Close to the end our surviving characters mention traveling to a nearby Russian base, little to no mention is made of the American one that is either just as far away if not closer. (At one point it's said the Russian base is 50-miles away from the Norwegian one, in the original the Norwegian base is a one-hour helicopter ride away from the American base. It's possible
the Russian base is closer to the Norwegian one if only by a bit, but it seemed odd little to no mention is made of the American base.
4. I could quibble the helicopter at the end of this movie differs in color and livery from the helicopter at the beginning of the original.
So....they are not trying to reset the date of the original film and update it to 2011? This new movie is set in '82 with 80's tech (no computers laptops, etc...) Right?
The technology and other references to time period lines up nicely with the movie being set in the 1980s accepting that doctors and scientists would have access to computers and specialized equipment. This movie takes place from four days or so before the events of the first movie literally
right up to the moment the first movie begins after its title card.