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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Thing

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

"The Thing" (Universal) is billed as a prequel to horror specialist John Carpenter's 1982 movie of the same name. Carpenter's celebrated film was itself a remake of the 1951 classic "The Thing From Another World," produced by Howard Hawks. And that influential picture was, in turn, based on the science-fiction novella "Who Goes There?" penned by John W. Campbell Jr. and published under a pseudonym in 1938.

As complicated and promising as this pedigree may sound, the resulting creature feature is too simplistic to sate eager horror buffs or hook new audiences. Because it doesn't add any conceptual layers to the bare bones of the narrative or break any new technical ground, "The Thing" can be classified as "adequate but unnecessary." It delivers enough frights to avoid dishonoring the franchise.

From a moral perspective, the gory images and vulgar language contained in the homage aren't disqualifying when considered in context. The former are, so to speak, the nature of the beast.

One winter's day in 1982, Columbia University paleontologist Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited for an emergency mission to Antarctica where Norwegian researchers have discovered an alien buried inside a glacier.

Determined to keep their startling find a secret, team leader Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) disregards Kate's advice and authorizes a test that leads to the creature's escape.

Intent on replicating itself, the crab-like extraterrestrial begins preying violently on the dozen or so occupants of Thule Station. As a storm approaches and terror grips the isolated outpost, it's up to Kate and American helicopter pilot Sam Carter (Joel Edgerton) to contain the damage.

Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen makes little attempt to deepen the thematic subtext or exploit the inherently menacing atmosphere. His goal seems to be to showcase the forensic clarity of the visual effects depicting the alien. As visceral as they are, they're often overwhelmed by blaring sound effects and music, a sign the filmmaker doesn't have total confidence in the power of his images to scare moviegoers.

On the plus side, the screenplay never wanders off track and resolutely spotlights a female protagonist possessed of equal parts fortitude and smarts—along with, quite possibly, some alien DNA.

The drama flows from the group's instinctual responses toward their survival predicament, particularly their suspicion of one another given that the parasitic monster adopts the form of the people he consumes.

Trust is in short supply, and while the movie isn't the best exemplar of that trait, the humanity of the characters does remain intact, although barely. In other words, "The Thing" doesn't qualify as an egregious recycling of a touchstone. And, though many will find it unsettling, its shortcomings don't amount to a crime against cinema, good taste or decency.

The film contains frequent intense, gory creature violence, an implied suicide, some profanity, much rough, crude and crass language and a lewd reference to incest.

The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Paul Miki and Companions: Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church. 
<p>Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross, Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” </p><p>When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.</p> American Catholic Blog By way of analogy, we are taught that we all have the same sun shining on us and we all have the same rain falling on us. It is how we deal with sun and rain, how we deal with the happy and the not-so-happy things of life that causes our interior weather. Basically, we do it to ourselves.

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