2011’s The Thing is an unnecessary CGI-slick prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic sci-fi/horror film The Thing. It isn’t horrible and does several things right, but is easily forgettable as soon as the end credits roll.
Based on John W. Campbell Jr. short story “Who Goes There?,” the prequel was directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and written by Eric Heisserer. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Braunstein, Trond Espen Seim, Kim Bubbs, Jørgen Langhelle, Jan Gunnar Røise, Stig Henrik Hoff, Kristofer Hivju, Jo Adrian Haavind, and Carsten Bjørnlund.
Heijningen and company do an excellent job of tying the prequel to Carpenter’s film (a fire axe placed in the right spot on the door, a burned body left for the Americans to find in Carpenter’s film), but fail to give the movie any of the tension or scares that Carpenter brought to the screen in his version of the classic sci-fi tale.
The film follows a team of Norwegian scientists stationed in Antarctica doing research. During a drive, they discover a spaceship crashed in a crater of ice along with a frozen alien. The Norwegians contact Dr. Sander Halvorson (Thomsen) to investigate the finding with his team – including paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) and his research assistant Adam Finch (Olsen). The group is flown out to the station by helicopter pilot Sam Carter (Edgerton).
Once there, it doesn’t take long for things to go downhill as the alien (which looks like a CGI’d spidery mess) escapes the ice and rapidly starts taking on the shapes of the scientist at the station. It is up to Kate and company to figure out who is human and who is the “thing” before it can escape to take over the world.
Any fan of Carpenter’s film knows how this one will end before the opening credits finish rolling. The movie does a good job of delaying that inevitable ending, but it moves at such a fast pace that there isn’t enough time to care about the characters. In fact, it is next to impossible to figure out who is who in the movie – despite the fact that the Norwegian actors are incredibly talented and the best part of the film.
Instead of character development, we get characters dropping like flies as the alien absorbs, eats and mangles its way through the cast with lightning speed. Carpenter’s version of the film is a slow-burn thriller that builds its paranoia as the audience is never quite sure who the alien is – even after the end credits roll.
Carpenter also uses its cold setting to add to the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia – another element that this prequel fails to capitalize on achieving.
Even though it fails on several levels, the film does several things right, and is pretty entertaining from start to finish. As a huge fan of Carpenter’s version, I appreciated all the little touches the filmmakers did on the prequel to tie it to the 1982 film, and even some of the alien (which is shown way too much) design.
The cast is solid in the film with Winstead and Edgerton carry much of the movie and doing their best to fill Kurt Russell’s shoes. The story elements and talent are there, but the actors just never seem to be given enough time to matter to the story. The Norwegian actors are extremely good in the movie (they provide a lot of laughs), but it is difficult to figure out who is who before they become lunch for the alien.
The film looks incredible on Blu-ray and the format does an excellent job of capturing the cold setting, design of the alien (which at times matches Carpenter’s alien) and the cold steel of its spacecraft (which was way too big).
It also comes with some great special features that take you into the making of the film and show how they tried to tie it to Carpenter’s movie and the level of respect the filmmakers have for the iconic director.
The Thing is not a bad movie and does a good job as a prequel to what Carpenter and company brought to the screen in 1982. The problem is Carpenter’s film is so much better (even with the dated special effects) that this prequel feels completely unnecessary and is easily forgettable.
Diehard fans of Carpenter’s The Thing will like the little touches made in the prequel to tie the two films together, but it offers little other reason to watch.
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