Review: The Thing
Directed By: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ulrich Thomsen.
If you’ve listened to or read any of my reviews before, you’ll be aware that I’m not a fan of horror movies, it’s not (just) that I’m a wimp, but I just am not hugely into the genre. That’s not to say that I don’t watch horror, I usually stick to those crossed with a healthy dose of another genre. I’ve seen more than my fair share of horror movies, the majority of which are some of the worst made, cliché ridden movies i’ve ever seen. It’s also possibly the genre which seems to spawn the most sequels and follow ups than any other. Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, all of which has multiple sequels, most of which people wish they’d never seen.
So it’s surprising in this day and age of movies filled with remakes and sequels, it’s taken 30 years for someone to follow up John Carpenter’s 1982 horror movie The Thing (which was itself a remake of The Thing From Another World from the 1950’s), only with a slight change, this time the follow up is a prequel. That should be a spoiler, but unfortunately it’s not, as the fact that it’s a prequel has been heavily publicized in reviews and interviews for the movie.
The movie starts with a research group from a Norwegian Antarctic base following a radio signal. When their snow cat falls through a crevice in the ice they discover the crashed remains of what appears to be an alien spacecraft. Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is brought in by the head of the research station Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) to examine the remains of the pilot that is found frozen in the ice nearby, and the base celebrates the find of a lifetime after confirming that the creature found in the ice is in fact alien in origin.
The creature though, awakens from the ice and disappears, leaving the crew of the base startled, but hopeful of finding the it alive, so search parties spread throughout the base to find it. When one of them is attacked, the crew responds by burning the creature to death, apparently killing it. Kate reluctantly agrees to autopsy the creature and the remains of one of the crew it had apparently ingested, finding his remains grotesquely mutated with no apparent explanation. When she examines a sample of the crewman’s blood, she finds the alien cells are still alive, and are not only consuming them but mimicking them. When she finds what seems to be teeth fillings in a pool of blood in a shower she realizes they have a problem, the alien is not dead, and it may have duplicated and replaced one or more of the research station’s crew.
The Thing is not a bad movie, it particularly does a good job of invoking the feel of John Carpenter’s original, with not only the sets which are very similar but also with the storyline and the issue of paranoia around who in the research station may no longer be who they appear to be. Unfortunately though, there is nowhere near as much personality to the characters as there was in the original, and as a result, apart from Winstead as the main character of Kate, none of them is particularly memorable or stands out in any way, not like those characters from 30 years ago.
The movie does a nice job of setting up events to match those found at the beginning of Carpenter’s, the only thing I wish had been done was to not openly give away the fact that this is a prequel to that movie. It would have been interesting to see how the ending may have played had the movie been treated as if it were a remake and let the audience figure out that it was a prequel with what would have been a fairly successful twist ending, had that been attempted. Instead, going into the movie and knowing that it is a prequel, you know largely how things must end up, and it’s that fact that lets the movie down, it makes things too predictable as to actually ruin any enjoyment and also any thrill and risk at who will or won’t be alive at the movie’s climax.
Another issue with the movie is that it is too dependent on current CGI effects, whereas the original movie was fully dependent (admittedly due to the technology at the time) on the prosthetic and physical effects by special effects guru Rob Bottin. The movie feels robbed of the charm that came with these physical effects, as even though the effects are of a decent quality, the CGI scenes have nowhere near as much weight as the scenes where physical effects are actually used such as the autopsy scene. There is also the fact that the audience are allowed to see the creature in a fair amount of detail when it first makes it’s appearance instead of taking advantage of the sets and having the scene at night, to build an atmosphere of tension before finally revealing the creature in all it’s grotesque detail later on. Had this been done, the scenes where characters are revealed to be the creature would have had more impact.
Overall, The Thing is a worthy follow up to the original, by today’s standards it could have been a terrible movie, but is entertaining for it’s 103 minutes running time, but it could have and should have been so much more, and it’s unlikely it will have the lasting effect of Carpenter’s original and be remembered in 30 years as fondly as his movie is today. Worth seeing if you’re a horror junkie or if you are a fan of the original, but go with lowered expectations.
Posted on December 4, 2011, in Reviews and tagged Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, alien, Eric Christian Olsen, horror, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, prequel, Ulrich Thomsen. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.