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The Thing (2011) - Movie Review

The Thing movie

A couple of weeks ago I rewatched The Thing (1982). It was my birthday and I had the day off, so I figured what better way to spend the morning than to watch one of my favourite movies of all time?

I absolutely love that film and watching it again left me with an urge to rewatch the prequel which some fans of the original (yes, I said “original” because The Thing isn’t a remake of the 1951 movie, The Thing From Another World, but rather another adaptation of the 1938 novella, “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell) weren’t, and still aren’t overly keen on for one reason and another.

The Thing (2011)

I’ve mentioned this before but it really annoys me when prequels or sequels are titled the same as the original movie. Why do they do it?! It just makes everything more complicated than it needs to be:

“Have you seen The Thing?”

“Which one? The original?”

“By “original” do you mean the black and white one?”

"No, That’s The Thing From Another World. I mean the other one.”

“Which one? The one with Kurt Russell in?"

“No, the latest one.”

“Why not just say that then?!”

See?! It’s annoying!

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter classic that explores the events that lead up to the opening sequence of that movie.

It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Ulrich Thomsen (The Blacklist), Eric Christian Olsen (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (The Mummy Returns) among others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“After Norwegian researchers discover an alien ship buried in the ice, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) joins the team at the isolated Arctic outpost to investigate. She finds an organism that appears to have perished in the crash eons ago but, in fact, is about to awake. Freed from its icy prison, the insidious life-form goes on the attack. Paranoia spreads like wildfire among the crew as they fight to survive against a creature that assumes the shapes of its victims.”

I’ve seen this film a few times now. I’ve actually got it on Blu-Ray as a “twin movie set” with the original The Thing.

I’ve always liked it but there’s no comparing it to John Carpenter’s movie. Watching the two films so close together recently made that clearer than ever. That said, it’s still a good movie.

I’m usually not a fan of having things I don’t need explained, explained. I don’t particularly like origin stories (Solo: A Star Wars Story) and I believe that it’s often what we don’t know that makes something or someone more interesting and mysterious. However, when I found out that this film was being made and that it was to be a prequel to one of my favourite films I was quite excited.

I’ve always had my own ideas of what happened at the Norwegian research facility so I was keen to see how it all played out on the screen. Whether or not it’s the way I imagined it in my head is another matter, but it’s still a fun movie, especially when you’re a fan of the original.

Something I love about the film is the attention to detail. If you’ve seen The Thing (1982) you’ll be familiar with the scene where MacReady and Dr. Copper fly to the Norwegian research base to find out what the hell went on there. There’s obviously not a lot left of the base, but what is left paints a grizzly picture of the goings on there prior to the events at the start of the movie.

The sets in this prequel were meticulous built to match that of the original film, and even details like the fire axe in the door and how it got there are included in the story. Apparently the director, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. had over a million screenshots from the John Carpenter movie on his laptop to ensure every conceivable detail was accounted for, and it really pays off.

The story and the performances are good, although I was initially disappointed that the Americans once again took the main focus (it’s a Norwegian research base after all). After watching it a few times now though I can’t say it really bothers me too much.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a good job as the movie’s protagonist in an “Ellen Ripley-from-Alien” kind of way, and the supporting cast, many of which are actually Norwegian and Danish also play their parts really well.

Watching this film the other night though, I realised just how much it lacks the extreme paranoia that makes the first film so effective. It’s essentially the same story (scientists discover shape shifting alien frozen in the ice - alien thaws and absorbs and imitates scientists one at a time - no one knows who’s human - no one trusts anyone etc etc) but it focusses a little too much on jump scares and CGI and not enough on character development.

That’s not to say that The Thing (1982) explored the characters to a greater extent, but that movie doesn’t get preoccupied with trying to scare you every five minutes either. It does that effortlessly by good storytelling, keeping the tension high, and with the help of Ennio Morricone’s unsettling and ominous score.

Subtle things that happen in that film give you an idea of what kind of people they are, the higher-achy within the base, and their relationships with each other. By the time they perform the blood test with the hot copper wire you genuinely feel their fear and distrust of one another. Although it tries, this film unfortunately doesn’t achieve that to anywhere near the same extent.

The other thing I was more aware of this time around was the CGI. Something The Thing (1982) is famous for is it’s groundbreaking practical effects that still hold up today over 40 years later. Although they chose to return to practical effects in the prequel, poor test screenings and studio interference led to them replacing or enhancing a lot of those effects with CGI, and it’s the thing that lets the film down the most. It just looks fake in the same way the infected “darkseekers” in I Am Legend look fake. It’s a shame because without it both movies would look so much better.

Regardless of those things this is still a decent watch - and again, if you’re a fan of the first film you’ll no doubt enjoy it for how closely it plays to that movie. Even the score, this time by Marco Beltrami (World War Z, Logan) incorporates themes from Morricone’s original score, which at times makes you feel like you’re watching a continuation of the 1982 film, just with modern horror sensibilities.

It might not leave the same legacy as John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece but it deserves credit for what it set out to do, and to a respectable degree, achieves.

Much like with Rogue One (2016) we the audience know how it’s all going to end, but it’s still fun seeing how the events we’ve only ever imagined for 40 years unfold.

If you haven’t seen it I recommend checking it out. It’s available to rent on Amazon Prime for £3.79.

Seen it? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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