October 18, 2011
The Thing is one of those classic films that really changed the genre. The special effects showed a graphic representation of alien invasion on a biological level. The sense of paranoia created by not knowing and actually caring who had been infected by the Thing made it not only deeply disturbing, but also unleaded nightmare fuel.
So how did the prequel/remake stack up?
I’m going to try and not give away any spoilers, but here’s the lowdown on the original 1982 film.
An American research station in Antarctica finds out that a nearby Norwegian outpost has been decimated by… something. They investigate and find evidence of an ancient starship buried in the ice. However, as a coming storm threatens to cut the Americans off from all contact with the rest of the world, they slowly realize that something from the Norwegian camp made it to the American outpost. It can perfectly mimic whatever it consumes. And not everyone is human anymore.
The prequel actually starts days before in the Norwegian camp. After finding the alien ship, they call in a paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When she arrives, the team removes an alien corpse from the ice and begins to study it, but soon things take a turn when the alien wakes up and escapes. Soon, the team can’t be sure who is still human or not.
The movie is FUN, and I mean that in the best way. One thing I liked compared to the 1982 film is that the prequel actually has happy, likable characters. Kurt Russell is dour and jaded and shell-shocked, and everyone else is pretty much just as dark. The Norwegian team, though, is actually having fun with their work, making it more jarring when the bodies start piling up. Winstead is actually really good in her role as an archeologist-turned-Amazon and she adds some heart to the film.
Because of the changes in special effects technology, the monster is much faster and interacts with the victims much more prominently. We get to see some very freaky transformations that don’t have to cut back and forth between different models. Plus, we FINALLY get to see how the thing absorbs someone and changes them, and it’s the kind of thing that would make the Marquis de Sade gag.
Best of all, whoever wrote the script actually paid attention to a little something called continuity. We get to find out what the hell the creature the American team found was and we got to see why the Norwegian camp was such a warzone, including finally explaining the corpse that apparently killed itself in the radio room.
Once the action gets going, it gets going, too. While it starts with the same kind of paranoia as the original, it soon turns into a chase to stop the creature, and it’s much faster than the original film.
Let’s face it: it’s a foregone conclusion than pretty much every character you see is going to die by the end of the film. They have to. There are only so many ways to tell this story, too, and if anyone is smart enough, they do what the characters do to try and weed out the alien. This unfortunately means that the general plot is a dead giveaway. You know the broad strokes of what will happen.
By having the creature take a center stage in the action and featuring all sorts of close-ups and extended transformations, the film obviously needed to step the game up. While early reports said that the film was going to use as little CGI as needed, the final version is FULL of CGI. Not only that, but it’s not revolutionary in any way. It looks okay. It’s not a bad computer effect, but it’s the same thing that’s been done over and over again.
The Final Word
Does the 2011 film stack up to the remake? Yes and no.
It was a really fun movie overall. I enjoyed the action scenes and was concerned with the welfare of every character. I thought Winstead and the rest of the cast were very good at their roles.
However, I do want to address something else. As io9 pointed out, a lot of viewers are complaining that the Thing in the prequel doesn’t seem to have any plan, unlike the original film where it was trying to leave Antarctica and infect the rest of the world. True, but I actually thought it made sense. In the prequel, the monster’s just woken up. It’s weak. Even if it infects other humans, it’s still an alien to our culture and our ways. It’s probably more scared than anything.
By the time we get to the sequel, it’s had time to adapt and it makes the great escape plan of looking like a dog so others will take it in. Even at the end of this film, it finally wised up and decided to try to blend in to get rescued as a human.
Would I watch it again? Probably. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but it does have the added weight of having to live up to one of the standards of the genre, so that hurts it.
Go watch it. If you saw the 1982 version and loved it, this is a nice addition to the mythology. If you’ve never seen the Kurt Russell version, do yourself a favor and do so now before seeing this one.
Or watch it on Netflix without having to pay.