"The biggest problem with this film is that there is no suspense because you know how the film must end before it even begins. What makes horror work is not knowing who is going to survive the antagonist, so this vital aspect of the plot is removed from The Thing. All we are left with is trying to identify with these characters and hoping that they will at least make an effort to survive that is interesting and exhilarating. For the most part, The Thing disappoints in this regard as well."
Science Fiction, Horror and Action
Starring - Mary Elizabeth Winstead/Kate Lloyd, Joel Edgerton/Sam Carter, Ulrich Thomsen/Dr. Sander Halvorson, Eric Christian Olsen/Adam Finch, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje/Jameson, Paul Braunstein/Griggs, Trond Espen Seim/Edvard Wolner and Kim Bubbs/Juliette
Director - Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Writer - Eric Heisserer
Rated R - strong creature violence and gore, disturbing images, and language
The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name. John Carpenter’s The Thing is considered to be a modern classic sci-fi horror film and when I saw it in the theater in June of 1982 I would have concurred with that assessment. I watched The Thing again last year in HD on Netflix in preparation of seeing the “prequel”, and it was not the film I remembered. While I still appreciated the nicely squeamish alien effects and the general feeling of isolation and growing paranoia that Carpenter generated in the film, the characters felt underdeveloped and the film just didn’t have the same emotional impact on me the way it did twenty-nine years prior. The more I read about the reverential approach that the director of The Thing prequel were taking to make their film, the more I became disinterested in seeing this Thing.
Trying to keep an open a mind as possible, I watched the blu-ray of The Thing and still found myself very underwhelmed. I just couldn’t help but think to myself why was this film even made? I actually could understand it better if they made a straight up remake. After all, the 1982 The Thing is a remake of the 1951 The Thing from Another World, both of which are liberal adaptations of the short story "Who Goes There?" by the science fiction editor/writer John W. Campbell Jr. There have already been two other science fiction novels that have been remade multiple times. The Body Snatchers, the 1955 science fiction novel by Jack Finney, was made into films in 1956, 1978, 1993 and 2007. I Am Legend, the 1954 Richard Matheson novel, was made into films in 1964, 1971 and 2007. Hollywood obviously has no shame when it comes to recycling the same stories over and over again, so why not another The Thing as well?
Instead, the writer became obsessed with telling the story of the Norwegian camp from the first film, as Heisserer explained in interviews that in writing the script it was necessary for him to research all the information that was revealed about the Norwegian camp from the first film, down to the smallest details, so that it could be incorporated into the prequel in order to create a consistent backstory. Considering that this backstory of the Norwegian’s is a complete fabrication of 1982 The Thing’s screenplay writer Bill Lancaster, I think by going even further away from the source material for inspiration to make an entire feature film is senseless. What makes this story even more uninspired is that it essentially tells exactly the same story as the 1982 The Thing, only with different characters!
The film opens with two of the Norwegian research team literally falling through the Antarctic ice onto the buried alien spaceship. An expedition goes looking for the missing men and finds instead the frozen body of a misshaped alien creature. Dr. Sander Halvorson, the head of the Norwegian team, recruits an American Paleontologist Kate Lloyd to help excavate and examine the alien body. Kate is flown to the Antarctic base by fellow Americans Carter, Derek and Griggs.
The alien is excavated from the ice, but left frozen in a block of it when brought into the camp. As the Norwegians drunkenly celebrate their find, Derek sees the alien inexplicably burst free of the ice and escape the building. The Norwegians and Americans split into small search parties and as soon as two of the Norwegians find it, it kills Henrik with Olav running away for help. The others return and use a flame thrower to burn the creature to death. Halvorson and Lloyd examine the remains and discover that the alien’s cells are still alive and are consuming and imitating Henrick’s cells.
The scientists devise a method of testing the blood to determine who the alien is imitating, but the lab is destroyed, so Lloyd devises another method to tell human from alien imitation. Despite their best efforts, one by one the humans are killed by the alien, leaving only a few left to keep the alien from contaminating the rest of the world.
One of the few interesting things about this Thing is the alien spacecraft. We see a glimpse of it in the beginning of the film, but the final act of the film makes use of it even better. Unfortunately, because this is a prequel, the events at the end of this film must not conflict with the beginning of the 1982 film and what could have been an interesting twist at the end is ruined. The biggest problem with this film is that there is no suspense because you know how the film must end before it even begins. What makes horror work is not knowing who is going to survive the antagonist, so this vital aspect of the plot is removed from The Thing. All we are left with is trying to identify with these characters and hoping that they will at least make an effort to survive that is interesting and exhilarating. For the most part, The Thing disappoints in this regard as well.
If some filmmaker in the next ten or fifteen years decides the time is right for another Thing film, I for one hope that they create their own original and fresh take on the film and not resort to slavishly imitating another filmmaker’s past glories.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 7 Directing – 7 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 8
VISCERAL: Visual – 8 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 7 Emotional – 7 Involvement – 7
TOTAL RATING – 74