This film is a great example of the autocannabalising nature of Hollywood. The Thing is a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 flick (also called The Thing), which in turn is a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, which was an adaptation of Joseph W. Campbell Jr’s short story, ‘Who Goes There?’. Whilst this sounds potentially confusing, the good news is that this film could quite easily be watched in isolation.
The plot concerns itself with a group of Norwegian scientists who discover something alien beneath the ice in Antarctica. Because this is Hollywood, these peeps require the skills of a good looking American palaeontologist, so in steps Kate Lloyd, played by the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Pretty soon cast members are dying left, right and centre and no one knows who they can trust. The film covers events right up until the opening of Carpenter’s 1982 film, and this is perhaps the most stunning aspect of the film.
It’s incredible just how much attention to detail the filmmakers paid. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. et al have ensured that this film seamlessly connects with the one that follows. This means that the sets, make-up effects, prosthetics and even the music ensure that the film is a true companion piece. Fans of the original should get a kick out of this, even if the stunning practical effects from that film aren’t carried over into this one. Naturally, the monsters in 2011 are mostly CGI, and of course this is a little disappointing. They do stick closely to make up and effects of the original, but the CGI stands out from the otherwise practical effects – hardly surprising but still a bit of a let down.
There’s one thing that THIS Thing does better than the OTHER Thing, and that is that we get a better sense of the characters. Whilst I loved Carpenter’s original, aside from Kurt Russell and Keith David’s characters, the rest of the bearded Antarctic workers all blurred into one. With van Heijningen Jr’s film, at least I got a sense of the supporting characters. Joel Edgerton does a good job as another of the American ring-ins, whilst the ubiquitous Ulrich Thomsen plays their sinister employer with aplomb in a performance that’s oh-so-slightly reminiscent of Ian Holm’s portrayal of Ash in Alien. In fact, this Thing feels a helluva lot like one of the Alien franchise.
When all’s said and done, this is a film that didn’t need to be made. But, leaving that aside, it does do the job admirably. It pays slavish respect to the 1982 film whilst giving us a little bit more information about just what went on before that dog ran through the snow in Carpenter’s classic. Winstead is excellent and I feel like she doesn’t get enough opportunities to perform in lead roles. Hopefully this will change in the near future.Rating: