I do not envy the guys who have made this film. 1982′s The Thing is considered one of the greatest horror/sci-fi films ever made and an absolute testament to the genius of John Carpenter. It’s required viewing for any one with a passing interest in film and has gone on to influence everyone from directors to bloggers. So when it was announced that The Thing would be returning to the screen under a new iteration under the direction of Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. with a script by Eric Heisserer you could practically hear the internet sharpening its claws for the eventual bloodbath.
Here’s the thing though, the flick ain’t that bad.
Right off the bat the producers of this film made a smart choice by making this a direct prequel to The Thing of 1982. Making this a remake would no doubt fail due to the fact that the originals success had to do with so many different factors coming together to making it. It was a combination of John Carpenter, cutting edge special effects, a unique setting, and Kurt Russel’s beard that made the original so special. Trying to recapture that with a remake would be the first and last mistake they would ever make in the eyes of the public. Also as anyone can attest, The Thing is one of the few films where the beginning is far more ambiguous than its end. Although many questions were answered within that film, even more were left unanswered about what came before.
The film centers on Dr. Kate Loyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a paleontologist hired onto a mysterious expedition to the antarctic where a Norwegian research team have found a spacecraft under layers of ice and its sole passenger stranded in the ice a few hundred yards away. After relocating the creature to their camp, a series of events releases the creature where it wrecks havoc on the compound by murdering its inhabitants and mimicking they’re appearance so they will turn on one another.
The casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an interesting one, almost as if they knew that they could never hope to match the pure manliness of Kurt Russel’s RJ MacReady. Instead they consciously went to the opposite end of the spectrum: Ripley from Alien. Winstead plays Kate in the same ways Sigourney Weaver played Ripley: a smart, but tough, young woman who has to fight against a threat that was the direct result of someone not listening to her warnings.
The most important thing going for this movie is that everyone behind the production clearly loves John Carpenter’s The Thing. They have a reverence for the original and a keen eye for detail. The filmmakers completely recreate the original Norwegian camp and structures the script in such a way that little questions from the original are answered; such as “how did the creature initially escape from the block of ice”, “how did the twisted two headed body of the thing get outside into the snow”, and “how did the compound get burned to the ground?” All of which are adequately answered and don’t contradict John Carpenter’s film at all, but rather just adds onto the mythology as any good prequel should.
There are problems with the movie however. The original film had a killer supporting cast outside of Kurt Russel with actors such as Wilford Brimley and Keith David, but this film really doesn’t have any standouts aside from Winstead. The closest being Joel Edgerton, but he’s basically playing a MacReady clone so it’s really not so much a stand out character as it is a carbon copy.
The biggest problem though is the overuse of CGI. Now let be clear that the CGI itself really isn’t that bad on its own, clearly the guys who created the creature design put alot of thought into it and ultimately it looks very creepy. Here’s the problem though, while you’re watching the CGI creatures, as good as they may look, you are also wholly aware you are watching a CGI construct chase down the actors. You never think the creature may be real. The original “Thing” was a spectacle of practical effects and puppetry, the creatures were distorted and grotesque, constantly shifting due to the amazing technical skills of the FX team. John Carpenter’s “Thing” was the stuff of nightmares whereas this one , as creepy as it may be, kind of seems like it belongs in a Star Wars prequel.
Ultimately this movie just shows where we are with horror as it’s over reliant with the use of jump scares and slick CGI. Although it has a passionate reverence for the original and adds onto its established mythology, this remake ultimately never comes close to the mastery of its predecessor.
- Reverence for the original that builds upon an established mythology
- Great Lead with Mary Elizabeth Winstead
- Supporting cast doesn’t get much to do except add to the body count
- Special effects ultimately fail to deliver