When you do a remake – or in this case a prequel that seems like a remake – you have to do some things that add to the film you’re remaking to make it somehow new. This has been done with varying degrees of success over the years, and this new version of The Thing falls somewhere in the middle. How’s that for a glowing endorsement? I know, it’s another middle of the road film, but at least this one has it’s heart in the right place. Ha – that’s like a funny I just made there.
This has the same premise as the John Carpenter film, a group of scientists in the Antarctic find a large spacecraft under the ice and near it, a frozen lifeform as well. The lifeform thaws and gets free causing havoc and horror by absorbing its’ prey and then becoming them. But the prequel aspect here is that in the Carpenter version, the American base discovered a Norwegian base that had just been through all this. This new film shows us those events at the Norwegian base. It’s like making the same movie without having to shoot the exact same scenes. It’s like a remake, but not.
Carpenter’s The Thing, also a remake, but one of the highest order, provided us with things we’d never seen before. it’s level of practical creature effects are still amazing and disturbing to this day. That movie, I think we will all agree, stands up pretty well even by today’s standards. And the creepy, paranoia-filled tension is punctuated with scenes of terrific horror. It really is no small task to try to compete with that. But they do indeed try rather valiently in this prequel directed by Matthijis van Heijiningen and written by Eric Heisserer based on John W. Campbell, Jr.’s short story.
I think this film suffers from being “almost” a lot of things. The paranoia is high in some scenes, but not as consistently throughout. The eerie mood of desolation isn’t quite as strong in this as it should be. And the effects, some of which are practical, and some of which are CGI, are not quite as effective. Well, let’s talk about that. I mean, obviously a large part of this film is going to focus on that aspect. Carpenter’s version broke new ground and set the bar with this, so the comparison is inevitable.
There are moments with the creature in this prequel that are as eye-popping and horrific as the 1982 version. Yes, I mean that. There are some seriously spine-tingling moments. I was genuinely freaked-out. But in the third act, the film suffers from too much exposure to the creature. You see too much of this CG creature and you realize you’re looking at CG. It’s a little too much. And the way they dispatch of the creature is ho-hum. It leaves you wanting. It’s like they went with a more sci-fi action ending than with a horror one. As a small reward, stay during the credits for a sort of cool tie-in to the 1982 film, cementing it’s prequel staus.
The actors all do a pretty fine job. I like the use of a lot of lesser known and character actors. It keeps you in the story without preoccupying you with a celebrity. I can’t look at Tom Curise in a movie anymore without just thinking, “Hey, it’s Tom Curise, that crazy Scientologist.” But then, I don’t go to Tom Cruise movies anymore anyway. I’m not giving that guy any money. Though one thing I can say about The Thing is that Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a fine job of kicking ass with a flame thrower. Woo hoo!
Geez, this Thing, that Thing, how about we just refer to Carpenter’s as Thing 1, and this new one as Thing 2? Not to be confused with Dr. Seuss.
I can’t rave about this new prequel The Thing, but I can’t completely trash it, either. I honestly believe that they had good intentions and weren’t just trying to make a buck on an existing film. I think they were sincere about trying to add something new to this. And they did, to some degree. Unfortunately, the weak third act causes the film to suffer some. I’ll give it three kittenhands for the things I do like. But Carpenter’s The Thing remains the iconic horror film it has always been.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, not as impressed as I wanted to be with this, and a little surprised by that.