Is The Thing (2011) a worthy prequel to the 1982 The Thing and is it a movie that will potentially kick off the franchise into the next decade? Well, I am not so sure about that....
Mild Spoilers with heavier spoilers marked toward the end....
Okay, the movie The Thing that came out Friday is a new movie which is a prequel to the 1982 version of The Thing which is a remake of the 1951 The Thing which is based on the story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Cambell Jr. - got that?
I am a big fan of John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing and was lucky enough to see the film on the big screen for the first time a day before the release of the 2011 version. I had only seen the film on TV and home video but seeing it on the big screen (Blu-Ray) I appreciate it even more. It also gives me a chance to compare and contrast these two movies as they are both fresh in my mind.
It is 1982 and a discovery by a Norwegian base leads paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to the Antarctica to assist with the dig. A massive craft is found in buried in the ice and some life form found a short distance away. The scientists bring the fossil back to their base but it is not dead. The life form attacks the base members and attempts to copy them. The alien, when in contact with humans or other life forms, begins a mutation where it forms into an exact copy. If you have seen the 1982 The Thing then you know all this.
Kate quickly identifies the problem and attempts to convince the others that this “virus” should not be allowed to get to populated areas and that one or more of them may already be copies. All hell breaks loose leading to an ending and story connection to the 1982 version.
First off let me say that the prequel links up virtually seamlessly to the original. Sets, scenes and characters are all perfectly matched up. In the 1982 version a dog, chased by a helicopter winds up at an American base. The pilot and passenger are killed while trying to shoot the dog. We find out soon enough that the dog is more than it appears. A trip to the Norwegian base finds everyone dead and the remains of a burnt creature. They bring it back to the base and the rest is history.
I was surprised at how well these two films do link up with only a few minor exceptions including the filming of the explosion over the saucer and standing around the craft.
Well, apart from that link, what about the film itself? Well, one of my main concerns was going to be the special effects. The CG fest for the most part was just fine. None of the effects blew me away as the 1982 mechanical and prosthetic effects did. Still, they stayed true to The Thing concept and design.
What was so powerful in the 1982 version was the suspense and build up of tension created by the paranoia of the characters as they try to stay alive and figure out who the Thing might be. The mood of that movie is amazing from the spooky dog acting (That dog didn't seem real as it quietly moved around the base) to the cold alone setting of the base. The music, by Ennio Morricone, set the mood even further, all pushing this film into the realm of all time classic.
The 2011 version lacked much of this. The only tension was created when the viewer waited for the Thing to crash through the wall or ice. In a way, this prequel reminded me of Aliens. The first Alien movie was moody and scary as all hell. Aliens had scares but was mostly amped up action. One can compliment The Thing 2011 by saying it is like Aliens. I am not sure it was as good as Aliens though. For the first hour I was really into this film but when it did turn to straight action and mayhem and explosions, it sort of lost my attention. Again, I had seen Ripley go down to the Alien Hive and now we see Kate Lloyd doing the same thing of sorts.
Still, I found the film mostly enjoyable but just not in the same level as the 1982 version. It took the concept and ideas and performed well with them but by no means did it manage to approach the level of quality as the 82 version.
I hope the film does well. For a new audience, it should serve just fine as a thriller sci-fi horror movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the stand out performance and she handled the part well.
She survives and is sitting in an Arctic CAT but does she know how to get to the Russian base 50 miles away (It was mentioned that this is where they should go at one point). She is not around when Macready and his people show up so one has to assume she headed off to the base. Once there she would not be able to contact anyone because of the snow storms that plagued the American base as seen in the 82 movie. I thought wouldn't it be great to see a sequel where Lloyd meets up with Macready and Childs (the survivors of the American base) and fight the Thing again?