My first viewing of John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing destroyed me. It absolutely terrified me with its insane creature design and the overwhelming feeling of dread and hopelessness was mind blowing for me at 9 or 10 years old. It had a lasting impact on me and as I got a little older It became one of my favorite all time horror films. When it was rumored that there would be another remake of the film the fans were enraged over it and for good reason. John Carpenter’s original was a bomb when it was originally released in the summer of 1982. However it soon found its audience on home video and has rightfully taken its place as the masterpiece film of Carpenter’s career. The film was overwhelmingly paranoid and dark and the special effects are still unrivaled.
Later it was announced the new film was to be a prequel to explain what happened to the Norwegian camp that discovers the The Thing in the first place. This gave us fans a little bit of hope that this might be something different. Having finally watched the film I can say that while it can’t hold a candle to Carpenters film, The Thing (2011) is entertaining, has a little dread and even has some pretty great sequences in special effects.
The Story begins with Mary Winstead’s paleontologist character being brought in from the US to the Norweigian base in Antartica to consult on a find. Once she’s there we’re introduced to a camp of fairly anonymous Norweigians who are hard to tell apart. Seriously they all have beards and Norweigian names that you forget as soon as you hear them. We’re shown the crashed ship and the Thing’s body frozen in the ice. If you’ve seen JC’s original then you pretty much know what will happen. They dig up the Thing, it escapes and tries to kill and take the place of people in the camp. Chaos and distrust ensues and we have a big climatic battle back at the ship.
(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)
Let’s get what doesn’t work out of the way first. The Thing’s motivation seems scattered to say the least. At first I thought perhaps this was on purpose and the writer was trying to give it a “Scared animal” mentality. First it escapes, Soon it starts imitating people and then it tries to escape out of the camp but freaks out in mid flight causing the helicopter its on to crash. Then in one scene it takes out half the cast of the film and then goes back to imitating people again. Its like the writer couldn’t decide if he wanted the Thing to be clever or just monster out and kill everyone. Why is it careful to conceal itself one minute then freaking out and killing everything the next.
Mary Winstead’s character is basically the Macready character from the Carpenter film but she apparently has a dog eared copy of the script in her back pocket. We see her figure things out way to quickly and too accurately for it to be believed. She’s not the only one either; Another character named Lars has also read the script and just shows up out of nowhere with a flame thrower exactly when its needed. There’s never any explanation given so he must have read the script. The Carpenter film is pretty tight with an explanation for everything that needs one and in fact people still debate who was and was not being imitated. No one will be having discussions like that for the 2011 film.
The work put into to matching events up in the prequel and Carpenters film, while admirable, sometimes hinder the film. It felt at times like more work was being put into matching up events than in writing good characters and a solid story. There were a couple times where characters did things just because that’s what they had to do to explain what we see in Original film.
OK so what does work? The creature design is pretty good. It manages to take the amazing work done in the original and add some new twists on it. Overall the effects work, though there were a couple dodgy CGI moments. Surprisingly they melded digital and practical effects together and it was a fairly successful endeavor. It didn’t really WOW me like my first viewing of the original but there are a few moments that are pretty damn impressive!
The film doesn’t have the slow burning dread and hopelessness of the original but it does manage to be suspenseful and I found myself totally getting into it. Visually its a pretty film and its very entertaining. But its more of a big flashy monster movie than it is a well paced movie of distrust and building dread. Its worth watching and I think most people will enjoy the film even if you hate the idea of a prequel to John Carpenter’s original.
2 out of 5 stars