John Carpenter’s 1982 classic “The Thing” was in fact a remake/re-issue (for those of you who didn’t know) of the 1951 film “The Thing From Another World” but Carpenter’s film proved to be a far superior and much more faithful adaptation of the novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. Well, it seems like the success of Carpenter’s film had almost inspired a sequel, and even a mini-series; however, director Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr.. and scripter Eric Heisserer goes for the creation of a prequel to the 1982 classic with 2011’s “The Thing”. At first impression (because of its title) the film appears to be a remake, but there has been unconfirmed rumors that this prequel may actually be a part of a new trilogy (that is, depending on how it performs in the box-office).
I’ve often declared that prequels, reboots, and remakes lose a lot of momentum for suspense and unpredictability since one would already know its premise; and this is true for this film. 2011’s ‘prequel’ takes place in Antarctica in 1982, several days before the events of Carpenter’s film. A paleontologist named Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is enlisted by Sander Halverson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to join a Norwegian scientific team who has stumbled upon the remains of an alien ship which has been buried beneath the frozen wastes of Antarctica. They also discover a frozen corpse of a creature in a block of ice and they take the remains to their base in order to conduct tests that may determine its origins. But it seems like the creature has been awakened and has the frightening ability to absorb and mimic any human being it comes in contact with. Kate and the team must determine which of their companions have been touched or not, and to keep the creature from reaching civilization….
See, what made Carpenter’s classic horror movie successful was its ability to generate a feeling of paranoia, dread and desperation brought forth by the cast and Kurt Russell’s impressive performance. It was also a vehicle for showing off improved special effects that used matte paintings, creature animatronics and grisly effects of blood and gore. It was creative in what it meant to do, and it was brilliantly simple with its story. This ‘prequel’ uses the same concept and premise, mimics the same mood and tone (this is a good thing) almost as if it had absorbed the 1982 film. The direction does have its success in creating the right tension and mood with updated CGI effects; it feels like a prequel, but the flaws of the film are just beginning.
The problems of the film begin with the uninspired script. I know, this is a prequel and so it is set to follow the rules of the 1982 film, but in doing so, it limits itself to the rules that have already been established. While Carpenter’s film made human fear, the unknown and paranoia its main focus, this 2011 prequel goes for more of the same; but the script goes for a paint-by-numbers game that uses elements we’ve all seen before in movies “Alien” to give the creature some background. Imagine if every horror movie tried to spoon-feed you all the details, and in doing so, it collapses on the trappings of cliché.
Another thing this 2011 prequel suffers from is the lack of good characters. Ok, we all know that as a prequel, it is already isolated inside a ‘box’; but the characters are stereotypes with little background afforded them, and this means the direction seemed to have given up in granting them dimensions. Bad enough, we all know where all this headed, but these are characters that you can see are mere fodder; with the exception of Kate and Carter (Joel Edgerton), you already know everyone was supposed to die. This kills any possibility in the generation of suspense, and with the script lacking any depth, it plays it too safe that the film felt paper thin.
The acting were alright at certain points, but the direction wasn’t exactly helpful in giving the performers much room to shine. The film behaves more like a monster movie with the creature coming to full view several times, and the film becomes a grand display for feral CGI effects. The creature effects did remind me a bit of the ones I’ve seen in “Splinter” blended in with style taken from other alien movies. The creature has a massive mouth and looked like an abomination, and made much more primeval and gruesome with the features of the humans it absorbed. The CGI effects were a little uneven, as some scenes looked better than the others. One minute, the creature was highly detailed and then some parts felt very ‘made up’. There are also several scenes that almost felt like a homage to Carpenter’s film which was amusing. The director did have some intense moments and potentially frightening scenes, but it just couldn’t follow through to make an impact on its narrative.
2011’s “The Thing” isn’t a total loss. But this may be one of those times where I felt that they should’ve just gone for a remake or a more faithful re-adaptation of the book, instead of a prequel (or reboot). At this point, even a remake would be unnecessary, but there may be room to improve; a prequel trying to expand on the concept, where there really isn’t much to expand on (Carpenter himself turned down the idea for a sequel before) makes the film rather cheap. The film feels very shallow, unnecessary and made to merely capitalize on the popularity of the 1982 classic. 2011’s “The Thing” could’ve been shown as a direct-to-video release instead and I would‘ve given it a slightly higher score.
*1/2 out of **** "The Thing" opens with the discovery of a flying saucer that has - since it has gone unnoticed and undiscovered until now - been buried under deep depths of Antarctic ice. It is found when some Norwegian researches are making way across the icy landscape by snowcat; only to fall right into the darkness of what lies beneath. The film has been marketed as a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name, which in itself was based on an earlier movie … more
Among the most irksome of common cinematic misconceptions is the notion that John Carpenter's horror/sci-fi exemplar The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World. Despite Carpenter's blatant homage to his admitted idol (manifest in an opening title lit ablaze in imitation of its predecessor's), these are very different adaptations of John W. Campbell's inspired novella, Who Goes There? - of which Carpenter's is the more faithful and ingenious by far. … more
After the success of a videogame based on the original film, rumors of a sequel arose many times but never came to fruition, with creative differences between Universal and John Carpenter cited as the main reason. It was oft-speculated that Carpenter made a deal to write and produce a sequel provided he got to name has director. But when he opted to name himself director the studio balked and the project fell apart. In the aftermath, rumors of a miniseries on the SyfY channel arose along with the … more
Star Rating: Despite sharing the exact same title, The Thing is not a remake of John Carpenter’s 1982 film. Nor, for that matter, is it related to Howard Hawks’ 1951 film The Thing from Another World. It is, in fact, a prequel to Carpenter’s film, taking place three days earlier and telling the story of the ill-fated Norwegian science team stationed in Antarctica. Provided you’re familiar with this story, it doesn’t take a great … more