In 1951, there was “The Thing from Another World” ( now considered one of the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie from the 1950’s). In 1982 came “John Carpenter’s The Thing”, which bombed because at the time audiences went to see another alien movie, E.T. John Carpenter’s The Thing has now raised to the top, as one of the best horror movies of all time. Jump ahead 29 years and The Thing is back; this time as a sort of prequel to the ’82 version. In Carpenter’s version, American researchers in the Antarctic travel to a nearby Norwegian camp in search for answers to their own “thing” issue where they find the camp destroyed, everyone dead, strange burnt corpses and an alien spaceship, whereas the 2011 film tells the story of that Norwegian research camp and what happened.
Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited for a team to study a structure and a specimen found by a Norwegian camp in the Antarctic, unbeknownst to her, the structure was a spaceship and the specimen was an alien frozen in the ice. The decision to cut the Thing out to attempt to study it was made and therein lies the film.
Before I go any further, I must warn you that Carpenter’s The Thing might be in fact my favorite movie of all time, so I’m going to try to step back as much as I can and give the movie a review based on its own merits, but the comparisons are going to inevitable because essentially, they are the same movie.
The good things about the 2011 film have much to do with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead role, similar to Ripley from Alien. I found it refreshing to see a female lead that doesn’t get emotional, actually makes good decisions and is believable as someone who can take control of a situation. Besides Winstead the rest of the cast is solid but suffers from a lack in script and character development. The film was shot in 35 mm instead of digital giving the film a bigger look, emphasizing the vastness and isolation of the Antarctic landscape and making it a much creepier atmosphere. Kurt Russell’s crew from the ’82 film spent quite a bit of time at the Norwegian camp so the amount of research in getting the look of the camp just right and to sequence events to match the earlier film were impressive. Fans of the ’82 movie will be delighted with the detail and won’t be disappointed when they go back and compare, they will also be delighted that during the closing credits they threw in a scene that takes you directly into the first scene of the Carpenter film, making it essentially ( if you watch both films back to back) one movie.
My worst gripe on the film is the CGI, Rob Bottin’s effects back in ’82 were groundbreaking and incredibly real and horrific, you lose the ooze effect and the overall realism that good old fashioned puppetry covered in Jello and Vaseline can create. The Thing, who can change into any life form it has previously imitated, morphed too quickly and moved too fast, making it seem, at times, cartoonish and fake. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad – there were a few effects that were done well but so not to spoil them I will omit them from this review.
The Thing 2011, compared to other films today, is actually pretty good, the pacing is pretty quick and the scares and jumps are abundant. Although it is not a totally original idea, it’s not as formulaic as most horror films today and definitely worth checking out. I give it a 2 guy out of 3 rating.