Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Three Weeks of The Thing comes to a close (yes I know it’s about 3 days late), with a remake that does well but isn’t perfect. The Thing prequel (and yes it’s definitely a prequel) has a solid story, very fun effects and a great cast but falls flat at the end with overblown SFX sequences and a plot that goes on a bit too long. That didn’t lessen my fun, but made me declare the 1982 version of The Thing to be the best there is.
Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a paleontologist asked to go to Antarctica and look at a mysterious object. Along with Norwegian crew she discovers a spacecraft and a mysterious entity encased in ice. Once it thaws out the “thing” ends up taking over the crew one by one and replicating, making the crew doubt who is really human. With everyone suspecting each other, they’ll have to band together to find the creature and destroy it before it escapes the base.
So having seen all three versions of The Thing, I’d say the prequel falls right in the middle. It’s far more enjoyable than The Thing From Another World, but it doesn’t have quite the story as the Carpenter version.
The film opens in 1982, to be expected from a prequel, but director Matthijs van Heijninen doesn’t bash audiences over the head with that fact. There’s no campy costumes, abundant use of early 80s/late 70s music, or anything like that. In fact, aside from a title card telling us the year and Kate faintly listening to Men at Work on headphones, the time period is irrelevant like it was in the Carpenter version. The film also doesn’t waste time with exposition, pretty much introducing us to the characters and unleashing the creature. There’s no big speeches about random characters and their troubled family life, or there children back home, you know what you’re supposed to know and that’s it. The film is a no-holds-barred, well-done horror film that revels in telling us a monster story which is refreshing and fun!
The Thing itself may not have a bodily form but when it fuses with people you get some grotesque creature effects. They run the gamut from arm spiders (they are what they sound), and a crab person that has to be seen to be believed. Fans of gore and similar effects in the Carpenter movie will be so delighted.
Aside from creatures, the prequel also pays loving tribute to the 1982 original while making certain sequences its own. There’s a suspenseful and well-shot scene that mimics the blood test scene of the film, although instead of blood the crew discover the creature can’t replicate metal. A rather ingenious move in my opinion and it causes the crew to start checking their teeth for metal fillings, one character in particular having a very subtle tell that will allow you to determine their human-ness or not. I was particularly interested to see how this would have placed had the movie been modernized considering most people don’t use metal fillings anymore. Also be sure to stay through the credits to see the great bridge between this film and the Carpenter version.
The cast and characters are just as endearing and well-acted as the ’82 film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a fantastic leading lady as Kate Lloyd and I’m sure many will compare her to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Kate doesn’t play dumb, she showcases her smarts much to the head scientist Sander’s (Ulrich Thomsen) chagrin. When everyone starts suspecting each other it is Kate left holding the flame thrower and giving orders by the end. It’s so refreshing to have a female character that doesn’t have to give grand speeches about being in charge and being a woman or being used for titillation and Winstead is up to the challenge. Playing opposite her is Joel Edgerton as Braxton Carter. Many are quick to compare him to Kurt Russell’s MacReady but Edgerton is more charming and a strong silent presence in this film.
The films main flaws seem to be in how much the director revels in the big budget. It’s great to see huge set pieces but the crew is almost like kids in a candy store, just throwing money around where it’s not needed. There’s some flat-out terrible CGI here, especially in the transformations from human to alien that look fake. It’s even more baffling when you see the spacecraft in the ice which doesn’t look fake at all.
The movie also is about 20 minutes too long with Kate going back to the spaceship only to have her walk around doing nothing. It’s bad enough the interior of the spacecraft looks like a dark Apple store but it’s just flaunted to show “hey we got a lot of money so let’s blow it on the spaceship at the end.”
The Thing is still an enjoyable film despite dips in the CGI and story. It’s perfect for the Halloween season and the cast is above and beyond what’s in typical horror remakes.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.