Having recently seen both versions of The Thing, I was eager to see the latest prequel to see how it fit into the world of the other two, specifically the 1982 John Carpenter version. The Thing prequel definitely has a solid story, fun special effects and a ton of gore, but it falls a bit flat at the ending with some overblown effects sequences and a plot that overstays its welcome. Despite that the cast and story make this a movie worth seeing whether you’ve seen the past versions or not.
Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a paleontologist asked to go to Antarctica and look at a mysterious object found there. Along with the already established 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.
The new incarnation of The Thing doesn’t try to establish new ground, instead residing as a comfortable prequel to Carpenter’s film. The film opens in 1982 and doesn’t hit audiences over the head with campy costumes. Aside from the title telling us the year and Kate listening to Men At Work the time period is irrelevant, much like in the Carpenter film. The film doesn’t waste time with exposition, instead getting the crew together and the creature unleashed. Director Matthijs van Heijningen crafts a well-done horror film that revels in a full-fledged monster. The Thing itself has no bodily form but as it fuses with other people you get some amazing effects work including arm spiders and a horrible person/crab creature that has to be seen to be believed. Gore hounds and fans of the effects in Carpenter’s film will be delighted at how much this film enjoys presenting gross things on the screen.
The characters are all well-rounded and it’s nice to see a female try to step up a la Sigourney Weave in Aliens. Winstead’s role as Kate establishes her as a serious leading lady. Kate doesn’t play dumb, opening her mouth and revealing what she knows despite being told to shut up, and when the men start to be suspected as aliens Kate’s the one holding the flame thrower at the end. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a female leader that doesn’t monologue about being a woman and Winstead is up to the challenge. Playing opposite her in a more subtle role is Joel Edgerton as Braxton Carter, the closest thing we have to a Kurt Russell figure. Carter is nowhere near as brash or masculine as Russell’s character. He’s more of a charmer and mainly a strong, quiet presence. The fact that the film climaxes with him and Kate leads to a lot of great chemistry between him and Winstead.
The biggest problems seem to lie in how much money was given to the director. It’s great to see a big budget but it’s almost like the crew are kids in a candy store. There’s some terrible CGI here that really pulls you out of the film. The initial transformations in the beginning look fake and some of the creatures you can tell aren’t on-screen with the actors. It’s even more weird to see the epic scale of the space-craft the crew discovers which never looks fake. The film also overstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes with Kate going back to the spacecraft to stop the creature. The set looks way too flashy in comparison to the base and Kate mainly walks around for a good portion of the time making it seem like the director was just flaunting the set.
Even though the movie’s a big long-winded and the effects aren’t perfect, The Thing is still an enjoyable film. It’s perfect for the Halloween season and the cast is above and beyond what’s in typical horror remakes.