THE THING (2011) Review

Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen

Sometimes I wish I could erase movies completely from my memory and make it as though I'd never seen them before. I'm not just talking about movies so bad you'd wished you had never seen them in the first place, but I'm also talking about classic films which are remade. THE THING is technically a prequel but in all honesty it might as well be a remake, and as with all remakes people are inevitably going to compare it to the original. In this case it won't be the actual Howard Hawks original movie but John Carpenter's classic reimagining. I try to judge movies solely on their own merits, but comparisons always come to mind and that is why I'd like to erase some films from my memory. So that I can make an entirely unbiased judgement on a remake.
That however is not the case, so I started watching this remake/prequel/ with John Carpenter's movie firmly in my mind and I knew right from the beginning that it would never measure up.

THE THING is touted as a prequel to the 1982 film, but if you read the synopsis without knowing this, it may as well be the same damn movie. The Americans have been replaced by Norwegians, Kurt Russel has been replaced by a female lead, and instead of practical effects we get a mix of practical and CGI. Other than that not much is different.

A Norwegian expedition stumbles upon a flying saucer buried deep within the Antarctic ice. But more importantly they discover the pilot of the saucer, also frozen in ice. They decide to remove a block of ice containing the extra-terrestrial and take it back to the research station. They prep it for transport but suddenly the alien breaks free of it's icy prison and before long it is killing people. To make things worse, it becomes apparent that this 'thing' is not only deadly and powerful but can also assimilate and replicate its prey. It becomes obvious that this creature needs to be destroyed before it has a chance to reach civilisation.

Anybody who has seen the 1982 version of THE THING will find nothing new here at all. The characters and their names and nationalities are different, but since you probably won't find yourself caring about any of them anyway, it doesn't really matter. Rob Bottin's amazing creature fx are gone and in their place is a blend of practical effects and CGI which actually worked better than I thought they would, but still have nothing on JC's masterpiece. And the female lead (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is definitely no Kurt Russell.
Apart from Bottin's effects, the other thing that John Carpenter's film did extraordinarily well was to pour on the tension and especially the paranoia. Being trapped in a remote outpost with a group of people, and not knowing just who could be concealing a bloodthirsty alien identity is a terrifying concept. Somehow though, this prequel has ditched the suspense and that dreadful feeling of paranoia and instead replaced it with some fast-paced yet still bland chase scenes.
For people who haven't seen '82 remake, they might just find themselves enjoying this and at the very least it will introduce a new audience to the older movie.

The one big thing that really annoys me is the fact that there was really no need for this movie to be made at all. I can't imagine fans were crying out for a back story. It brings nothing new to the table. It's basically the same movie with a couple of new but unimportant elements.

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