At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.
Story-wise, with the exception of some additions, it hits the same beats as John Carpenter's original movie too. An alien vessel is discovered frozen in the Antarctic permafrost by a Norwegian research team. Finding a mysterious life form, they bring it back to their research station. Even though there's no mention of an American in the original, the makers shoehorn one in here, clearly unconvinced that a movie comprised entirely of Europeans would sell. And likewise, it's a female – once again, you get the feeling they're not confident that an all male cast would sell this time round and are taking no chances.
The American, a palaeontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is drafted into the equation by a member of the research group. Then they set about participating in a scientific study of the alien creature. Only problem is, it returns to life, and being a shape shifter that can replicate any living organism, starts to hide amongst the group, leading to lots of finger pointing, flame throwers, explosions and suspicion fueled arguments. Sounds rather familiar, right?
Whereas the original 1982 movie was all about paranoia and the fear of the unknown - the alien hid among the human hosts, desperate to remain concealed at all costs, only showing itself when it felt its identity was compromised - it's distinctly not the case here. In this movie, the creature revels in revealing itself at every available opportunity. With bells ringing. It screams and shrieks its presence to such an extent that all notions of a story based on the mistrust and doubt of an isolated group of characters goes out the window. What's the point in being a shape shifter if you're going to constantly give the game away? Then there's another aspect that doesn't quite ring true: early on in the movie, the characters witness a violent helicopter crash. The logical thing would be to go out to investigate it and search for survivors but for some reason, they all choose to ignore it. Additionally, one can't help but wish the makers had called the movie by a different title; after all, if it's meant to be an official prequel to the 'The Thing', why call it the same name?
It's not that it's bad movie; as remakes go, it's really rather good and executed with a lot of style. Sequel-wise, it's up there with Psycho 2. As with the original, we get a scene where there's a 'big test' as Mary Elisabeth attempts to ascertain who's who in the group. In the original, Kurt Russell used blood samples; here, they go for an admittedly clever spin on that scene, while being totally different, adds a new aspect to the creature while also playing as some kind of homage. You might even conclude that since this is a prequel, then you must know the ending, right? After all, we saw how it ended in the opening scenes of the original 1982 movie starring Kurt Russell. Wrong. While they don't violate the events, they take the movie in a whole different direction but still shrewdly stick with the original time- line.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is very good in this. She doesn't strut around with a "Look at me, I'm so gorgeous" expression; in fact she plays the role - sans make up, for the most part – with a level of icy, cool female conviction unseen in a movie about a creature from outer space since a little movie made in 1979 called 'Alien'. It can't be an accident that she reminds the viewer of the Ripley character played by Sigourney Weaver in the same movie and even possess a similarly unconventional beauty. Based on this, it wouldn't be surprising if she ended up replacing Weaver in the inevitable reboot/remake etc. of that franchise.
The John Carpenter original was rightly celebrated for its surreal effects, giving audiences something that was genuinely cutting edge and never seen before at the time. Happily, there is lot of utterly bizarre transformations going on here as well that will make your jaw drop: a guy's face splits open; two men fuse together and in an attempt to outdo the spider-head of the original, we see a monstrous four-legged creation stalking its prey. While everything is 90% CGI, once again it's done in such a way that it almost homages the original. For the most part the effects here look similar to the 1982 movie, except they're done with a sheen that only CG could create.
In conclusion, is it any good? Yes, it is. It's not the disaster some snotty critics would have you believe. While it's not as good as John Carpenter's move (but then, what is?), it still honors the original while effectively and cleverly building the story that lead to the events in that movie. Yes, the aforementioned 'Thing' does shout and scream a bit too much, giving away its presence all too often, but that could easily be interpreted as a legacy of its inexperience with humans. This is a prequel, after all. But don't worry - by the time Kurt Russell and pals come along, it will have learned its lesson.
- Dec 13, 2011