Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen
Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
103 mins. Rated R for strong creature violence and gore, disturbing images, and language.
The producers of the 2011 film The Thing got it right when they said that you don’t touch certain properties. They were referring to Jaws, The Exorcist, and the 1982 John Carpenter film The Thing. In a lot of ways, they’re right. I’ve always said that I hate remakes because it requires no creative input to shell out a remake. But a continuation, or in this case a prequel, now that sounds interesting.
In 1982, a Norwegian research team comes across an alien spacecraft out in Antarctica. They call in Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Swiss Army Man) to help investigate and uncover details about the craft. They also discover what appears to be the body of one of the beings nearby. When they bring the body in for study, they quickly discover that the creature is still alive and had the ability to mimic those around it. As Kate and the others try to figure out which one of the is The Thing, they must also keep themselves closed off from the rest of the world as the creatures tries to find its next host.
The prospect of revisiting the John Carpenter The Thing from 1982 is a very interesting one. The idea of developing the mythos further by adding a prequel focusing on the Norwegian team is even more so, but proved a difficult path to take. First of all, any fans of the original know where the film is headed so you still have to make it entertaining. This was an issue for director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., who tended to fall back on the same plot points of the original without creating excitement.
Another issue is the CGI. When I heard about the film, I was told by those involved that the film would rely heavily on practical effects like the 1982 film had. I was overjoyed to hear it. The biggest win of the 1982 The Thing is its excellent practical effects. What I got was a CGI mess. The studio apparently went in and CGI’d over the practical effects, leaving them a sloppy disappointment. They look rushed and haven’t aged well.
Thankfully, the film is led by Winstead who takes control well in Kate, an infusion of Kurt Russell’s MacReady and Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley from Alien. She is smart, capable, and tough. I also enjoyed Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) as pilot Sam Carter, Ulrich Thomsen (TV’s Banshee, The Celebration) as the methodical Dr. Sander Halvorson, and Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: Los Angeles, Celeste & Jesse Forever) as assistant Adam Finch. All in all, the performances work, but the story isn’t giving them anywhere to move.
The screenplay is an interesting one, written by Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5, Lights Out), a really terrific writer known mostly for horror. He reverse engineered the story from the clues we get in Carpenter’s film, making the connections between the two films rather interesting. Again, though, he gets a little caught up in making this film so similar to the original. There had to have been something more in the cards for this story.
A first time director with a film containing heavy reshoots and swift CGI work lead to a rougher time at the movies. Now, I enjoy The Thing for what it is, but it breaks my heart thinking about what it could be. Sadly, we will never get the chance to see the “Pilot Version” that the original cut was before all the additions. But hey, it serves as a nice reminder of how damn amazing John Carpenter’s original film is (itself a remake of The Thing from Another World).
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of John Carpenter’s The Thing, click here.