Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Jorgen Langhelle
Synopsis: A prequel to John Carpenter’s masterpiece from 1982, this instalment covers the story of the Norwegian camp that was first exposed to the imitating alien. It covers the discovery of both the alien and the space-ship, right through to the events ending in a helicopter pursuing a fleeing dog.
One thing that impresses about this prequel is certainly its attention to detail. The director has created a world that sits very well alongside that which John Carpenter created 30 years ago. I watched both films in a marathon session, and all the elements that informed USA Station 4 that something was amiss are all present and correct. Watching the film s side by side does highlight that different actors portray the same Norwegian characters, though their brief appearance in the 1982 film makes this a minor issue. The only other element that is highlighted is the advances in technology in the intervening time.
Despite the great attention to detail to get the films to coalesce, however, 2011′s The Thing is unable to recapture the same level of tension and thrills as the original. The setting invokes the same atmosphere as the first film, however perhaps part of the problem is that the films are too similar. Some events occur identically in both camps, and even the characters themselves to a certain degree appear as mere facsimiles of the original group. Inclusion of Mary Elizabeth Winstead does make a difference, not only for having a female protagonist, but also for having someone who can logically deduce solutions to the problem. However, given the 1982 setting, her inclusion in the crew without a word of resistance does seem to subvert the setting a little. I enjoyed her in this though, and remain a fan of her work.
The rest of the cast all do a good job, so it is not necessarily this that makes The Thing 2011 a lesser film. If I were to identify the problem, it is the fact the film takes full advantage in showing what can be done with CGI as opposed to the more practical effects of models and make-up from 30 years ago. The fact is those effects still work today rewatching the original on Blu-Ray, and it was the fact the film was not over-reliant on the visuals that really made it pop. Carpenter understood that sometimes what is not seen can be all the more terrifying. As a result, the new film failed to capture the sense of paranoia that is so integral to the thrills of the film. It is instead more of a creature feature, with the cast responding more to the latest terrifying event rather than second guessing everyone’s motives at every turn. As a stand-alone feature, this is just fine, but bearing the name The Thing, I think the audience has a right to be more demanding.
I did enjoy this film. Adrenaline did pump, and I was impressed with how successfully this film was integrated, especially after the passage of 39 years. But an over-familiar plot and an over-reliance on technology prevent this prequel from truly living up to its chronological successor. That said, watched as a four-hour journey, it is quite a ride, build in quality from the first to the last minute.
3.5 stars out of 5