the thing | movie review

Posted on March 2, 2012

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I have just finished watching both of “The Thing” movies. It was recommended to me to watch the 1982 movie then follow it with the 2011 release rather than the other way round. I have to say it worked.

Released in the same year as Spielberg’s ET, The Thing really couldn’t have been a more different alien movie. Spielberg went for small and cute – Capenter went for big and bloody. The classic Carpenter movie [itself a remake of a 1954 movie]is a great monster flick – that goes without saying. It creates a great sense of paranoia, and the fact that it’s set at an isolated Antarctica research outpost only adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and helplessness.

The 2011 version of The Thing was initially billed as a remake but it soon became apparent that this was going to work better as a prequel – giving us the story of what happened at the Norwegian base right up to the point when that dog gets chased down by the helicopter at the beginning of the Kurt Russell movie.

Now while not really matching the excellence of Carpenter’s horror movie, it’s still a darn good slice of scifi/horror pie. The film opens with a discovery beneath the ice in Antarctica. Soon an international team of scientists makes its way to the site, including Kate Lloyd [Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Scott Pilgrim] and Sam Carter [Joel Edgerton – Warrior]. Soon after they begin poking around events take a turn for the worst. No surprises there then.

In case you are unfamiliar with the premise of The Thing of the title – it’s a creature from outer space that attacks another creature [be it animal or human] and ‘becomes’ it by absorbing it, a kind of shapeshifting mimic. It’s a very messy process and not for those who shy away from gore.

I have heard people say “It’s the same film. It’s no different.” But why would it be? It’s the same alien, in the same setting! Of course it’s going to be strikingly similar to Carpenter’s version. And so the small team of isolated fodder, I mean scientists, begin to doubt who is still human or is indeed “the thing”. It’s quite well done.

Part of the key to its success would lie in how it dealt with the monster. The original was made 30 years ago remember, so there was very little in the way of cgi and a lot more emphasis on makeup and models. Apart from some obvious cgi in places I was impressed with how they kept the feel of the monster the same as we saw in the original. It’s a bit quicker and the focus is on it’s ability to split off from itself and therefore become more than one person at a time, which makes working out who is and who isn’t that bit trickier. The way it ‘deals with people’ is the same and even all these decades on – both movies managed to make me feel a little queasy at times, while still managing to not overdo the blood and gore.

For me the most interesting parts – and full respect due to the filmmakers – is being able to spot the bits from Kurt Russell and his comrade’s exploration of the Norwegian base. For example just how *did* that axe come to be there? It’s all very well tied in. In fact I immediately put the original back on to view these scenes again and he really didn’t miss anything out. Bravo.

So, not quite as great as it’s 1982 sequel, but with some great directing, the benefit of a mainly unknown cast, and the same sense of solitude and paranoia as the original go towards creating a very atmospheric movie.

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