The Thing (2011) Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
"Anyone could have been compromised."
John W. Campbell Jr. wrote a charming little story called "Who Goes There?" way back in 1938, and opened the way to an entire sub-genre of science fiction. Originally, it was adapted to film in the 1951 in The Thing From Another World. Since they couldn't really do shape-shifting aliens at that point, the monster was a carnivorous carrot from outer space that looked suspiciously like James Arness. For the movie's lack of Special Effects (it incidentally was the first time they ever set a stuntman on fire for a movie, ground breaking at the time. Tom Steele was that brave soul's name) it was a very well crafted movie with a taunt pacing and parsimony of parts.
In 1982 John Carpenter made a remake, The Thing using the advances in FX technology to create the shape-shifting threat from beyond the stars. And it was good; Carpenter scared the collective pants off of us.
Yet in the 29 years between now and then, his masterful effects have become a little dated, and that opens the way for that dreaded phenomena, the Hollywood Remake.
Wisely, they resisted the urge, but instead chose to let the 82 classic stand on its own merits, aging special effects and all. Instead, this is a prequel. This movie is also set in the autumn of '82, at a Norwegian Antarctic Base. Ice based Paleobiology is not a crowded field even now and back then it had far fewer members. That is why an American, Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is invited to assist Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) with an amazing find.
On the bottom of the world, Kate discovers what was worth dragging her 10,000 miles from home; an alien spaceship buried under the ice 100,000 years ago...and its occupant, frozen a short distance from the ship.
Extracting things frozen in the ice is Dr. Lloyd's specialty, and they let her get to it. But Dr. Halvorson overrides her on one particular; he wants a tissue sample, and they obtain one with a drill.
This proves to be a mistake, as Jameson, (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) discovers when the cadaver bursts free of it's icy tomb. Now, it is amongst them, after a sleep of a hundred centuries. And evidence points to the fact it may be hungry. But even worse; Lloyd's examination of the creature's cellular structure indicates it doesn't just eat people, it's cells actually consume them, and mimic them. On the bigger scale, that means the monster can become what it eats.
So, here they are, at the bottom of the world, a storm closing in, and there is an alien that can become anyone...and if it gets out, that is it for the human race!
So, how does this latest installment compare with the other two? Well, it is not so bantery, and tightly choreographed as the '51 classic, but it is far and away scarier. So let's confine our comparison to '82.
First, the special effects are as far above '82, as '82 was above '51. The monster's morphing still resembles the pattern established by John Carpenter, but with far more smoothness, and art. The CGI is state of the art; my eyes haven't figured out how to spot the flaws yet. It's just like the '82 experience; it's alive and shifting shape before your eyes. It is creepy as heck.
How about the tension, so thick you couldn't cut it with a fire axe? The paranoia fest Kurt Russell and Wilfred Brumley delivered with such aplomb? Well, here, it is lacking...the '82 movie, back when Russia was still a power, and the Berlin Wall was still standing, captured that paranoid edge of are you who you say you are far better than this newer model. On this issue, there is no contest; point, John Carpenter.
Instead, you have a creature feature; the Thing is not just hiding...it is hunting. It is seeking to infect as many as it can, and kill any who get in its way. Perhaps the events of this movie taught it the hide and wait strategy was superior.
However, it is far more than just a monster in the dark that wants to hurt you; like the alien from Alien, there is an added element of horror; while the Thing takes you over, you are still conscious. It eats you alive.
There were many points of similarity here as well; casting was brilliant. Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton) chief chopper pilot is meant to remind you of R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), and oddly enough, Dr. Sander Halvorson is rather reminiscent of Robert Cornthwaite's Dr. Arthur Carrington. Women in the movie hark all the way back to 1951; there were no females at the American Station in '82. However, there is no romantic subplot here.
So final verdict: I think Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. has created a fine movie. I would have liked a little more paranoia, and I think he made a mistake with the last portion, but the final act is brilliant; a shot for shot recreation of the beginning of the '82 movie, from the Norwegian point of view.
The Thing From Another World
John Carpenter's The Thing
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Movie Mood: Scary Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.