“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. / Actors: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen, Ulrich Thomsen ... / DVD released 2012-03-26 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: PAL „
RELEASED: 1982, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 109 mins
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
PRODUCERS: David Foster & Lawrence Turman
SCREENPLAY: Bill Lancaster
MUSIC: Ennio Morricone
Kurt Russell as R J MacReady
T K Carter as Nauls
Wilford Brimley as Dr. Blair
Keith David as Childs
David Clannon as Palmer
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The Thing starts well, with a flying saucer type spacecraft cruising towards earth, settling in bleak, snow-clad Antarctica.
The scene then pans to a helicopter cruising over the area, appearing to chase a dog, the dog being one of a pack living with a group of American scientists residing at an outpost, working on some sort of project. Whoever is manning the helicopter is trying to shoot the dog, but keeps missing.
Close to the base where the scientists are working, they hear the fuss outside, emerge, and shoot down the helicopter, killing the pilot who, on examination of his dead body, appears to be Norwegian.
Further exploration by the Americans reveals a deserted Norwegian research station some miles away.....deserted except for an extra-terrestrial creature lying inside a sort of carefully carved square pit of ice.
On their return to their outpost and after a while, the American team of scientists discovers that this creature is able to, when it attacks, take on the form of whatever it has chosen as its target.
It then becomes apparent that it could have infested any one of the Americans, and it is a race against time to find out who, plus to destroy the creature before it wipes out life on earth.
From my précis above, it does sound as though The Thing is something from a 1950s action-packed comic book, and I do believe it is a re-make of a film from that decade.
The first feeling I had whilst watching was one of coldness, as the sensation created in me from viewing the stark, snowy Antarctica landscape got inside of my bones and made me shiver. I also liked the rather foreboding atmosphere created, particularly while the helicopter was chasing the dog.
When the scene moved into the American observation outpost, some of that initial atmosphere dissolved.
The excitement levels once the Americans manage to work out what is going on are quite high, yet to me (although in a different setting) was too close to the original Alien movie...this being down to filming techniques rather than the story itself. However, I continued watching as I had become absorbed and was eager to see how the storyline would pan out.
For the duration of The Thing, I was hovering between reasonably healthy levels of interest and a creeping sense of boredom. It didn't help that the acting is well below par, unassisted by a not too good script. The acting came across to me as very unnatural, with the dialogue lacking imagination, not accurately putting forward how people really speak to one another. Much of this dialogue was almost as contrived as something out of an old Dan Dare comic book or movie, and it went a long way towards watering down what is otherwise potentially a great idea for a story....and hell on earth for those concerned if it really happened.
Quite a few special effects are used in The Thing. Bearing in mind the technology available in 1982 when this film was made, these special effects are rather good, but appear weak when compared to modern-day filming techniques. I do in that case feel it is very important to watch The Thing from a standpoint of casting yourself back to 1982 rather than expecting something more technologically advanced in the area of special effects.
One very good thing about this film is the musical score, it being typical of Ennio Morricone's work. It is electronic in nature, much of it being on one note, but its mood is tense, dark and haunting, perfectly befitting the dilemma the American scientists find themselves in and blending well with the atmosphere of the bleak, frozen Antarctica landscape.
There are quite a few scenes in the film which take place in darkness, but thankfully it was made at a time when directors and camera crews still knew how to make creative use of lighting techniques whereby you can still see perfectly well what is happening, yet an impression of darkness is given - that particular skill appears to have been all but lost in many modern-day films.
For me, The Thing is a film that gripped me from the start and I watched at least two-thirds of it with interest - despite cringing from the poor acting and almost infantile dialogue - yet past that point, it began to limp somewhat, consisting of little more than a group of men running around trying to slay the extra-terrestrial being....this creature taking on quite a few different forms and making a lot of cringe-inducing squelchy noises.
Although it does have its good parts, The Thing didn't quite come up to my expectations. Firstly it is too long, then couple that with the niggles (such as poor acting) I've outlined above, it ends up becoming somewhat of a farce rather than holding onto its initially grim, dark atmosphere.
Some sources on the internet describe the genre of The Thing as sci-fi/fantasy and others slot it into the horror category....I'd personally say it is a bit of all of those really.
Would I recommend The Thing? Up to a point yes, as it does have some very worthwhile parts, but it certainly wasn't as good as I was expecting, and some other people may also be disappointed with the film as a whole. I don't think it is something I shall be re-visiting, but I overall wouldn't completely slam it into the wall as it is one of those films which isn't great, but isn't bad either.
At the time of writing, The Thing can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.60 to £24.99
Used: from 46p to £249.00 (stupid!)
Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £5.99 and £11.80 (both appear to be used)
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
John Carpenter's "The Thing" in my own humble opinion, is without a doubt one of the scariest movies ever made, while also released when Carpenter was working at the peak of his directing talent. The original also being loving remake of the equally classic "The Thing From Another World" with Carpenter taking full advantage of the skills of Special effects wizardry of Rob Bottin to bring to life some truly hellish visions, which obviously wasn't possibly for the original to pull off with it's B-movie budget, even if it's gasoline throwing sequence still looks equally amazing today.
So perhaps it was with some hesitation that I approached this latest big budget remake of a horror classic, which thankfully doesn't try to remake Carpenter's vision but refreshingly instead serves as a prequel to those events, as a Norwegian research team based in Antarctica accidently stumble across a buried alien space craft aswell as the frozen body of it's alien pilot, which they decide to bring back to their base to study further. Unsure as to what they have found head scientist Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen), bring in paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) only to find out to late that the body in the ice is still alive, as it escapes and being taking on the appearance of the research team, as mistrust begins to run rampant as they struggle to identify which of them is human and which of them is the thing.
It's unsurprisingly that this release has been greeted with the usual hostility from some members of the Horror community, who view any remake of an established classic as nothing short of being sacrilegious, which is a shame really as this latest remake plays more like a big budget fan fiction than anything resembling a remake and in that sense makes it more comparable to Zack Snyder's equally fun remake of "Dawn of the Dawn" the producers of which Marc Abraham and Eric Newman are also behind this film aswell, which plays well for the film especially as they were ultimately responsible for this film being a prequel rather than yet another remake, rightly defining Carpenter's original as "Perfect" and any attempt to remake it would be similar to "Paint(ing) eyebrows on the Mona Lisa". So here we are introduced to another group of potential alien chowder, who despite this time being largely comprised of educated scientists are still in many ways are the same kind of blue collar workers that we saw in the original, while their mix of Norwegian's and American's makes for another interesting angle with Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. insisting quite rightfully that the Norwegian scientists frequently speak in their native tongue, which adds a delightfully inventive new level to the continually rising sense of paranoia.
Still what is clear throughout is how much of a fan of the original that Heijningen is, as he not only treats the source material with great respect, but also manages to capture the same claustrophobic atmosphere while making it equally hard to spot the real scientists from their alien clone, while he also ensures that the links to the original or plentiful many of which will raise a smile from the fans of the original, while also finding time to cleverly reference classic moments by given them a slight twist as the blood test is now replaced with Kate suspensefully checking each of the team members teeth for spaces were fillings are supposed to be, after discovering that the thing is unable to replicate metal, while the first time we meet Kate she is shown examing a cadaver which bares a striking resemblance to the thing dog hybrid from the original.
Sadly we are not given any form of new insights into what the thing exactly is, while it's personal motives proves frustratingly less clear, as it is first setup as trying to escape the frozen landscape by imitating members of the team, so that it might potentially infect a larger population, a theory which is soon dashed when it attacks the crew of the escape chopper hence removing it's easiest route of escape. Next it's that the thing just wants to kill everyone at the research station, before then seemingly decided it would rather just escape in it's spaceship, though seeing how the craft has been buried for the last 10,000 years makes even less sense outside of providing a unique location for the final showdown, yet still leaves the nagging question as to if it still is as fully functional as it seems, why not escape this way long before now?
Still if you find the motives of the thing baffling you may find the distinct lack of character development even more frustrating with most of the scientists interchangeable to each other, seeing how the team is largely comprised of burley bearded Norwegians, with Heijningen doing little to help them standout from each other, to the point were it seems only the Americans and a handful of key characters are easy to identify.
The cast who get parts bigger than Norwegian scientist #2 are all likable enough with Thomsen good fun as the Dr. Halvorson whose own personal research clearly takes presidence over the lives of his team, while Winstead embodies the tough Dr. Lloyd who shares more than a few traits with Ripley from the "Alien" saga as she brings another female alien ass-kicker to life, with Winstead looking equally comfortable in her lab coat as she does welding a flame thrower.
Thanks to CGI being sadly the preference over practical effects these days, it is unsurprising that the thing is largely a CGI creation this time around, which also allows for a whole new set of hellish forms for it to take, which feature heavy use of whip cracking tentacles and teethed appendages, while also demonstrating a whole new set of tricks rather than just recycling the fan favorites. Still it would seem that Heijningen is not a director to hold back, especially as he equally rivals the gore quota of the original with bodies being melded into each other and torn appendages taking on a life of their own, there is plenty to enjoy while the scientists are not slow to break out the flamethrowers once the thing makes it's first appearance, which did have me asking as to why for a non military lab that they processed so many? I'm not sure if this column has any arctic based scientists who read it, but if anyone wants to shed any light on these, then please feel free to do so.
While it may not be on the same level as the original, it still provides a fun companion piece which helps further the mythology of the thing, perhaps as this film further proves one of Sci-horrors greatest unsung heroes and while it would be nice to see a whole heap of monster movies follow in it's wake or further additions to the series, this film provides enough gooey fun to tie you over in the meantime.... just make sure you eat before you watch it.
The Thing is a rather belated prequel to the classic John Carpenter nasty of the same name that emerged sometime in the mid-eighties. The basic premise then was that scientists in Antarctica quickly found themselves being picked off when they stumbled across an alien parasite capable of replicating anyone or anything living that it happened upon. The creature came from the nearby Norwegian base situated several miles away and had arrived at the American camp in the guise of a husky. But one thing we never entirely discovered is what EXACTLY happened to the Norwegians......
This is the story then of the Norwegian base. We find out how the alien Thing came to be discovered, frozen in ice and entombed in its spacecraft, and how it escapes to quickly cause fear and paranoia amongst the scientists who discover it. Very rapidly it becomes difficult to know who to trust as the Thing of the title attempts to escape to warmer climes, not being a big fan of the environment and the sub-zero temperatures....
This, as another reviewer has also commented, almost views as a blow-by-blow remake of the John Carpenter film with very little surprises if you have seen the eighties classic. One thing that is fun though is spotting all the little factors that tie in with the earlier film and it will not be giving anything away if I point out that the ending of this film, as the closing credits run, leads directly into the start of the Carpenter version complete with the original music that was a staple of all Carpenter's classic movies of that era. This though is one of the best bits as I personally found the rest of all this just a little tame...
It's not bad, nor is it awful, it's just....okay?!? If you have not seen Carpenter's film then I would imagine this might be a more rewarding experience but for fans of that film, me and my wife just thought we had seen it all before. The Thing in the eighties was shocking at the time for its sheer visceral nastiness and some truly memorable scenes. With this latest film, we are treated to very little of anything new as the directors attempt to repeat many of the same tricks a second time around. A move that doesn't entirely work....
Don't get me wrong. This film isn't bad, it's just not anything spectacular. I am glad I saw it but would not probably watch it again....
Incidentally, the reason I don't refer to Carpenter's film as the original is because it itself was a remake of a fifties film, The Thing From Another World.
Prequels, sequels, remakes and the rest of that horrid bunch usually don't go down too well with critics, fans and myself. So when I saw that they where going to bring out another "The Thing" I had my hesitations. I will admit I haven't seen the original, I need to get round to that one, but the Kurt Russell version of the 80's is one of my all time favourite films. I have watched it repeatedly and I am a massive fan.
Bit of background
As I have just mentioned the original film dates way back from the 50's "B-movie" era but is a hit with directors and film fans. Then came along the 80's Kurt Russell one, a great horror suspense film with an alien thrown in for good measure (not some cheesy alien but a well thought out grotesque style one). And then, not too long ago, rumours started banding about on film sites about another remake. No, no, no, no was along the lines of myr eaction. LUckily, they didn't do a remake they went for a prequel instead. And, oh what a clever prequel this is.
The story of the 80's version starts with a dog running towards their compound in the middle of snowy, icy nowhere with a crazy Norweigan in a helicopter shooting at it. Crazed Norweigan doesn't speak English, bit of miscommunication, Norweigan gets shot, dog gets taken in and the crew go to investigate the Norweigan base. The place is a burnt out wreck, gory bodies, hatchet in the wall etc
The premiss of this newer version is to tell that story, what happened at the Norweigan base before Kurt Russell investigates, and to also drop a big, glaring hint as to clear up the unanswered question at the end of the Kurt Russell one.
As I have said this film clears up the story of what happenes at the Norweigan base. It gives more information on the "thing" in both films and has some great in-film clues, hints and great continuity tying in with the previous film.
The film starts with a ship being discovered, we go onto the main star then being asked to join the team to check out the body found not far away form the ship. Of course she accepts and forward to the Norweigan base and all the crazy Norweigans it comes with. There's a tense drilling into the ice block moment and, within about 10-15 minutes of the film starting, all the horror and suspense is upon you (in a good way). This is about as much as I can actually say about the storyline without giving anything away that you would want to discover for yourself.
What do I think?
This film is fantastic. Loved it. All the hesitation about it being a prequel was for nothing. It is quite obvious that every line, every little movement, every facial expression was thought out and thought about for some time. Everything hits the spot perfectly and makes itself tie in with its predeccesor beautifully.
I straight away reached for the Kurt Russell version and watched that again and I could see all the little tie ins. We see how the hatchet that is buried in the wall gets there, what happens to the man seen dead in the chair etc
I highly recommend this film regardless of if you have seen the one with Kurt Russell or not. Watch both of them in chronological order rather than order of film release, it makes each film all the more sweeter.
When I heard there was going to be a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, I was genuinely intrigued. The original film had plenty of mysteries that were never really explained, something that worked in the original's favor but potentially providing plenty for a new film to build upon. A shame then that this film, whilst trying really hard to match up its predecessor, manages to miss the point of the original whilst simultaneously managing to rip it off at almost every turn. So, break out the flamethrower and try not to get infected; it's The Thing... again...
++SOME SPOILERS FOR THE THING (1982)! SORRY! PROBLEM WITH PREQUELS!++
As previously mentioned, The Thing (circa 2011) is a prequel to the original The Thing (circa 1982), detailing the events that lead to the unearthing of the alien monster and the resulting carnage that ensues. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young paleontologist, is given a chance to join a Norwegian research team investigating an extraordinary discovery. However, when the team unwittingly dig up and revive a deadly shape-shifting alien, things rapidly begin to spiral out of control.
Now, to give The Thing (circa 2011) its due, having the film set in the Norwegian camp from The Thing (circa 1982) as a prelude to the events of the original film is an interesting idea. However, instead of trying to do something interesting or new with this idea, The Thing (circa 2011) is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original with the added problem of making most of the characters rock stupid for no reason. In the original The Thing (circa 1982), people were paranoid and afraid but only after the alien started transforming and killing things. Here, they're just stupid and argumentative from the off, with at least one character even acting like a straight up villain. Furthermore, clearly in love with the creepy creatures from the original The Thing (circa 1982), The Thing (circa 2011) has its own misshapen beauties to show off. Unfortunately, whereas The Thing (circa 1982) held back its monster attacks to build tension, The Thing (circa 2011) doesn't seem quite able to grasp the notion, throwing veritable heaps of CGI monsters at the characters. This wouldn't be such a problem if this was any other movie, but this is supposed to be The Thing (circa 2011)! Suspense is the key element! Without it, all The Thing (circa 2011) is is another creature feature with some particularly unusual looking kill-beasts.
I don't want to hate this film. The original The Thing (circa 1982) was a brilliantly suspenseful and genuinely horrifying, but The Thing (circa 2011) just doesn't match-up, failing to grasp that which made the original great, reducing it to just another monster-eats-puny-humans movie.
And also, just as a final thought, whoever thought it was a good idea to call this movie, a direct prequel to The Thing, THE #@!$*ing THING?!? It's just #@!$*ing confusing!!!