I’ll be honest, I approached this with some trepidation. The original film The Thing is a classic of sci-fi and horror, one of those films I watched as I began my awakening to the genre, and loved every moment of. Coupled with my general distrust of remakes, I wasn’t at all convinced that this would be a sound investment of my time.
Surprisingly, then, I can report I rather enjoyed it. It managed to capture some of the feeling of the original, but add to it with more modern touches. The film is actually a prequel rather than a remake, which begs the infuriated question, why does it have the same name as the original? I don’t have the answer to that, but the film itself does fit perfectly into the original which is rather gratifying in itself.
But that it works as essentially fan fiction to the original should not at all be the gauge of its success or failure. It must stand as a film in its own right- which it does rather well. The CGI rendering of the titular Thing gives it a rather different flavour, swapping the 80s gore effects which Carpenter was so fond of for a more Dead Space appeal. Indeed, the Thing more resembles the necromorphs from those video games than I remember previously.
The story itself was sound, but then it was half-written by the film it was expanding upon. A team of Norwegian scientists in the Antarctic discover a crashed alien spaceship along with an alien frozen in a block of ice, and remove the latter for examination. Except it’s not quite dead, and the alien cells can imitate human cells, and you can probably see where this is going.
The pacing goes for a little less claustrophobic paranoia, and a little more big budget action, but I think that’s more a sign of the times than anything- and aside from there being no real explanation as to why there is such an abundance of flamethrowers at Antarctic bases, it doesn’t stray to far from the believability of the premise.
One interesting note is that it does seem to be staffed by lookalikes. The female lead, at certain angles, bears rather a resemblance to Firefly and Stargate Atlantis actress Jewel Staite (but isn’t). The can’t-speak-English Norwegian heavyman looks sort of like Liam Neeson gone native (but, unsurprisingly, isn’t). And the English radio operator looks the spit of Tim Roth (but isn’t). None of which has any bearing on anything really, but I thought it was interesting…
In the end, though, as much as I enjoyed the film I’m left wondering why it was made as a prequel to 1982’s The Thing. Yes, it fitted perfectly with it, but that’s because it was made to. It didn’t have to be. It had flavours and inspirations from a variety of other sources, including as I’ve already mentioned the Dead Space video game series, and the first Alien vs Predator film. I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t pushed as an inspired-by-but-unrelated film, injected with a bit of originality and allowed to go its own way a bit more.
Even straight-jacketed to someone else’s film I enjoyed it, but I do think I would have enjoyed it even more if it was its own film. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who is getting sick of remakes, prequels and the like.