Just saw the recent version of “The Thing,” the prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter classic of the same title.
I was impressed. Yeah, I was. Just my thoughts though, so take them as one guy’s opinion.
The production of this flick stayed true to the ambiance of the 1982 version, and the special effects were incredible. When the things were appearing in all of their writhing screeching glory, it looked seamless to me–like a sped up video of say a blooming flower, except, well, not so pretty. I’m reaching there, I know, but I hope you get my meaning. The Norwegian research station looked great and practically mirrored the US one–from my memory anyway, and I’m not sure where the movie is shot, but it convinced me that the place is cold, the ice trenches are deep, (the opening sequence made me wince) and that big ship underneath the ice looked great. The actors did a good job and I enjoyed watching this bunch of Norwegians (hey Sweden!) go from happy, to scared, to drunk happy at finding the discovery of the century, to leery paranoia.
The writers took care to ensure that details we saw in the “sequel” (the 1982 version) appeared here, and I was ticking them off as they appeared. The ending is essentially where the 1982 flick starts, and if I had to see it today, I would imagine its as seamless as the makers could make it.
Now, I do have some complaints.
The script was co-written by John W Campbell Jr, who worked on the Carpenter version, which is probably why the look and details of the movie are so well done. But there is a noticeable absence of tension here. There are flickers of that paranoia that so made the first movie simply great, from where MacCready is recording his final sleep deprived thoughts, to the rampant finger pointing of the station scientists when they start accusing each other of being “thingy.” The writers didn’t seem to mind borrowing certain elements from the John Carpenter movie, which was fine (you’ll see), but I did have a sense of having seen it before.
The music in here is great–well, the original Carpenter composed parts are, that is. The music in between isn’t so good. In fact, I think I would’ve preferred no music at all in a movie like this, just to punch home the feeling of being at the bottom of the world, in a frozen landscape, with an alien that likes to hide inside people on the loose.
Thinking on it, yeah, the main issue I have with this movie, and which kept it from being a great movie, was the absence of tension. The aliens are loud and snarly when they’re onscreen, and the frights rely on, unfortunately, loud shots of music (which I think is cheap in any so-called horror movie) to make you jump. They throw in one cliche there with a flamethrower… and just how popular are flamethrowers in the Antarctic, anyway?
I think that they could’ve done away with the “fright” music, used a little more of Carpenter’s original score, and added another 15 to 20 minutes or so, to slowly build up the tension and terror in the station inhabitants. There were glimmers in there, but just not enough. In this version, the scientists made a pretty quick leap from “frozen specimen” to “it’s an alien that can replicate us and some of us aren’t who our nametags says we are.” It was pretty rushed in that sense.
All in all, I liked the movie. I would give it a 3.5 stars out of five. There’s definitely a sequel for it I think–the question is, do they remake the Carpenter version with the US base (a mistake I think) or do they go and do the Russian base? The Russian base mentioned at the end would be my choice.
But then, the producers have the final say.