The Thing (2011)

The Thing (2011)

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She had a suspicion that something was going on behind her back.
She had a suspicion that something was going on behind her back.

Twitter Plot Summary: In this prequel to the 1982 film, we see events as they unfold on the Norwegian base. This time there’s also women.

Five Point Summary:

1. OMG – A woman!
2. Some bearded Norwegians and an alien. Standard.
3. Nice twist on the blood test.
4. Some more bad CGI effects.
5. And the link to John Carpenter’s film is complete.

Prequels are tricky business to get right – fans of certain movies will always have preconceptions about the events leading up to said movies and it’s not always necessary for us to see those events played out. Rather confusingly also called The Thing, this prequel sets out the events on the Norwegian base that was explored in the opening act of the 1982 film. Because everybody expects it these days, the lead character is female scientist Kate Lloyd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The remaining cast are your typical Norwegian stereotypes. Game of Thrones fans will be pleased to see Kristofer Hivju show up in his usual role of big bearded ginger man, and Joel Edgerton is his usual somewhat less than ebullient self as fellow American scientist Sam Carter. In other words, we have a base full of poorly drawn characters ready to be eviscerated and absorbed by The Thing. Lovely stuff.

Ironically enough, The Thing 2011 does actually pass the Bechdel Test as Kate has an admittedly brief conversation with another woman on the base before it all goes to pot. Despite first impressions (and initial uproar at the thought of a woman being in a “Thing” movie), Winstead is just fine in her role – she’s a scientist first and foremost and the question of gender politics never really arises. In her character, and in a refreshing change to the norm, she’s a strong female character and manages to exert influence over the predominantly male list of characters simply through being logical rather than that old cliche of using her feminine wiles.

This is what happened to preview audiences.
This is what happened to preview audiences.

All subtlety is thrown out of the window as the creature wreaks havoc and kills/absorbs anybody it can get its tentacle things on. The insistence on primarily using CGI and CGI-enhanced animatronics to show the transformations is a big disappointment, and somehow makes the effects look worse than the practical ones used in 1982. On the positive side, there’s a nice level of tension throughout and it mostly remains as unclear as Carpenter’s film in terms of working out who isn’t who they appear to be. That same aspect of paranoia and suspicion is prevalent, none more so than the divide between the Norwegians and the Americans – yet another Cold War parable that comes 30 years too late in this instance.

It’s not an absolute waste of time, and if you can’t say anything else good about it, it does at least tie in very well with the opening moments of John Carpenter’s 1982 film, but it plays out in almost exactly the same manner and the outcome is ultimately the same. Rather than try and stand out on its own merits it seems overly keen on paying lip service to the 1982 movie, which ultimately turns out to be detrimental to the overall experience. A few more risks and a little less reliance on slightly suspect CGI would have helped immensely. On the other hand, you can at least watch this in a double bill with Carpenter’s film and know that by the time you reach the end credits you have an even better film to look forward to.

Score: 3/5

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