A remake is a funny thing. A prequel is an even funnier thing. A prequel that is effectively a remake of a remake that retains the title of the second remake? That’s an even funnier thing. The Thing (1982) was a cinematic horror classic, and itself a remake of The Thing From Another World (1951). The Thing (2011) attempts to explain the events that preceded what occurred in The Thing (1982) – events that never really needed explaining – and in doing so help to further tell the story of freezing terror and isolation in a bleak, snowy wilderness.
The Thing (2011) opens with a small team of Norwegian scientists literally stumbling upon a creature in the ice. They duly enlist the help of a handily close American – Kate Lloyd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead – and then proceed to ignore everything she tells them and her repeated warnings about the creature. They take a tissue sample, allow the ice to defrost a little, and the rest is bloody history. The films lacks a magnetic central character, like Mac in the original, and as such the cast are pretty much walking mannequins, just waiting to get eaten. One of the best features of the 1982 version was that the cast, although big, was distinct and well-rounded.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have some interesting ideas – this film’s version of the infamous blood test of the 1982 version is definitely a great idea, and the alien is more of a crawling, jumping monster than the gelatinous, shape-changing blob of the original. As such, the film relies more on jumpy shocks than the weighty tension of the original, and as such the whole film is somewhat cheapened. It feels less authentic than the first film did but that’s not to take away from the shocks in this film – when it eventually becomes a cat and mouse chase, the film does race thrillingly from one snowy hut to the next. Not once does the audience not completely believe that the alien really is there, and really does pose a threat to mankind – somehow the alien CGI has been designed to add heft and weight to the creature, which affords it more of a relationship with its surroundings. The scene in which Adam – Eric Christian Olsen – comes to a (quite literally) sticky end is unbelievably horrible, but shows how realistically the alien is portrayed. If such a creature did exist, this is exactly how it would act.
If anything, The Thing (2011) is a little too reverential to the 1982 version. Viewers who have seen the 1982 film will know that somehow everyone on the base must die, purely by virtue of the events of the beginning of that film. The film felt like it was racing through the cast, ticking off everyone as they met their bloody end, to set up the events of the later (earlier) film. This happens with only one disappointing exception, and it is a truly disappointing one. It’s one that holds ramifications for the later (earlier) film and the potentiality of the series, which should not come to pass. The end of the film spoils this otherwise reasonably enjoyable bit of fluff that is not to be taken too seriously, or analysed too closely through the lens of the original. This film just rehashes the events of the original in a slightly different, less subtle way and sort of works because of it.
The red axe that Joel embeds into the wall is still in the wall when the Americans visit the Norwegian camp in the John Carpenter version.