The cinemas may be flooded with prequels, sequels, remakes and reboots, but The Thing is a worthy companion to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic film of the same name. Both films follow the source material (John W. Campbells novella Who Goes There?) more closely than Howard Hawks’ film from the ’50s.
The storyline is fairly simple, American paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins a Norwegian research team in Antarctica when the Norwegians uncover a crashed alien craft frozen in the ice. They excavate the ship and bring back the icy remains of an extra-terrestrial that thaws out and displays the ability to genetically mimic any life form, including humans. Much like Carpenter’s film, this one plays a suspenseful and paranoid case of cat and mouse as the humans are picked off one by one by the Thing.
It was a wise move to place the movie in the Norwegian station since it helps make this film a good companion piece to Carpenter’s version. And equally wise to hire Dutch film director Matthijs van Heijningen, since portions of the film were filmed in Norwegian, and someone with equal Proto-Germanic language and cultural background would understand Norwegian characters, the movie cast and culture. There are some good nuances with the Norwegians by having them converse among themselves in their native language since it helps make this film different while adding to the paranoia that pervades the humans.
Both versions deal with two reactions to our human situation; 1) the group paranoia of who is the enemy and 2) infectious diseases. The paraonid theme from the ’82 version reflects aspects of the Cold War of not knowing who is the spy. With the 2011 version, today’s identity theft problem is similar to what the Thing does. The difference is the Thing is a biological ID thief. Regarding diseases, back in 1982, AIDS was just emerging and most of the world was uninformed about the disease. Today we know AIDS spreads through bodily fluid contact which is how the Thing replicates and takes over humans in the 2011 film version.
But the real highlight was Winstead’s performance who has the same inner strength that Sigourney Weaver had in Alien. Much like Ripley, Lloyd at first doesn’t seem like a natural leader, but over the course of the film, her expertise helps the team to survive and more and more the leadership role is entrusted upon her. Her cleverness helps her in determining who is human or not just by observation and her quick theories of what the Thing is doing, proven right during the course of the movie.. Lloyd is a driving force which illustrates how this film is character driven.
Other standouts are the gorgeous cinematography which makes the scenes look like a National Geographic IMAX film and the music by Marco Beltrami. His score perfectly replicates the ’82 soundtrack. We also get to see the inside of the ship, we see a detailed autopsy and how on a cellular level the Thing replicates, and the effects were a fine blend of practical effects and CG.
This version also helps fill in the blanks and show how the aftermath that Carpenter’s characters discovered came to be. Be sure to stick around during the end credits to see how this film leads to the ’82 version.
Overall, this movie is on par with Carpenter’s classic thanks to Winstead’s character and her performance.
GEO as interviewed and written by Jose Soto