Now lets make this clear this movie is a prequel to John Carpenters “The Thing” from 1982. Many don’t seem to remember it, but that film was a remake. Here in this new film we follow a group of Norwegian scientists, who team up with a handful of Americans discover an alien craft and specimen hidden in the ice in Antarctic. Once they start doing tests, the alien wakes up and escapes its icy tomb. Problem is this alien not only attacks people but can shape shift and replicate them as well. So those left alive start questioning who is human and who is… The Thing.
I understand most people believe this is a remake, they aren’t half wrong. Most of this movie is a lot like the 1982 film. Still though this movie really works as a prequel. The film opens here with a Norwegian team following a weak distress signal and kind of accidentally finds the frozen ship. That leads to Kate Lloyd(Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to be called into the base to check out the alien found in the ice. She brings along five other Americans with her. Once at the base the movie picks up the pace. It takes no time at all before the alien wakes and escapes the ice to run a muck through the base. I wish the movie would have slowed down a little bit from this point. The 1982 Thing had a really slow burn that lead to when the Thing showed itself, it was scary. Here the quick pace sort of kills off a lot of the suspense.
The highlight here though is Winstead who is really a stand out here. Her down to Earth performance and realistic fear helps the audience connect to her rather quickly. She’s not overly strong, or intense, she is realistic and even in chaos tries to think things through. Without her this movie would have struggled. Her character runs into the issue of not only being a woman, but an American and her orders and comments are at first ignored. Once the group comes to an understanding that it can look like humans they begin suspecting everyone. She comes up with a system of how to figure out who is human, I won’t spoil it here, but it leads to one of the biggest moments of tension in the film and it works.
The film does have some serious problems though. The first is the choice to use CGI. The 1982 Thing is beloved because of how disturbing the creature was through old school effects. The choice of making the creature and its transformations CGI really hurts the film. They basically made the alien a giant spider creature that can mutate. I did not enjoy that choice. Why haven’t film makers and studio’s understand that less is more. The giant CGI monsters just doesn’t mix with the theme.
Beyond the CGI though Winstead’s performance is just so good that it’s hard to ignore this film. Her character is not a sex object or some mindless screaming woman. She is also not some “Ripley” type character or the female bad ass either. The film also does a solid job in setting up a connection to the 1982 Thing and fans should enjoy seeing them. Over all the film isn’t a masterpiece but it’s a solid alien horror film that makes some really great choices. I wish they would have avoided CGI and would have went out of their way to not show the Thing. Still this isn’t a remake write off like Footloose, this film really tried to set something up and even add some material to the original.