Film Review: The Thing

Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s prelude The Thing is an enjoyable sci-fi/action thriller, but it does not match its predecessor in terms of quality.

Columbia University palaeontologist Kate Lloyd is asked by scientist Dr Sander Halvorson to accompany him on a trip to Antarctica. His team of researchers have made a startling discovery; an alien craft buried deep in the ice. Also discovered is an alien life form, trapped in the ice. Halvorson requires Kate’s help to excavate the body, which the team presume is dead…

A prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing (which itself was a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World), the 2011 film features the same basic premise as these earlier films. There is less build up in this film; it lacks the careful set up of Carpenter’s movie. This is not a bad thing in itself, except that the main action then feels slightly overlong as a result. This is amplified by the fact that the film has little room to manoeuvre, due to its position as a prequel.

The 2011 film is not quite as tense as its predecessor, although it does have its apprehensive moments. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s film imbues the same paranoia that was so pivotal in Carpenter’s movie, but not quite to the same effect. Some of the film’s most frantic sequences are well produced.

What is interesting to note is the choice of hero in The Thing. The film is a rarity within the genre in that it offers a female hero who is both smart and physically capable, and does not need to rely on her male-dominated companions. It is refreshing also that little is made of the fact that she is female. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is well cast as Kate; the sombreness she brings to the ole is wholly suitable.

The production design is great, especially in recreating the look of the 1982 film. The choice of title font and Universal logo at the beginning of the film is a nice touch, and may have viewers questioning whether they are seeing the correct film. Some of the CGI effects let the production down, giving a synthetic look to what should be monstrous special effects.

As a stand alone film, The Thing is an entertaining watch. However, to the many viewers familiar with the 1982 film, this prequel is inevitably inferior.