out of Five
Running time: 103
Despite significant effort being made towards matching up with the 1982 film, this is as much a remake as a prequel and it never quite lives up to Carpenter's version, though it's entertaining enough, thanks to a superb performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and some satisfyingly gloopy visuals.
What's it all about?
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, The Thing is intended as a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film, itself a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 classic. Carpenter's tale hinted that the creature had already attacked a nearby Norwegian base, so this version tells that story, with palaeontologist Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being recruited to a top secret mission in Antarctica by Norwegian scientist Dr Halvorsen (Ulrich Thomsen), whereupon she discovers a spaceship and an alien creature trapped in the ice.
However, the team barely have time to take a tissue sample before the creature smashes out of the ice and escapes, hiding somewhere on the base. And when Kate discovers that the thing can replicate humans in order to prey on them, she realises that no-one in the team can be trusted.
Despite the fact that this is clearly just as much of a remake as it is a prequel, the filmmakers have still gone to a commendable amount of effort in matching up the film to Carpenter's 1982 version, both in terms of the production design and ensuring that it ends where Carpenter's film begins (stick around for a mid-credits end sequence that ties up at least one loose end). The performances are good too:
Winstead makes a likeably feisty and level-headed lead as Kate and there's strong support from Thomsen and Eric Christian Olsen (as Kate's colleague) as well as Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost's Mister Eko) as a pair of American pilots.
The effects work is nicely done and there are some satisfyingly gloopy visuals as well as at least one stand-out moment that is obviously intended to trump the effects work in Carpenter's film (shades of Society's “shunting”), but the CGI ultimately lacks the physicality and weight of the effects in the original film. There's also a worrying moment where it looks like the spaceship will play a bit part in the climax, but thankfully the film resists that temptation.
The main problem is that the film doesn't do anything that Carpenter's version didn't do better since it's ultimately both less suspenseful (you can pretty much predict who's going to die at any given point) and less terrifying.
That said, The Thing is still entertaining enough in a forgettable Friday night sort of way, even if it's never likely to attain the classic status of its two predecessors.