THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“THE THING (2011)”
written by Dominick Cappello
“The Thing,” a prequel to “The Thing.” I attended a panel for this film way back at New York Comic Con 2010. The cast and crew were affable and I had no qualms with a prequel to one of my favorite films. They mentioned “Exorcist II: The Heretic” as a film with a lame subtitle when explaining why they simply called it “The Thing.” John Carpenter’s cult classic from 1982 was set at Antarctic Outpost #31, so why not call the prequel “The Thing: Outpost 30” or something along those lines? Either way, I think over time this film will be mostly forgotten. Dr. Jelly and I still discuss John Carpenter’s film. Who was an imitation? When did it get to them? Who got to the blood? Who framed MacReady? Did Blair have ulterior motives for destroying the radio equipment? Was Childs an imitation at the end? Everyone has a different theory. The only thing people have to say about the prequel is that’s it’s a crime how almost all the practical special effects were replaced by uninspired CGI.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is our protagonist. She co-starred with Kurt Russell, the hero of the 1982 film, in both “Sky High” and “Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof,” so it’s cool there’s a connection. Her character’s name is Kate Lloyd. Kate is recruited by the Norwegian team that discovered the UFO buried in the ice because I guess – from the studio’s point of view – there needed to be an American protagonist and there was no chance of it being an all male cast like the John Carpenter film. I actually think it was wise to have more diversity in the prequel to help differentiate between the two. The Thing breaks free from a block of ice and begins the process of assimilating the team members one at a time and spitting out imitations. Same old, same old. Not to stray too far into fan fiction, but maybe the filmmakers could have had the Norwegian team already be imitations? Who then invite the world’s foremost scientists to study the UFO, so they could be imitated, setting the stage for a global takeover? An idea predicated on The Thing having an agenda beyond its own survival.
I hadn’t watched this film in about five years, but I do recall be caught off guard during the helicopter crash sequence. I assumed that the team member suffering from a panic attack was The Thing and feigning his jitters as a means of being evacuated from the outpost, but it was the character who was comforting him who revealed himself to be The Thing. Okay, a nice surprise, but it was ruined by the CGI. Kate is then lured into a storage closet by the only other female character. This didn’t fool me at all. I knew instantly this other woman was The Thing. Kate deduces that The Thing is unable to duplicate inorganic material, so she checks to see which team members have fillings in their teeth. Nowhere near as epic as the blood test from the 1982 film and not wholly efficient. What if someone has a cavity, but lost their health insurance and couldn’t afford to go to the dentist? It’s not surefire like a blood test.
The film picks up steam after that. It’s more about action than suspense, but still enjoyable. We even see the origin of the two-headed thing creature discovered in the 1982 film. Besides the overuse of CGI, the other controversy was the changes made to the climax. Kate and Carter, played by Joel Edgerton, enter the UFO. The original ending made it clear this was not The Thing’s spaceship. The Thing had attacked the crew of this ship, which led to it crashing on Earth thousands of years ago, and The Thing is shown taking the form of the ship’s three-eyed pilot. Instead, the character of Sander, played by Ulrich Thomsen, returns as a half man / half thing amalgam similar to Blair in the climax of the 1982 film. Kate destroys The Thing and the spaceship with a grenade as she and Carter escape. But, don’t worry about them living happily ever after. Kate notices that Carter has the wrong ear pierced, so he must be an imitation and she burns him with a flamethrower. Many have pointed out the continuity gaff that The Thing tears through your clothes when it attacks you, so Carter should have been walking around naked. A much more obvious giveaway that he’s an imitation than him wearing his earing in the wrong ear. During the credits, we see how it all ties together with John Carpenter’s film with one character being shown to have committed suicide and two other characters jumping into a helicopter to chase down The Thing, which is now imitating a dog.
Not having seen this film in five years, I enjoyed the parts I had forgotten, which was most everything in between Kate checking everyone’s fillings and them entering the UFO, and I was jazzed to see Kristofer Hivju (Tormund from “Game of Thrones”) was in it. Other than that, I think CGI is the death of horror. CGI creatures just aren’t scary. I’ll maybe make an exception for a ghost movie like “Mama” because ghosts are supposed to be transparent, but when it comes to The Thing, I want something worthy of Rob Bottin. Check out studioADI’s YouTube Channel for a glimpse of what this film could have been with practical special effects.
– Dr. Rochester