The Sci-Fi Chronicles book brings me to the remake/reboot/prequel to one of my all time favorite John Carpenter films, The Thing. I love both previous cinematic incarnations of this film, the paranoia and isolation that permeates the story and characters of Carpenter’s film, and the crackling dialogue and pacing of the 50s version, The Thing From Another World.
So putting that out there, I was dubious, very, very dubious about this film. I do like the idea of learning what happened to the Norwegian camp that features as a launching point for the 1982 film, but I was also worried that the film would try to heavily to rely on computer generated images, unlike the fantastic practical effects employed in Carpenter’s version, and that they would try to hit all of the beats that his film had made. I did like that there was a momentary homage to the Ennio Morricone score.
I was kind of right to be that anxious.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads the cast as Kate Lloyd, a paleontologist, recruited by the Norwegian team to help recover a specimen from an unspecified structure in Antarctica. She’s been successful in recovering and restoring frozen specimens before, so I’ll buy into the fact that they need her.
The film takes no time to develop the characters, and in fact, there are far too many of them, certainly not lending to the idea of isolation. But all of them seem to be interchangeable characters, cardboard standouts simply meant as fodder for the mill to add to the inevitable body count. There is no sense of paranoia, wondering who can be the Thing, because it only hides occasionally in human bodies, instead, the filmmakers must have thought it would be cooler to show the creature, a mish-mash of arms, tentacles, legs, and mouths, running through the corridors chasing its prey.
It just doesn’t work. There’s no mood to it, and while the 50s version had the Howard Hawksian dialogue, and the Carpenter version had the paranoia, acting and pacing, this one seems to be mere popcorn. Easily digested, and just as easily forgotten.
There are beats that we, those who know Carpenter’s version, know have to happen, and we also know that the film is going to steal, ahem, pay homage, to various beats from that version, but the script isn’t strong enough to support all the things that should be happening, not to mention the all too-heavy reliance on computer generated images. It lacks the solid reality of the horrifying things seen in the 80s version, and consequently lacks any real punch or scare.
And if you don’t watch through the credits, you’re also left wondering if the filmmakers say Carpenter’s version, because we know how the film has to end, because we know how the 1982 version opens. But that is at least touched upon during the credits.
I’m not saying the Norwegian story shouldn’t have been told, but I am saying it could have been done a lot better than it was…
Do yourself a favor, skip this one, and just re-watch the Carpenter version again, or if you haven’t seen that one, what are you waiting for?!