Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. had a steep climb from the beginning. Taking a cult-classic film like John Carpenter‘s The Thing and attempting to make a prequel keeping the exact same name is a ballsy move and Heijningen for the most part doesn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer with his version of the shape-shifting alien from outer space. He plays it fairly close to the path Carpenter already walked in the 1982 film by keeping the same tone established throughout the entire film. The suspense is on high and blood is ready to spill.
Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is called to an Antarctic research base to examine a specimen. It’s not of this world and she plus a small team of Norwegian men discover not only a creature, but a massive ship that has crash landed some thousand years ago. The “thing” breaks out of the ice shortly after they attempt to take a sample. They soon realize that it kills and imitates whatever it comes in contact with.
Everyone must carefully choose sides as the “thing” makes its way through the camp, killing most and leaving few left to survive. Paranoia sets in as the crew prepares hunt down and kill the creature during a snow storm, knowing that if it escapes, millions could be infected.
The Thing (2011) plays out much more like a remake than a prequel. Sure, the characters are tweaked variations of ones taken from the Carpenter film, but they’re mostly the same. The prequel is supposed to lead into the Carpenter version and it does, right up until the opening minutes of that film, but most of the suspense is borrowed from that film as well. What makes The Thing (2011) a difficult film is how carefully it recreates scenes from the previous film.
It tries its best to borrow brief moments and add its own spin on it, but fans will be able to spot just about everything. It sometimes feels like its shamefully copying the film, but most of the time it feels like it’s paying homage to the film. Obviously the makers behind this adaptation are huge fans, but they might just be too big of fans. The terror looks, sounds and feels like terror from the 1982 film, but that’s what might push viewers away from the film.
If you’re fine with a director competently making a prequel/reboot/remake of one of the best horror films ever made, then you might enjoy The Thing (2011). I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. Sure, some of the CGI is downright hideous, but a lot of the practical stuff is almost as impressive as the original designs. It feels like it’s trying its best to be its own “thing”, but it can’t do that without paying close attention to details left behind in the ’82 film. It traps itself in a situation that it can’t really get out of without either being a completely different film or being an exact copy.
It ends up splitting it down the middle, providing a good dose of horror, but lacking any originality. It’s not a horrible film by any means, but it doesn’t deserve to be called The Thing.
The 1080p video transfer isn’t without its flaws either. There is some minor noise reduction that hurts the fine clarity if you pay close attention, but as a whole the transfer is a clean representation of the films dark look. A lot of the film takes place at night and that doesn’t hurt the film in the slightest. The bright orange flames cover most of the screen during some of the films more intense moments, leaving lots of space for blood, guts, snow and dirt to come pouring out onto the screen.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track however doesn’t come with the same minor cripples. Right out of the gate the track establishes the importance of surrounding effects. Gunfire and creature crawling sprawls out onto all of the channels, making you feel even closer to death. The film takes an occasional breath to establish some character development and when that happens the dialogue comes through the front channel, but don’t get too comfortable because an alien attack is sure to follow on all channels in a matter of minutes.
Universal has packaged the disc with a fair amount of extras. Check out a list below.
- U-Control Picture-in-Picture
- Audio Commentary with Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and Producer Eric Newman
- The Thing Evolves (HD)
- Fire & Ice (HD)
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
The Thing (2011) is a relieving experience. The film could have been a complete disaster, but instead it just kind of exists. It can sit nicely next to John Carpenter‘s classic without really offending anyone. It gets points for recreating some of the more frightening scenes of finding out who is who and it has some unique practical creature designs that are almost cancelled out by the overuse of CG in post-production. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton don’t really add any flavor to their generic, by-the-books roles; they simply add another notch on their acting belt.
Fans of the original that want to immediately disown the prequel should at least watch it before judging. It’s not as bad as it looks. It’s also not that great, but hey, it works. I enjoyed it because I naturally like the world of mutating monsters and bearded men fighting in the snowy Antarctica. I’ll probably start watching it before I watch John Carpenter‘s version from now on to watch the progression from good to great filmmaking.
The Blu-Ray looks okay, with detail kind of put on the back burner due to the films bland settings. The fire and explosions look nice and detail isn’t too hard to find, but it’s not the most striking transfer from Universal. The audio is more up to standards though, with lots of activity and movement, which is what this film relies on. The extras focus on how much appreciation they have for the ’82 film and how hard they tried recapturing that magic. At least they tried, right?
The Thing (2011) is a relieving experience. The film could have been a complete disaster, but instead it just kind of exists.