My main concern I had going in was the special effects. For those not familiar with my love of horror films, practical effects is perhaps one of my favorite things about older flicks. I generally think having something on screen with the actors displays better than using CGI in post. JC’s The Thing contains some of the most fantastic and impressive practical creature effects ever put on screen (see: Rob Bottin). The recent prequel uses CGI. When it’s good – it’s decent and when it’s bad – it’s bad. Some effects tried to create some really unique forms of the monster, but most were very phony and ineffective.
One storytelling aspect I did appreciate from the film, was how well the tried to incorporate all the elements featured in the 1982 film (Nick seems to disagree with me below). When the films are played back to back (we actually watched the two one after another) you notice how many elements they looked at when designing the set and writing the script to stay as close to the interlink as possible.
Overall though, the film fails to really engage or scare. There are a few jump scares and moments of impressive gore, but nothing to make me give this film a rewatch. I suggest just check out the 1982 version of The Thing on Netflix instant watch.
Nick: This prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing comes across as a hodgepodge of homage and mythos. It’s got elements that make it a prequel, but it also has a lot of the same set-ups, character types, and settings (which is appropriate) that would qualify it as a remake. The film comes across as more of a “Pre-make” or “Re-quel” if you will. That’s not to say this film doesn’t throw a few curveballs our way. Yes, some moments are predictable, but others catch us off guard and it’s those that make this movie stand apart from its predecessor and not seem like a total mimic. The story is simple. They find ‘The Thing’ trapped in ice and bring it back to a lab to have it examined. It escapes (which for me was a disappointing scene) and nobody knows who is human and who is not. Those familiar with John Carpenter’s The Thing will see a lot of continuity, which is rewarding, but again, you’ll see a lot of what plagued the Hangover 2, and that’s similar set-ups and character types. It’s disheartening at times because there was so much potential to have a completely different crew and show how different people react to different situations, but, we don’t get that. We get a rehash of what we already know with some minor tweaks that keep it engaging and build on what little tension is there. The ‘Thing’ itself looks very clean and polished (compared to the campy yet creepy practical effects of JC’s ‘The Thing’) and it doesn’t disappoint. We see a lot more of it once the film gets going and we get to see some old favorite abilities (face-splitting) as well as some new ones (Morphing. Yes. Morphing) The film is well paced with a fantastic soundtrack that borrows elements from the original score which is a welcomed ‘thank you’ to those who enjoyed the JC’s version. The cast tries hard to make you care about them, but they don’t try hard enough and the ending leaves us with too many unanswered questions. Be sure to stick around through the end credits to see how the sloppily tied the two films together.
Will: Avid followers of French Toast Sunday will know that I am a huge John Carpenter fan. I absolutely love his work and there is not a single film of his that I did not adore. That being said, a new The Thing was a terrifying proposition. I mean, the original is a classic; you just don’t mess with that, right? Well Morgan Creek Productions thinks it is worth a shot, and they’re right… well kind of.
The new The Thing is actually a prologue to the original The Thing. Normally this is where I would go into a brief plot synopsis but I’m not going to do that here. Instead, let’s talk about special effects. For a movie like The Thing special effects are huge. The original was a masterpiece of special effects and make up. In fact, the creations of Rob Bottin and his team were the biggest reason for the cult following that The Thing has today. This new prologue however does not make use of the nauseating, realistic, gritty effects that made the original so infamous. Instead, it makes use of the omnipresent CGI that is taking over Hollywood. Gone are the days of perfectly crafting a monster out of rubber and paste and instead a digital beast in born in the computer lab at some studio. This detracts from the movie more than anything. The movie isn’t shocking or horrifying. It should disgust but instead it delights.
The one thing I really enjoyed about watching this prologue is the sheer amount of detail paid to the original. To really get the most out of this film and see it’s tremendous dedication to detail, you should watch it back to back with the original. You’ll notice that a lot of the scenes in the prologue will match up precisely with the plot elements in the original. It provides for an exciting cinematic experience if you are able to dedicate a solid 4 hours to The Thing.
In summation, the film has a strong plot that sets up the story of the original thing but the screenwriting lacks depth. The characters aren’t as developed as the original thing and they aren’t as relatable as you would like for them to be. The special effects leave a lot to be desired and ultimately disappoint but there isn’t a whole lot else to complain about. The most I can say is: they made a good movie, they just did it wrong.
Rob: This iteration of The Thing is probably going to excite fans of John Carpenter’s version the most. Basically the movie answers the question of what happened at the camp that Kurt Russell and company see at the beginning of the original 1982 visit early on in their film. The attention to detail is the newest version’s real claim to fame.
If I was going to recommend someone watch the newest Thing, it would definitely be because of that. The effects don’t really stand up to what’s going on today, and really the 1982 Thing is going to still hold its effects crown just because of how much of a break-through that film is for non-cgi effects. The new characters from the original camp are likable enough. The Norwegians seem like people I’d want to be stuck in Antarctica with. Of course, there’s the obligatory ‘know-it-all’ doctor, something that I feel has become a cliche in sci-fi films.
The only major complaint that I have with the film is that the story lost me about halfway through. They eventually leave the camp to chase after an infected person and at this point a lot of the tension tapers off. I definitely appreciate that the film makers wanted to take their version in a different direction, but it felt less powerful than Carpenter’s story. I’d just watch John Carpenter’s The Thing if I wanted to feel isolated paranoia portrayed nearly perfect in a film.