Antarctica 1982, Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is requested to go to a Norwegian scientific camp to analyse what is possibly the find of the century. Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his team of Norwegian colleagues have uncovered an unearthly structure and what looks to be a specimen of alien origin that has been frozen in the ice for over 100,000 years. Once the specimen is taken back to the research station in a block of ice and thaws out, the creature that was thought dead is very much alive and starts wrecking havoc to all and sundry.
The story is a simple premise that has been used for years in the sci-fi/horror genre and this prequel to the 1982 original, itself a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, utilises the creature on the loose and stalking its victims one by one scenario to great aplomb. It is a film which at times is both tense, frightening and disgusting by equal measure. The alien that escapes its icy prison is capable of imitating other lifeforms and by doing this needs to absorb the tissue of its prey to much gory effect. This reviewer heard an audience member behind him retching during the realistic autopsy scene. If you are not of a strong disposition then caution is advised.
Comparisons are inevitable to the John Carpenter classic. The set-up seems almost identical to that of the original, however the characters in this version seem more interesting and affable than the dead pan characters in the original inhabiting the American Base, Outpost 31. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a gutsy and rational heroine when all hell breaks loose and Joel Edgerton is likeable as helicopter pilot Braxton Carter. The rest of the cast are excellent in their small roles and we seem to care about these characters more than the original films. Carter remarks to Kate “Why would you want to be holed up with a bunch of Norwegians?”. After seeing them rejoice and party when they discover their ‘find’ with the traditional cry of Skol, one would rather be with them than Outpost 31’s miserable bunch.
There are many homages to the original and this reviewer also found that the character of Dr Halvorson was almost a dead ringer for the scientist Dr Carrington played by Robert Cornthwaite in the 1951 version. Coincidence? With the advances of technology, the filmmakers have been allowed a free reign in which to bring their alien creature transmutations to the screen that they were not capable of in the 1982 version despite Rob Bottins incredible practical VFX. The CGI and practical effects, by Alec Gillis & Tom Woodruff Jr and Imagine Engine respectively, shown on screen in this version are of a high standard (even though one particular CGI shot looked a little fake) and are the stuff of grotesque nightmares. Die-hard fans will rejoice to see references to the Playstation 2 and Xbox video game and the Dark Horse comic as well as new monstrosities and a couple of nice surprises in the prequel. The score by Marco Beltrami is as subdued as the original but with some more faster and louder moments during the scenes of mayhem. In this era of epilepsy-inducing editing, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr handles the pacing and overall structure of the film well and is one to look out for in the future.
Whilst most prequels seem to demystify storylines of its predecessors (The origin of Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels as a prime example) and therefore are usually pointless and disappointing, this film does have some excellent moments of originality and continues The Thing mythology. Many questions are still left unanswered as to the origin of the creature and the technology used in its spaceship. The film is left open to another possible sequel and itself continues directly into the 1982 version in a seamless manner as the credits roll. Once the Ennio Morriconne score kicks in, you will be looking out for the next installment to watch.
Overall a satisfying addition to The Thing franchise and not the mess or rehash of the original that fans feared.