director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
A great deal has been made of Ridley Scott’s recent “prequel” Prometheus (2012) of his classic sci-fi/horror film Alien (1979). Another masterful science fiction/horror film of the period, John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, also got a bit of a prequel going just last year, but to a lot less hoopla and interest.
As for The Thing, the fact that it wasn’t John Carpenter revisiting his own work is one thing. The fact that Carpenter himself has not made an important film in 20 plus years, whereas Scott went on to be one of Hollywood’s most successful name directors is another thing. And Carpenter’s film was actually a remake of another great sci-fi/horror film by another major director (Howard Hawks’ & Christian Nyby’s The Thing from Another World (1951)).
Well, whatever the case may be, Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s new The Thing is meant to be, narratively speaking, a prequel to Carpenter’s film. To a lot less hoopla. A lot less interest. And understandably so. The film isn’t nearly as intriguing or inventive.
That said, it’s also not altogether dismal. Actually, on it’s own, the new The Thing would be a decent, if derivative, film. It pales in comparison to its predecessor in that it lacks the shocks and surprises that came from Carpenter’s take on the material. The story is set in a Norwegian camp in Antarctica, who finds the frozen alien and spaceship just before the crew of Kurt Russell’s film supposedly did/do. The “thing” itself, or the thing about the “thing” if you will, is that this time the creature is largely digitally rendered (not entirely, it seems, but mostly), and the effect of the “effects” is less special. There is still something about the analog, crafted effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston whose gross-out gore that has more visceral depth, shock value, and utter creativity over the endless possibilities of the digitized age. The story’s paranoid tension is much more taken for granted and far less effective, as well.
The new “Thing” owes everything to the 1982 The Thing. Unfortunately, that being the case, it draws comparison so directly that it’s impossible (unless you’re not familiar with the 1982 film) to consider this film otherwise. But even if you haven’t seen Carpenter’s version…Actually, if you haven’t seen Carpenter’s version, you really should. As decent as this new film is, it’s got nothing on its predecessor, probably itself one of the most successful and innovative re-makes in Hollywood history.
The parallel’s to Alien and Prometheus are probably more circumstantial, but still drew my attention.