The 2011 version of The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 film The Thing which was itself a remake of 1951s The Thing from Another World. Confusing? not really if you just want to enjoy an action science fiction movie. Apparently, although this is a prequel and not a remake, a lot of attention has been paid to the 1982 version in terms of re-creating sets and scenery etc. As far as I know, no attention at all was paid to the 1951 version. If you haven’t seen it already, watch the 1982 version first even though it comes second chronologically.
This film has obviously drawn a lot of influences from the Alien films and I would liken this to Aliens if the 1982 film is Alien. It even starts like Aliens (the special edition at least) with a group of explorers travelling through the snow in a large vehicle in search of an alien artefact. It also has a plucky female lead toting a flamethrower against evil creatures from another world!
One of the things I like about this film is the significant foreign language element. The original research crew are Norwegian and speak Norwegian until the Americans turn up to help out later. Cleverly however, the writers have kept one character who cannot speak any English thus allowing them to keep the exotic element of foreign language dialogue throughout. I found that this helps to enhance the feeling of isolation and alienness throughout the story.
Mostly this is a pretty straightforward alien slasher movie. The cast of victims is isolated from the rest of the world and has to rely on their wits to survive and figure out who the killer is before they too get killed. It has the usual slasher movie plot problems like why is a research base equipped with flamethrowers and grenades? The rifles and pistols I can understand for hunting or defending against wildlife. You could make an argument for flamethrowers to clear snow but there are much better and less dangerous ways to do that!
As with all slasher type movies, the cast splits up into small groups to increase their isolation and make it easier for the aliens to kill them and infiltrate the group. Different groups of characters form alliances against each other and spend a lot of time arguing about who might be the bad guy instead of coming up with any useful ways of protecting themselves.
As the cast gets whittled down to the standard one or two survivors, the plot builds to the inevitable confrontation aboard the alien mothership. At this point there is no longer any point in making comparisons with Alien/Aliens as there is no practical difference. There is lots of running around in alien spaceships (much of it in air shafts or other confined spaces) and fighting with grenades and flamethrowers. It’s not exactly innovative but it is exciting enough.
One of my favourite bits happens at the very end after all of the excitement in the spaceship is over (I can’t even remember what the conclusion of the spaceship fight is a week or so after watching the film). I won’t mention what it is but it is slightly spoiled by the obvious question that occurred to me and probably everyone else who watches the film which was “why didn’t anyone mention this important development half an hour ago when it would have been useful?”
You’ll notice that I haven’t put in any pictures of the aliens in this post. That’s because the alien design is pretty disappointing from my point of view. Far too much emphasis on glistening tentacles and human body parts twisted and stuck on in odd places. The idea of the alien killing and then assuming the shape of it’s victim is to blame for this but it feels like it is perpetuated more for shock value as the film goes on rather than having anything to do with the plot or common sense. Ok, here’s a picture of one of the aliens to show you what I mean:
Overall a fun and nicely made movie that is tense and exciting enough to make you overlook the formulaic nature that is common to many films of this genre. It also has a suitably bleak ending which is always good.