Is the modern prequel to Carpenter’s remake The Thing a convincing effort to scare people again or even improve on the alien infestation/imitation on ice formula?
The Thing (2011)
(USA/Canada 2011, director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.)
An alien craft is discovered at an Antarctica research site, but its frozen pilot soon takes the forms of the team members, spreading distrust and destruction.
The movie doesn’t tread new ground, only filling the gaps of what the other research team in Carpenter’s movie found out, connecting the beginning of the one nicely with the ending of the other. It stays true to the paranoia aspect without tinkering with the formula too much and doesn’t therefore offer any surprising revelations about the alien. One might argue that this makes it rather pointless, especially since the 1982 version was already a remake. However, what it lacks in ideas, it makes up in fast pacing and to some extent characterization.
The remake was slow, and while one can say it was all for the good of building up suspense, one can also say that it dragged on quite a bit with characters one didn’t get to know and care about anyway. Even if the ones here aren’t the most memorable, at least one creates a relationship with them in a negative or positive way. They might all be cliché-ridden, as in the female lead who is ignored by a selfish condescending scientist, or as in the group of research station staff who celebrate their alien find with lots of drinking and singing. But at least there’s an interaction between them that doesn’t simply consist of looking into nothingness and being miserable.
More action set-pieces mixes well together with the tension of finding out who is infected and who is not. While all scenes don’t offer anything particularly original, especially with so many creature features being done over the past few years, it’s at least entertaining all the way through, even if the sense of isolation isn’t as tangible, which might have to do with a bigger research camp or more people being involved in the science project. Some purists might already wrinkle their noses at the CGI creature, and it’s true that it’s different from the nightmarish props of the first remake. However, it isn’t any less frightening, because new movie technology allows it to be shown faster and stronger than ever, getting more in line with movies like The Relic, which is certainly no bad thing.
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