The Thing remake/prequel DVD review

I’m a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake of a 1950s movie, which in turn was an adaptation of a short novel by John W Campbell. I also enjoy stories set in the Antarctic so I had two reasons to anticipate seeing the new movie that came out last year. I was however defeated by my local cinema which neglected to show the movie. Now the DVD is out in the UK and I bought it on the day of release.

The story is essentially a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie and is set in the Norwegian research station that Kurt Russell and the others visit early in the movie. Right at the start of the movie text on the screen pleasingly informs us that it is 1982. Then we get to see the Norwegians (in a shock move played by actual Norwegian actors!) discover the creature in the ice and what follows as it infects the personnel.

Rather than have the whole movie subtitled with everyone speaking Norwegian the makers have wisely added a few characters from other nationalities, the principal being Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s scientist Kate Lloyd, who is taken down to Antarctica to investigate the “specimen” that they have found.

The movie works well as both a prequel and as a remake. It makes sense that the characters at this earlier camp experience broadly the same sequence of events that will happen later to Kurt Russell and the others at the US camp. However its prequel credentials are intact. There has been a lot of care and attention to recreate the Norwegian camp before (and after) the fighting and fires start.

One of my favourite scenes in the 1982 movie is the “paranoia” scene where they survivors have to work out who is infected and who isn’t. There is a nice version of that scene in this one. The lab has been destroyed so Winstead’s character has to come up with a low-tech alternative test and her idea is ingenious in its simplicity.

Of course it’s inevitable that the creature will be portrayed by CGI. I was surprised to see on the DVD extras that they had actually created practical animatronic creatures for use on the set because by the time the CGI has been added it all looks a little too clean and polished to me.

One nice addition to the movie is a climactic scene in the alien spaceship buried under the ice. It doesn’t add a lot to the story but it’s nice that they made the effort to give the audience something that wasn’t in the 1982 movie.

I’m trying to decide if I fancy Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She’s not exactly my type but I have a feeling that if I was stuck in an abandoned Antarctic research station for the winter and I only had her for company then I wouldn’t be complaining too much.

She gets to do some Ripley stuff as well, taking over the flame-thrower when needed and not afraid to use it. She’s also smarter than everyone else on the base combined, even if only for asking “are you really sure that’s a good idea” when the main scientist guy is about to take a sample of the creature in the ice.

I did have one little niggle towards the end of the movie. I kept thinking “the other movie starts with a dog being chased by a helicopter and I don’t see it happening here.” Fear not, as the closing credits start we get the dog, the helicopter and the John Carpenter music. Brilliant.

In summary, not as good as the Carpenter version but a welcome companion piece to it and I predict they will make a fun double-bill.