R, 103 min.
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen
Writers: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell (short story “Who Goes There?”)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Braunstein, Trond Espen Seim, Kim Bubbs, Jørgen Langhelle, Jan Gunnar Røise, Stig Henrick Hoff, Kristofer Hivju, Jo Adrian Haavind, Carsten Bjørnlund, Jonathan Lloyd Walker
This remake/reboot of John Carpenter’s 1982 version of “The Thing” is surprisingly good. It’s remarkable in how it acts as a prequel to that film, while also starting the story all over again. It doesn’t really ad much to the mythology as both stories are almost the same in how they’re told. This new film goes a little further in bringing the action back to the alien spacecraft, but it’s much more interested in setting up the 1982 movie.
The filmmakers and production designers work meticulously to place details about the Norwegian camp that are also referenced in Carpenter’s film. There is the ice block in the wooden shack, the double-headed alien body, and the Norwegian who has committed suicide in the communications room. All of these details show up in the ’82 movie. The ending is brilliant in the way it stops right where the ’82 movie picks up.
I did feel that this film was weaker in terms of thematic material. The ’82 movie had the Cold War to work against and the paranoia it placed in people. The spy game had elevated to such a degree between the Russians and the U.S. by that time that it was nearly impossible for intelligence to trust its own agents. The movie worked on those fears of not knowing the allegiances of the person sitting next to you. This film didn’t have the Cold War to work against, despite the fact that it does take place at the same time.
What I did notice the second time around on this one, however, is a very anti-American theme. This does reflect the greater worldview in this day and age. Very few people trust America anymore. Since this film is showing the Norwegian camp that discovered the alien before the American camp in the ’82 movie, we are seeing a foreign outlook on Americans. The heroine is an American, but the two people who disappear and then reappear are also Americans. No one much wants to hear anything the heroine has to say either, until it becomes disturbingly clear that she’s correct in her assessments.
While it isn’t as strong a theme as the ’82 movie, it still makes it more of a science fiction than it appears at first. This is an excellent prequel to a remake that may be one of the best re-imaginations in cinematic history.