13 December 2011

The Thing 1982 vs The Thing 2011

This year I think there has been a load of remakes of various movies, The Thing, Straw Dogs, Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, and those are just the one's I can mention off the top of my head. Conan has already been reviewed on the very nice TheAngryLurker blog so I will focus on the 2  movies which fall into the "horror movies" category.

It will be reviews where I  try to look at these movies in terms of remake value and how well they stands on their own.  Let's start with the Thing. Why? Because I'm sure I'm not the only one really looking forward to Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" which is a prequel to his movie Alien. The Thing 2011 is in fact marketed as a prequel to the Thing from 1982. And as I love the John Carpenter version from 1982 and thought it would be impossible to mess up. I am now slightly worried about the Alien prequel as well.

The Thing 1982 , for those not familiar with this movie, it is a remake of a movie from the 50's (which I had not seen).  The plot is very simple, an alien spaceship crashes on the south pole and the alien body is found by local scientists who get infected. This alien is a bit more clever and cunning than the aliens in the Alien series. It does infest people, but doing so it take on their appearance which creates this wonderfully paranoid atmosphere on who's human and who's not and whom you can trust. It also makes for a fun sport trying to keep track of potential aliens as characters go off screen and act weird upon return.

All in all it is a very good movie. So then they announced the remake, which I was a bit skeptical about since the 1982 version still holds up VERY well and has some great practical effects. Then it was announced that it was not a remake but a "prequel". Fair enough, it could maybe be interesting.

It's really not that interesting at all to be honest. If you have seen the 1982 version then this movie is only a prequel when it comes to the first act where you have the original Norwegian scientists finding the creature before it escapes and finds its way to the American research station in the 1982 movie. After some 20 minutes, the movie is basically a frame by frame remake that only takes place in a different research base and with different characters. The main problem however is that these characters in the 2011 version are cardboard cutouts. The Norwegians are portrayed as morons who sing and dance, and our main character is American which makes the whole prequel idea of a Norwegian point of view obsolete. Add to that the Norwegian characters having so little personality that the only one you will remember after the movie ends is the "crazy looking" character and I still can't remember his name or his role.

In the meantime you have the main character, an American female scientist and two American supporting characters that are helicopter pilots. You also have the head researcher of the Norwegians. Those 4 are pretty much the only characters you remember out of a cast that has possibly 14 characters in all.

Another problem with the "prequel" material where the Norwegians find the alien spaceship is that it is rather pointless and adds absolutely nothing to the movie or the story. The alien also acts identical to how it acted in the 1982 version - the effects in the 2011 version are a mixed bag. Some look really good, others considerably worse than the practical effects of the older movie.

So how does this movie fare if you completely forget about the 1982 movie? It still is a rather dull movie. The addition of this female researcher and foreigner on top of that was probably meant to add dynamic and make the Norwegians trust her less. But honestly, the only one who has misgivings about her being a female and American is the Norwegian head scientist. No one else cares. So that plot point is pointless and adds nothing. The way that they identify who is human and who is an alien is different from the 1982 version, thankfully enough I think it was interesting. Probably the single interesting thing that also added something new.

The 2011 version is filled with some very weird plot holes, I would at least call them that. Things don't really add up when you think about it. I can't mention any specific because that would spoil important events of the movie. But all I can say is that I found parts of the story flawed in terms of logic. There are a bit too many "why did they do that?" , "how the hell did that happen?!" and "wait, that does not make any sense" moments.

The female lead, in this 2011 remake/prequel/whatever, is also a much less interesting character and worse actress than Kurt Russel as the leading role in the 1982 movie. She is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead who made an equally dull character in "Scott Pilgrim vs the World" (a movie that was also tacky and pointless).
In terms of acting and charisma, it would actually have been a better choice skip her completely and just make the main US helicopter pilot the main character. It would also lend a better "outsider perspective" on the situation than to replay the same events through the eyes of scientists twice.

So in conclusion, the 1982 movie is very good. The 2011 is barely OK, while not being a complete disaster it was in retrospect completely pointless and does neither bring anything interesting in terms of background of the Norwegian researchers. All it does is bluntly give you a halfhearted attempt to fill in some blanks that didn't need filling so that you know what happened before the 1982 version and in the end fails to do even that.

The Thing 1982 wins this one. If you have seen neither one yet, see this older version.


  1. I loved the 1982 version but maybe not the new one now.......

  2. Two things (no pun intended) that annoyed me slightly more than anything though I forgot to mention in the review and happened towards the very end of the 2011 movie. They had the license for it but didn't use the excellent brooding theme song until the credits!? And also how they merged the last couple of sequences that forms a bridge between the 1982 and the 2011 movie with credits.
    I hate that gimmick. As if the filmmakers were desperate for you to sit through the credits and use this trick to keep you there.

  3. I still enjoyed the new one. It wasn't stellar, but I didn't regret seeing it in theatres. It is true that most of the cast was forgettable, but that tends to be the way of these sort of films. Most of the cast is just there to die.

    There were some cool throwbacks, like the axe they used being the same that is found in the wall in the 1982 version.

  4. As a side note, the 1950's movie is actually a pretty fun Cold War Era horror/sci-fi flick. It was James Garner's star vehicle as well.

  5. I'm still looking forward to see it tbh. I think its hard to make a film of an existing story anyhow nowadays what was scary or wow and made the movie famous(or infamous) in those days is pretty common place now.

    Alot of horror films have desensitized (sorry if spelled incorrect)us to the wow/scare factor of yesteryear. I'm still looking forward to watching it

    Can agree with Adam. Apart from Macready I can't remember any of the names of the cast from the original

  6. It's not even so much about remembering names, but even the faces are forgettable in this movie. What's worse is that the Norwegian part of the cast (who I think were meant to be the main cast since it is a Norwegian base and all the talk about the Norwegians in the 1982 movie) suffers from this more than the 4 Americans.

    The Norwegians are some 8 people of whom you only can remember their chief scientist and a funny looking guy. Of the 4 Americans who all also get more screentime between them than anyone from the Norwegian part of the cast you will remember 3 people for their presence in the movie alone and 1 of them for being “Mr Eko” from Lost.

    The whole Norwegian thing just becomes rather pointless.

    In the end the movie is not a complete disaster, as mentioned in the review. I wasn't scared by the 1982 version, I simply think it had far better buildup and atmosphere. Here we already know what is going to happen since this "prequel" is in fact 80% remake. With the only really new things added to it being a glimpse of the alien spaceship and them using a different test to figure out who's human.

  7. I just watched The Thing (2011) about a week ago. Booooring. It was the same exact story!

    BUT- don't lose hope for Prometheus! it's gonna be great!

    NOW to satisfy your interest in The Thing (1982) I present to you a short story from the point of view of "The Thing". http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/ Tell me that doesn't rule!


    There's also whole sections of the 1982 version they ignore, such as the fact you see footage of the Norwegians actually blowing up the saucer with thermite, and we get to see the after effects when MacReady visits the saucer site. So the whole end sequence at the saucer in the new version makes *no* sense whatsoever in the context of the whole 2 films.

  9. @Indierockclimber - Man that is awesome. Read the start and it is very cool, will finish it when I get a break from my overwhelming amount of schoolwork and preparations for the weekend's FoW tournament - so little time and so much to do :-(

    @ Black Smoke
    Quite correct.

  10. I went in to this knowing that it was a blend of prequel and remake. I didn't have any expectations so I wasn't overly disappointed. I did like the homage to the original through all of the little touches (the axe being one of them) and found myself going down a mental checklist to make sure all of the clues from the Nowegian base were covered.

    The ending was lackluster, and I could have done without the female lead entirely.

    I enjoyed it, more from a nostalgic nod to the masterpiece that was Carpenter's version than anything else.

    I heard from a friend that Prometheus started out as an Alien prequel but then turned into something else during filming, according to an interview he saw with Ridley Scott.

    We'll see. The vacc suits look suh-weeeeet!

    The Traveller gamer geek in me is wildly excited.


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