As stated in last week’s Focus on the Frightful, people have a lot of strong feelings about The Thing. Well, the Kali Krew watched the ‘prequel’ to The Thing made in 2011. Turns out that there were a lot of strong feelings about that one as well. Mostly negative. very, very strong.
SPOILERS AHOY for both the 1982 movie and especially the 2011
One of the first problems is that supposedly The Thing (2011) is set just before The Thing (1982) in 1982. But the picture quality is so drastically different that it immediately feels ‘newer’. This isn’t really the fault of the creators as film quality has drastically improved and a grit filter rarely works well. I’m trying to start out with the lighter criticisms before we get into the stuff that had us writing in all caps. Another issue is that in 1982 Thing they all look cold. And kind of grungy. You can really believe that they’ve been stuck at this place for a while and showering isn’t a priority. Everyone in 2011 looks very pretty and clean. It doesn’t even really look all that cold there. There’s a scene where half the crew is lounging outside with their coats open. Which, ok, I’m sure Antarctica has a few decent days. But this is set just before 1982’s story, fairly close to their location. It seems like the weather should be the same. Right? If I’m wrong, please correct me.
The acting is…decent, overall. None of us were all that crazy about Mary Elizabeth Winstead but I don’t like to judge by one movie. She wasn’t terrible. Just very bland. The rest were decent but forgettable. I honestly can’t think of one really standout performance. The other actress (Kim Bubbs) does not have much to work with. At all. There are other criticisms with some of the scenes but I feel like it’s not the actors fault but there just isn’t anything there. Like when they find the alien. Incontrovertible proof of extraterrestrial life. And no one seems to care. Everyone is just so flat.
I appreciate the directors or casting or whoever trying to work in a little female representation but it just doesn’t work in this ‘prequel’ because you know from the start that they’re either going to die or some plot-magic bullshit is going to go down because there were no females with the Norwegian group. It’s clearly shown when they check out the Norwegian base in the first movie. And, of course, it does.
There are two actresses in the movie. The characters of Kate and Juliette. Kate is the lead and Juliette’s character might as well not exist. Seriously. There was a large chunk of movie where I forgot she existed. And when she did pop back up in the plot it was only to show she was infected and get killed. Because there can only be one attractive female survivor, I guess.
And the effects. Oh my god, the effects. They are so bad. I’m very forgiving of early CGI in older movies like Ghost Ship. But these look so fake and are often so over-the-top that they don’t even match the behaviour in The Thing (1982). The Thing is not known for subtlety. And these are supposed to be the same exact aliens. I have read that they were going to go with practical effects at first (and by most accounts they looked pretty good) but then ultimately decided to go with CGI. To the movie’s detriment. There are one or two scenes that were done well but not many.
This would also be a good time to talk about the alien spaceship. In 1982’s The Thing, the spaceship looks like it’s pretty iced up and still needs to be chiseled out of the glacier. In the prequel, it looks fully functional and ready to go. In fact, there’s a huge action sequence in the ship where Kate is running from the alien (who, when given the chance to eat her as it has done to everyone else with no hesitation, it decides to bitch slap her across the room and then chase her). Flaps are opening, cylinders are firing, that alien is ready to go. And mere days later it’s encased in a thick layer of ice.
And let’s not forget the many plot inconsistencies. In 2011 The Thing can’t handle integrating inorganic material into itself (which does make sense, to give it credit). Kate figures this out by finding fillings among a bucket’s worth of blood. I think it would have been easier for the American base to figure out who was the alien if it was leaving buckets of blood around. Unless they have exceptionally good oral hygiene.
The alien in 2011, many times, acts in ways that would be contradictory to its survival. Like revealing itself for no real reason. Near the end, after the big chase through the ship, Kate tells The Last Guy (can’t remember his name, sorry) that she knew he was an alien because his earring was in the wrong ear. Which raises two questions. Did the alien put the earring back in himself? Did it assimilate it? And Now Alien Guy helps out Kate in a big way in fighting off the other alien and tells her about the next base over (a Russian base, apparently Antarctica is covered with them, all within convenient driving distance). Why would he? There are no other people around to fool. He and his brethren could have a Kate snack and head over to the Russian base to take over with no one being any the wiser. And Kate escapes to the Russian base and doesn’t send up a warning? Ok.
After this are just random queries and stuff that just rankled. They bring up using the blood test but it gets screwed up so they have to use the fillings test. I still have no idea who the random American guys were. They use the flamethrowers awfully fast. At least in 1982 they kind of get an idea from the base they visit but in 2011 they go straight for the flamethrowers. Hmmm. Almost like they know…
The helicopter chase with the dog isn’t added until the credits (bold of them to assume people would stay for the credits). Like they realized “oops, we forgot that, let’s tack it on here”.
In all, not even The Floof Lord himself could save this and I feel like they really, really wanted to make a remake but realized that would be a bad idea so made it a “prequel”. Many of the beats are the same. Plot points are the same. It might as well be a remake if you take off the helicopter bit at the end. It brings nothing to make it a prequel. There is no new information given, nothing to make us understand The Thing 1982 better. It’s an unnecessary prequel in every sense of the word. Sorry Kate, you are no MacReady.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.