The Thing (2011)★★★★☆
Before you ask: yes, I know this is technically a prequel rather than a 30-years-later remake, and I know that the original I’m referring to is technically a thirty-years-later remake of a Howard Hawks film.
That said, it’s a pretty damn good homage to an incredibly damn good film. I just wish it weren’t trying so hard to show off that it had three times the budget and thirty years of special effects advancement behind it.
I’m happy that this was intended to complement the 1982 film rather than remake it (this L.A. Times article has some neat quotes on this from the film’s producers). Since most of the horror in the original comes from what you don’t see, simply redoing it with modern special effects wouldn’t add much.
It’s set immediately before the events of the original (the final scene of the 2011 film is meant to be taken as the opening scene of the 1982 film) and attempts to answer some questions left open by its predecessor. In most instances it works, but there was some weird expositional dialogue (the “stay off the radio” speech in particular) that seemed to exist only to make excuses for the original.
I forgive Universal for wanting to show off modern special effects and a high budget, but some of the of the scenes were almost painfully disturbing, or at least unnecessarily so. I felt this in several of the scenes with the alien as it went through transformation, something that was largely left out of the original. The thing is, the original didn’t need all those special effects to be terrifying. And it certainly didn’t resort to jump scares to put you in the mood. Sure, those get me every time, but they felt like a cheap trick in this movie.
It was nice to see not just one, but two female characters in this one, though only one had more than 5 lines and no crying scene. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great, and completely believable as Kate Lloyd. I love the expression on her face when she first sees the thing in the block of ice, like a rush of adrenaline and terror and excitement at once.
I liked the clever way this crew used to determine who had or hadn’t been taken over already, and the burned-in opening sequence and minimal background music were nice nods to the original. This is definitely worth a watch, if you can get past the few scenes that are a bit over the top.