Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Writers: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr.
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen
Motion Picture Rating: 15
Runtime: 103 minutes
Prometheus, in cinemas now, is a form of prequel to Alien in that it sets up the abandoned spaceship and fossilized alien to be found by Sigourney Weaver in the 1979 classic. This reboot of The Thing operates in the same territory. It explains the presence of the alien life-form / virus that is encountered by Kurt Russell’s team in the Antarctic in 1982. There is a pattern here, but not necessarily a trend, although we shall see what gets dug up next. The trick is not that difficult; identify a popular sci-fi, horror or action movie released between 1979 and 1989, write a knowing prologue to it and benefit by marketing the ‘new’ film with a massive nod to the original.
In this case the nod is more of an almighty head-butt – the ‘prequel’ has kept the exact same title. That’s hardly subtle, but the original The Thing was far from refined (classic John Carpenter). It was, and is, one part horror and one part monster movie with some sci-fi hokum thrown in for good measure. And this time around the director is hugely inexperienced so it’s unsurprising that they have stayed close to the original. I wonder if the team behind this considered recycling the 1982 tagline as it has always been one of my favourites; Man is the Warmest Place to Hide. Brilliant.
Kurt Russell held the original together with a typically hard-boiled performance and he is missed in this one. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as scientist Kate Lloyd, does a decent job stepping in for Russell, but her transformation from unassuming PHD into the resourceful and kick-ass leader is a real stretch. The make-up and CGI is better and this time some of the mutating humans are genuinely gruesome to look at. It has some nice horror moments, such as an attack by a severed arm, and the film moves along quickly enough. The Antarctic landscape is refreshing for this genre and there are a lot of flame-throwers – sorely underused in most horror sci-fi yarns.