The Thing (2011 film)

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The Thing
Thingprequelfairuse.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Produced by
Written by Eric Heisserer
Based on Who Goes There?
by John W. Campbell
Starring
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Michel Abramowicz
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • October 10, 2011 (2011-10-10) (Universal City premiere)
  • October 14, 2011 (2011-10-14) (US)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • Canada[2]
Language English
Norwegian
Budget $38 million[3]
Box office $31.5 million[4]

The Thing is a 2011 science fiction horror film directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and written by Eric Heisserer based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. It is a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Eric Christian Olsen. They are part of a team of Norwegian and American scientists who discover a dangerous alien buried deep in the ice of Antarctica, realizing too late that it is still alive.

Plot[edit]

An alien spacecraft is discovered beneath the Antarctic ice by a team from a Norwegian research base. Paleontologist Kate Lloyd is recruited by Dr. Sander Halvorson and his assistant Adam Finch to investigate. They travel to the Norwegian base, Thule Station, in a helicopter. After viewing the spacecraft, Kate, Sander, and Adam are told the group also discovered an alien body from the crash, buried in the ice nearby. The body is brought to the base in a block of ice. That evening, while the team celebrates, Derek sees the alien burst from the ice and escape the building. The team searches for the creature. Olav and Henrik find it, and Henrik is killed. The rest of the group set fire to the creature, killing it. An autopsy reveals that its cells were imitating Henrik's own.

Derek, Carter, Griggs and a sick Olav take the helicopter to seek help. Kate discovers dental fillings near a blood-soaked shower. She runs outside to flag down the helicopter. When it attempts to land, Griggs transforms and attacks Olav. The helicopter spins out of control and crashes in the mountains. Kate finds the shower has been cleaned up and tells the team that the alien survived, and replicates itself by imitating its victims. The team decides to send a party to the closest base over Kate's objections. When she and Juliette look for the vehicles' keys to prevent anyone from leaving, Juliette transforms and tries to attack Kate, but she flees past Karl, who is killed by the creature. Lars arrives with a flamethrower and burns the creature just as it begins to absorb Karl.

That night Carter and Derek stumble back to the base. Not certain humans could have survived the crash, Kate has them isolated until a test can be prepared. Adam and Sander start work on a test, but the lab is burned when left briefly unattended. Kate thinks of another test based on the absence of dental fillings, isolating those without them: Sander, Edvard, Adam, and Colin. Lars and Jonas go to retrieve Carter and Derek for testing, and discover they have escaped. As Lars searches a building, he is suddenly pulled inside. The group hears Carter and Derek breaking into their own building and rushes to intercept them. In the middle of a standoff, Edvard orders Peder to burn them. Before he can, Derek shoots Peder dead in self-defense, but also punctures the flamethrower's fuel tank, setting off an explosion that knocks Edvard unconscious. When brought to the rec room, Edvard transforms and infects Jonas and kills Derek before assimilating Adam. Kate torches the infected Jonas and Derek's body before she and Carter pursue the creature. Sander is ambushed. Colin hides in the radio room. Carter is cornered in the kitchen, but Kate burns the creature.

A replaced Sander drives off into the night, pursued by Kate and Carter in the remaining snowcat. They arrive at the spacecraft, which suddenly activates and its engines begin to crack the ice covering it. Kate falls into the ship and explores it, finally confronted by the Sander-creature. Kate kills it with a grenade and the explosion shuts down the ship's engines. Kate and Carter escape and Carter suggests driving to a Soviet base about fifty miles away. Kate notices that Carter is missing an earring he wore and becomes suspicious: she knew he was human earlier because he was still wearing it. Carter points the wrong ear when she confronts him. Kate burns him, and his scream is alien. She retreats to Sander's snowcat.

In a scene that runs alternating with the credits, a helicopter pilot, Matias, arrives by morning at the now destroyed Norwegian outpost. He shouts, looking for any survivors. Colin is shown to have committed suicide in the radio room using a straight razor to slash both his arms and throat to ensure the Thing could never get to him. Matias sees the charred remains of the Adam/Edvard-Thing in the snow. Lars, still alive and uninfected, orders Matias at gunpoint to show his dental fillings to prove that he is human. The Thing, having taken the form of Lars' dog, runs out of the camp. Lars realizes it's the Thing and orders Matias to start the helicopter. As the dog flees, they give chase in the helicopter, Lars leaning out and shooting at it with a scoped rifle.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

"It's a really fascinating way to construct a story because we're doing it by autopsy, by examining very, very closely everything we know about the Norwegian camp and about the events that happened there from photos and video footage that's recovered, from a visit to the base, the director, producer and I have gone through it countless times marking, you know, there's a fire axe in the door, we have to account for that…we're having to reverse engineer it, so those details all matter to us ‘cause it all has to make sense."
 — Eric Heisserer describing the process of creating a script that is consistent with the first film.[17]

After creating the Dawn of the Dead remake, producers Marc Abraham and Eric Newman began to look through the Universal Studios library to find new properties to work on.[18] Upon finding John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, the two convinced Universal to create a prequel instead of a remake, as they felt that remaking Carpenter's film would be like "paint(ing) a moustache on the Mona Lisa".[19] Eric Newman explained; "I'd be the first to say no one should ever try to do Jaws again and I certainly wouldn't want to see anyone remake The Exorcist... And we really felt the same way about The Thing. It's a great film. But once we realized there was a new story to tell, with the same characters and the same world, but from a very different point of view, we took it as a challenge. It's the story about the guys who are just ghosts in Carpenter's movie – they're already dead. But having Universal give us a chance to tell their story was irresistible."[20]

In early 2009, Variety reported the launch of a project to film a prequel—possibly following MacReady's brother during the events leading up to the opening moments of the 1982 film—with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. as director and Ronald D. Moore as writer.[21][22] Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. became involved in the project when his first planned feature film, a sequel to the Dawn of the Dead remake, a zombie film taking place in Las Vegas written and produced by Zack Snyder, who directed the Dawn of the Dead remake, and co-produced by Abraham and Newman, called Army of the Dead, was cancelled by the studio three months before production began. Needing to start all over again, he asked his agent to see if there was a The Thing project in development, since Alien and The Thing are his favorite films.[23] As a fan of Carpenter's film, he was interested in the project because, being European himself, he had always wondered what happened at the Norwegian camp.[24] In March 2009, Moore described his script as a "companion piece" to Carpenter's film and "not a remake."[25] "We're telling the story of the Norwegian camp that found the Thing before the Kurt Russell group did", he said.[25] Eric Heisserer was later hired to do a complete rewrite of Moore's script.[26] Heisserer explained that in writing the script, it was necessary for him to research all the information that was revealed about the Norwegian camp from the first film, down to the smallest details, so that it could be incorporated into the prequel in order to create a consistent backstory.[17] The decision was made to name the film the same title as the first film, because the producers felt adding a "colon title" such as Exorcist II: The Heretic had felt less reverential.[24] In April 2010 it was revealed that Scott Frank had been hired to work uncredited on new dialogue for the film.[27]

Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. explained that he created the film not to simply be a horror film, but to also focus largely on the human drama with the interaction between characters, as the first film had.[28] The director felt that horror films worked better when time was spent to explore the characters' emotional journeys, allowing the audience to care about them.[29] Mary Elizabeth Winstead insisted that the film would not feature any romantic or sexual elements with her character, as it would be inappropriate considering the tone of the film.[30] Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje said that the film would try to recreate the feeling of paranoia and distrust that the first film had, where the characters can't tell who has been infected by the alien.[31] The filmmakers drew additional inspiration for the film from the original novel Who Goes There?, in making the characters in the film educated scientists as opposed to "blue collar" workers.[24] However, the filmmakers drew no influence from the events of The Thing video game.[24] The director also drew additional inspiration from the film Alien in creating the film, particularly in regard to casting a female lead,[28] and in the way the alien creatures are filmed by not showing too much of them.[23] Matthijs van Heijningen also cited the films of director Roman Polanski as influence, such as his work on Rosemary's Baby.[29] Actual Norwegian and Danish actors were cast in the film to play the Norwegian characters,[24] and the director allowed the actors to improvise elements different from what was scripted when they felt it was appropriate, such as a scene where the characters sing a Norwegian folk song called Sámiid Ædnan ("Lapland").[29][30][32] Many scenes involving characters speaking Norwegian were subtitled,[33] and the language barrier between them and the English speaking characters is exploited to add to the film's feeling of paranoia.[34] Director Matthijs van Heijningen said that the film would show the alien creature in its "pure form", as it was discovered in its ship by the Norwegians; however, it is not revealed whether this is the creature's original form or the form of another creature it had assimilated.[6] Addressing rumors stating that John Carpenter wished to have a cameo appearance in the film,[24] Carpenter himself corrected these in an interview for the fan site "Outpost 31", in August 2012. "[Those] rumors are not true", Carpenter stated in the interview.[35]

Filming and post-production[edit]

The film was shot in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film, as the director dislikes the look of films shot digitally.[29] The director chose not to fast cut the film, instead opting for a slower pace, hoping to build a sense of pending dread.[29] The prequel was filmed in Pinewood Toronto Studios, Port Lands on March 22, 2010 and ended on June 28, 2010.[36] On set, the director had a laptop computer which contained "a million" screen captures of the Carpenter film, which he used as a point of reference to keep the Norwegian camp visually consistent with the first film.[37] Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics created the practical creature effects for the film.[38] In addition to creating the effects for the human-Thing transformations, Gillis, Woodruff and their team had the challenge of coming up with the look of the alien in the ice block unearthed by the Norwegians. While it was initially only intended to be shown as a silhouette, the director liked their designs and encouraged them to fully create the creature, which was realised by creating a monster suit that Tom Woodruff wore.[34] The effects team opted to use cable-operated animatronics over more complex hydraulic controls, as they felt they gave a more "organic feel".[34] In order to emulate the creature effects of the first film, Heisserer revealed that traditional practical effects would be used on the creatures whenever possible.[39] The film's computer-generated imagery was created by Image Engine, the effects house who worked on Neil Blomkamp's 2009 film District 9.[28] Computer Graphics were used to digitally create extensions on some of the practical animatronic effects, as well as for digital matte paintings and set extensions.[28] Alec Gillis stated that the advancement of animatronic technology since 1982 combined with digital effects allowed the effects team to expand upon the possible creature conceptions.[37] Matthijs van Heijningen preferred to use practical effects over computer imagery, as he believed actors give better performances when they have something physical to react to.[24] However, in post-release interviews, Alec Gillis revealed that while Amalgamated Dynamics creature designs for the film remained intact, most of their practical effects ended up being digitally replaced in post-production. The creation of Gillis's all-practical-effects independent horror film Harbinger Down was partially in response to this.[40][41] Stunt men covered in fire-retardant gel were used in scenes when characters are set on fire.[34] The original Ennio Morricone score was reflected in the film's score, but it was initially reported that Morricone did not score the film, nor was his music from the 1982 version used.[33] However, his theme "Humanity (Part II)" appears in a bonus scene during the prequel's ending credits (indicating how it leads directly into the 1982 film).

The interior of the crashed alien spacecraft was created by production designer Sean Haworth.[34] To design the ship, Haworth had to recreate what little was shown of the spacecraft in the Carpenter film, then "fill the gaps" for what was not originally shown. Haworth and a team of approximately twelve others then created the inside of the ship as a several story-high interior set constructed mostly out of a combination of foam, plaster, fiberglass, and plywood.[34] The ship was designed specifically to look as if it were not made to accommodate humans, but rather alien creatures of different size and shape who could walk on any surface.[34] A section of the craft called the "pod room" was designed to imply the alien creatures manning it had collected specimens of different alien species from around the universe for a zoological expedition.[34][42]

While the film was originally set for release in April, Universal Pictures changed the date to October 14, 2011,[43] to allow time for reshoots. The intention of the reshoots was to "enhance existing sequences or to make crystal clear a few story beats or to add punctuation marks to the film's feeling of dread."[44] On his Facebook page, Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. claimed that the reshoots of the film included making an entirely different ending, referring to the original cut as the "Pilot Version" and the new cut as the "Tetris Version". In the original ending, Kate was to discover the original pilots of the spaceship which had all been killed by The Thing, which was an escaped specimen they had collected from another planet, implying that the ship was crashed in an attempt to kill the monster. "I liked that idea because it would be the Norwegian camp in space. Kate sees the pod room and one pod being broken, giving her the clues what happened. What didn't work was that she wanted to find Sander and stop the ship from taking off and still solve the mystery in the ship. These two energies were in conflict."[45]

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

The Thing grossed $8,493,665 over the opening weekend and ended up third on the box office chart. It was distributed to 2,996 theaters and spent a total of one week on the top 10 chart, before dropping down to the 16th position in its second week. It concluded its domestic run with a total of $16,928,670.[4] Its box office collections was called "an outright disappointment" by Box Office Mojo, who goes on to say "[the film] was naturally at a disadvantage: a vague "thing" doesn't give prospective audiences much to latch on to. It was therefore left up to fans of the original, who are already familiar with the concept, to turn out in strong numbers."[46] The film grossed $14,576,617 in foreign countries,[47] bringing the total worldwide box-office gross to $31,505,287.[4]

Reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 35% based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It serves the bare serviceable minimum for a horror flick, but The Thing is all boo-scares and a slave to the far superior John Carpenter version."[48] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film a score of 49 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[49] In CinemaScore polls users gave the film a "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[50]

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film a rating of 3 out of 4, saying "While I wish van Heijningen's Thing weren't quite so in lust with the '82 model, it works because it respects that basic premise; and it exhibits a little patience, doling out its ickiest, nastiest moments in ways that make them stick".[51] Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com called it a "Loving prequel to a horror classic", saying "It's full of chills and thrills and isolated Antarctic atmosphere and terrific Hieronymus Bosch creature effects, and if it winks genially at the plot twists of Carpenter's film, it never feels even a little like some kind of inside joke."[52] James Berardinelli gave it three stars out of four, saying that it "offers a similar overall experience" to the 1982 film, but "without replicating styles and situations".[53] Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote that the narrative choices open to a prequel "exist on a spectrum from the unsurprising to the unfaithful", but van Heijningen "has managed this balancing act about as well as could be hoped" and although the line between homage and apery is a fine one, "in our age of steady knockoffs, retreads, and loosely branded money grabs, The Thing stands out as a competent entertainment, capably executed if not particularly inspired."[54] Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly rated the film three out of five stars and wrote, "Winstead makes for an appealing protagonist, and Kate is portrayed as competent without being thrust into some unlikely action-hero role."[55]

Kathleen Murphy of MSN Movies rated it two-and-a-half out of five stars, calling it "a subpar slasher movie tricked out with tired 'Ten Little Indians' tropes and rip-offs from both Carpenter and the Christian Nyby-Howard Hawks' 1951 version of the chilling tale that started it all, John W. Campbell, Jr.'s Who Goes There?".[56] Jim Vejvoda of IGN Movies also rated the film two-and-a-half out of five, saying, "This incarnation of The Thing is much like the creature it depicts: An insidious, defective mimic of the real, er, thing. It's not an entirely lost cause, but it is a needless one."[57] Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, the same rating he gave the 1982 film.[58] In Patrick Sauriol of Coming Attractions' review, he states, "Stack it up against John Carpenter's version and it looks less shiny, but let's face it, if you’re that kind of Thing fan you’re going to go see the new movie anyway. Try and judge today's Thing on its own merits."[59]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for two awards at the 38th Saturn Awards, but lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and X-Men: First Class, respectively.

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2012 Saturn Awards Best Horror/Thriller Film The Thing Nominated [60]
Best Make-Up Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Lyndon Barrois, Fred Chapman, Greg Massie, Marco Menco Nominated [61]

Soundtrack[edit]

The Thing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Marco Beltrami
Released October 11, 2011
Genre Film score
Length 55:31
Label Varèse Sarabande

The music composed for the film by Marco Beltrami was released in October 11, 2011. The soundtrack was released under the label Varèse Sarabande.[62]

AllMusic rated the album 3.5/5 saying, "Composer Marco Beltrami's appropriately tense and brooding score for director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.'s 2011 [prequel to] The Thing dutifully echoes Ennio Morricone's stark score for the original version, which in its own way echoed the soundtrack work of that film's director, John Carpenter."[63]

Uncredited[edit]

The Norwegian characters play an excerpt from the song Sámiid Ædnan.

Home media[edit]

The Thing was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 31, 2012 in the US.[64] The film earned an additional $5,174,780 through DVD sales.[65]

Related[edit]

The film was made into a maze at both Universal Studios Hollywood's and Universal Orlando Resort's 2011 Halloween Horror Nights events, having the subtitle Assimilation at Hollywood's version.[citation needed]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]