What we’ve learned from the trailer for The Thing

Having viewed the trailer for The Thing several times, we set down all that we’ve learned about this forthcoming prequel…

We’ve been waiting for some time to get a first proper look at director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s ‘companion piece’ to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and last Thursday, the first trailer was officially released.

Now, given that everyone involved in the film as insisted that it’s a prequel rather than a remake of Carpenter’s 1982 classic, it’s remarkable just how similar the two films looks.

As you’re no doubt already aware, The Thing 2011 is set in the Norwegian camp briefly seen at the start of the 1982 movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the film’s star, which makes for an interesting departure from Kurt Russell’s alpha male lead in the original. Joel Edgerton, meanwhile, plays what could be described as the role previously filled by Russell. He plays a grizzled helicopter pilot, just like Russell’s character, MacReady.

As for the rest of the cast, we have Ulrich Thomsen (whom you may have seen as a henchman in The World Is Not Enough), Lost‘s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays a character by the name of Derek Jameson, and an assortment of Norwegian character actors, including Stig Henrik Hoff and Jørgen Langhelle.

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Just like the original novella, Who Goes There?, and Carpenter’s adaptation, the film sees this eclectic cast encounter a thawed-out, shape-shifting alien in the icy wastes of Antarctica.

And as we now know from the trailer, this new film will follow the same pattern as Carpenter’s almost exactly. The creature, originally encased in a block of ice (a nod to the original story, as well as the 1951 adaptation, The Thing From Another World), and begins to kill and impersonate the members of the camp.

Certain shots here are, as mentioned earlier, eerily similar to the 1982 film. There’s a shot of a dog biting through the wire of its enclosure, and another that shows the partly mutated alien lying dead on an operating table. While such reverence to Carpenter’s movie’s understandable, it looks worryingly as though The Thing 2011 is going down a similar route to Robert Rodriguez’s Predators, which made rather too many loving references to the 1987 Predator to work as a stand-alone film.

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Elsewhere, there’s a hint that The Thing‘s makers have gone for a computer-driven approach to its effects, as seen in the brief sequence in which a character’s face briefly ripples, as though something’s just moved beneath the surface of his skin. Given that Rob Bottin’s practical effects were part of what made the 1982 movie so enduringly fantastic, the sight of even this brief, yet glaring use of CG is more than a little disappointing.

And while we’re on the subject of characters and aliens, this first trailer commits a cardinal sin. It gives away far too much. Even a casual viewing reveals the identity of several cast members who we now know will be killed and imitated by the Thing. For a film that’s all about paranoia and distrust, such a disclosure seems like a terrible marketing own goal.

On a more positive note, it’s quite fun to go through the trailer and pick out the little details that we know will link into events of the 1982 film. We get a brief glimpse of the flying saucer, which we saw flying through space during the last film’s opening. It’s also likely that the dog we saw chewing through the fence earlier is the very dog that will one day carry the alien to MacReady’s camp, and we appear to be shown the very Norwegian who attempts to gun that canine down, too, with his familiar balaclava, sniper rifle and snow goggles.

The script’s co-writer, Eric Heisserer, said in a 2009 interview with Bloody Disgusting that he and both the director and producer went through the previous film with a fine tooth comb, taking careful note of telltale things like fire axes stuck in doors, and then trying to reverse-engineer a story around them. “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,” Heisserer said.

What the trailer suggests, then, is a film that serves to fill in a bit of the backstory behind the ill-fated Norwegian camp that MacReady visited back in 1982. The fate of everyone within may appear to be a foregone conclusion, but we hope that the film’s makers have a few surprises left in store for us that haven’t already been given away in the trailer.

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The iffy dialogue and CG effects confirm our earlier suspicions that this new Thing probably won’t top the brilliance of Carpenter’s, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a tense, fun and disturbing movie.

Finally, if you’ve been watching the trailer and wondering where you’ve heard that little song the cast sing near the beginning, the YouTube clip below holds the answer…

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