The Thing From Another World (1951) vs The Thing (1982) + The Thing (2011)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 1:15 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
1951 RT Critics Rating: 8.6/10
1982 RT Critics Rating: 7.8/10
2011 RT Critics Rating: 3.6/10

1951 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10
1982 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10
2011 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: N/A

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) - Christian Nyby
THE THING (1982) - John Carpenter
THE THING (2011) - Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

During the time of the Cold War, the American public was driven with the conformed idea of the negativities of communism. The movie industry has expressed this paranoia constantly with science fiction horror films, most notable being Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where we as patriotic Americans find ourselves slowly becoming converted into heartless "alien" communists. However, before Body Snatchers made the impact, director Christian Nyby quietly promoted this concept five years earlier with his 1951 film The Thing From Another World. In popular culture, The Thing From Another World sparked several notable science fiction classics. The closing line of the film, "Watch the skies," became a working title for a new film that eventually became Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. After the success of Close Encounters, a sequel was slated as Watch the Skies, about a family encountering aliens. This "sequel project" eventually became E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, also by Steven Spielberg.

Based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, The Thing From Another World tells the story of an Air Force crew and scientists at a remote Arctic research outpost who are forced to defend themselves from a malevolent plant-based alien being. The movie stars Kenneth Toby as Captain Patrick Hendry, who leads his men against the creature while opposing the radically dangerous efforts to connect with the "Thing" suggested by Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite).

In the present, horror films are commonly designed to frighten the audience using blood and gore. However, back in the 50s, the only way for a movie to spark suspense is if the plot is tensely fleshed and the script is carefully written. The atmosphere needs to be handled perfectly and the acting needs to be convincing. What made The Thing From Another World work is its clever use of the "Thing" as a plot device. This method is seen nearly thirty years later in Ridley Scott's Alien. In making Alien, Scott commented that, "The most important thing in a film of this type is not what you see, but the effect of what you think you saw." This is exactly the same philosophy that director Christian Nyby followed. We never get a good look at the Thing until halfway in, but it does not matter. In the rising action of the film, we don't see the creature's presence, but rather the chaos that it leaves behind such as broken pots and flipped tables. This fluently builds tension from beginning to end, expressing that there are times where what you do not see is more frightening than what the movie alone can put on screen. Contrastingly, director John Carpenter delivered the exact opposite of Ridley Scott's idea using animatronics simulating violence and gore.

This time just being called The Thing, the 1982 remake takes a new direction in the conceptual design of the Thing itself. Instead of a plant-based life form, the new Thing is now a parasitic creature that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them. The film follows a group of researchers as the Thing infiltrates the research station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs.

Unlike the original film, The Thing brings a new dimension to this terror. This time, the paranoia is within the group, since the characters no longer trust each other in believing that they are themselves and not the Thing. The film, made in the 80s, took the most advantage out of groundbreaking makeup special effects. Arguably, The Thing is one of the most disgusting movies I have ever seen, though the animatronics that created them are amazing. Like AlienThe Thing works really well with its simplistic cast, led by Kurt Russell, as well as the burning question throughout asking "Where is the creature?" We know that something bad is going to happen. It is just a question of where, when, and how. Just like the Alien, the Thing waits in the void.

Kurt Russell plays a great leading man. Instead of being a male hero, Russell portrays a pilot who realistically makes choices during this entire fear-factor. He is believable and convincing, never Hollywood-ized for the audience. However, as a whole, the characterization in The Thing is severely weaker than the original. The original film stressed on the persistence and charisma within each member of the group. Here, it is all missing, just a one-dimensional group trying to figure out who the Thing is. In other words, The Thing took the short way out. It emphasized on the horror of the Thing itself too much, making the script unnecessary to be "well-written" and therefore it becomes inferior to the script of the 1951 counterpart.

In 2007, Warner Bros. released a third remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, replacing animatronics with computer-generated imagery. So why not do it on The Thing? In 2011, the second remake of The Thing was released as a prequel in which its plot's ending is immediately before the start of the plot in John Carpenter's 1982 The Thing. Unlike the previous two films, which had male leads, this remake has a female lead, a paleontologist played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Though I have only viewed clips, trailers, and TV spots, the 2011 The Thing appears to be a carbon copy of John Carpenter's except with CGI effects. At the end of the day, it is nothing special.

Remakes these days have constantly suffered from a fatal flaw. Their only purpose is to enhance the visual experience, meaning more visual effects are added. This has happened to countless remakes, including Nightmare on Elm StreetThe Wolfman, and mentioned before, three remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I'm not suggesting that adding visual effects automatically makes it bad. I'm simply stating that adding visual effects is not the only thing to pay attention to. Again, it all boils back down to the storyline and script. A good example of this is Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. Even when it won the Academy Award for Visual Effects, it still strived as a terrific remake on its own. We have lived for nearly a decade of visual-driven remakes and the movie industries still cannot figure out that that is not the crux that a remake needs? Here in 2011, the movie industry is still making unsatisfactory remakes like The Thing. Consequently, the public slowly became unwelcome of remakes.

At the end of the day, the most superior film is the one composed by the greatest script, making the best film of this science fiction franchise the 1951 version, The Thing From Another World. Here, it is straightforward simplistic filmmaking, tensely plotted and well-executed. It stands as a memorable classic among other science fiction films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, which also suffered from a visual-effects-driven remake in 2008. The characters are fully developed, and the Thing itself carries a much more intimidating factor because we as audience members are not even fully sure what it is and what it is capable of. It stands as the superior science fiction horror film. It made a societal impact when it was released in the 50s and today, it can still be viewed as a sharply directed movie.

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