Overreading “The Thing” Prequel
Film versions of The Thing has graced our screens three times, seemingly coming in at the right decades when, as horror movies should, audiences see a physical manifestation of their current fears. The monster in Hawks’ 1951 adaptation is supposedly about the communist threat while Carpenter’s 1982 remake is a metaphor for AIDS, so what about this year’s version?
There are multiple lines dividing the characters but the point is that they’re divided. This prequel tells us about the scientists who discover the alien before the Yankees in Carpenter’s film. Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) appoints paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as his right hand woman for the Norwegian base in Antarctica to study a ‘secret case.’ Let’s be cynical about Kate’s recruitment, and her own crew, the film’s screenwriters thinking that their movie needs anglophone actors for North American audiences to buy their tickets. The latent purpose of the subtitled Norwegian characters, however, teach us how to curse in their mother tongue.
Nonetheless, Sander might as well not have assigned for her, as the two scientists don’t behave as friends outside of their professional boundaries. He also vetoes her warnings about the proper ways to handle the alien within its new, above ground environment. He inadvertently awakens the alien, the latter killing off a few of the base’s crew members under the guise of its last victim. Still, some of the survivors, despite themselves, still do not believe her conclusions and methods and we can’t help but assume that her gender and age factors into their unspoken prejudices. Thankfully, Winstead confidently asserts her character despite these intimidating men.
We also have to take into account the different nationalities snowed into one roof. A subplot involves Kate’s crew members Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton) on a botched helicopter escape from the base and getting accused of being an alien when he takes the grueling walk back. One of the Norwegians who has stayed yells something like ‘The Americans are the enemy’ which is pretty subversive. Then we can go crazy with the over-interpretations, as circumstances pit Kate and Braxton against each other. Lloyd also believes that checking teeth fillings is the way to see which one of them are the aliens, showing class divisions within the crew. Maybe this movie isn’t confident enough to lift itself from Carpenter’s shadow but the ideas are there, especially in its chilling (ha, pun!) ending, where Kate and Braxton fall under their enemies’ hands. 3/5.