Like the rest of the world, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this film. Although I will admit to having a little bit of trepidation, with the bad taste that the “prequel” of The Thing” produced still lingering in my mouth. But I have to say, as prequels go, this was a corker. Although director Ridley Scott has gone on record stating that this film is not really a prequel, per se. It is set in the same universe (gee thanks, Ridley. I didn’t see that one coming), I mean come on. The sets on the alien world, the finding out what the “space jockey” from Alien really was. This was a prequel, right down to the fact that the owner of the company was obviously a relation of Charles Bishop Weyland that we first meet in Aliens vs Predators. So stop being so fey and coy Ridley, cos like it or not this is a “prequel.”
The film starts with a spaceship hovering over a landscape that seems to be mostly rushing water. A big albino type fellow drinks some kind of gel-like substance and starts getting some green moss-like looking stuff growing on his skin. His body starts breaking apart and then falls into a waterfall. As the rest of his body disintegrates we are treated to images of DNA strands changing, breaking apart and reforming. I will admit, this whole sequence left me a little confused. It was not until I got home and looked up the film on Wikipedia that I found out that this was the “seeding” of Earth. Cue face-palm.
After this “seeding” we are now in 2089. A team of archaeologists are in the Isle of Sky Scotland and have found cave paintings showing a big chap pointing to six “planets.” Fast-forward to 2093 and we are on a spaceship. It is on it’s way to the six planets that were on the cave painting.
The first person we meet is David (Michael Fassbender) he is a robot. The kind of Artificial Intelligence that is prevalent in the Alien verse. He is obviously a predecessor of the ‘evil’ Ash that we met in Alien. Fassbender is beyond brilliant as the ‘robot’ David. We see what his everyday routine is during the two year journey to the planets. He plays basketball while riding a bicycle, he watches films (and seems especially attracted to Lawrence of Arabia), learns languages, eats, drinks, and (somewhat disturbingly) listens in on the dreams of his fellow passengers while they are in hyper-sleep.
David, we find out, was a special creation of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who is financing this trip. Weyland tells the crew (in a holographic “beyond the grave” message) that David is in essence his surrogate son. David’s level of AI is so high that it appears that he can have opinions, likes, dislikes and hidden agenda’s. If Fassbender doesn’t get at least an Oscar nomination for this performance, I will be amazed.
We then meet Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) a type-a personality whose job is to make sure this little expedition goes as planned. Theron and Fassbender are by far the most interesting characters in the film. Theron was told to “blend” in the background in a lot of the scenes and all that does is make her character appear suspicious and a little threatening.
The “heroine” of the film is Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw. She is the Ripley of this little space opera. Unfortunately Noomi is not Sigourney Weaver. Don’t get me wrong. I think Noomi Rapace is a brilliant actress. I saw her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And it was right after her stunning work in that film that she got the role of Shaw. I just didn’t, and still don’t truth be told, see why the main protagonist of the film had to be a woman…again.
We’ve seen it all before, most notably in Alien and Aliens. Ripley was a “kick-ass” heroine. Shaw just doesn’t have quite the same impact. In fact none of the characters have a lot of impact. The only exceptions are Vickers, David, and Janek (Idris Elba) who for some reason are more fully fleshed out as characters. Even the appearance of Weyland towards the end of the film is very scant on character development.
I got the feeling while watching this film that a lot of it wound up on the editing room floor. What was left had a feeling of being uneven or disjointed. It also had, what I felt, were “see Spot run” scenes. After Shaw’s husband is vindictively contaminated with alien goo by David, we are given a short scene between Elizabeth and her hubby. We are spoon fed the following information: Elizabeth cannot conceive and her husband still loves her in spite of this and makes love to her to show it. We didn’t really need the scene or the information it gave us. When David finds the alien life growing in Elizabeth’s body, we could have filled in the blanks. The knowledge that Shaw cannot conceive is extraneous to the film’s plot and serves no real purpose.
I would have liked seeing more of Theron and David and Janek. These three were the best written and acted in the film. I realise that it sounds like I did not like the film.
I did like the film. A lot.
I liked the premise of it and the execution of events once they arrived at the planet. And yes, Ridley, I saw direct connections between your prequel and the rest of the Alien verse. So despite the fact that I felt there was a lot of footage that never made it into the finished film. I still enjoyed it and will probably get the special edition DVD when it comes out for the ‘making of’ features.
Over all it is definitely worth seeing in the cinema. I saw it in 2D and not 3D so I don’t know if this changes the overall look of the film, but I am not tempted to re-see it in 3D to find out.
Now I will be the first to admit that Carpenter’s The Thing is itself a re-make. Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks first brought the film to the big screen in 1951. It featured James Arness (who does indeed look like a giant carrot as suggested by author Stephen King) heavily made up and very unfriendly. The creature is dispatched at the end of the film via an electric sidewalk.
John Carpenter re-imagined the film in 1982 and it became a classic. Brooding, suspenseful and menacing, it set the standard for economically telling a story and creating characters you could form a bond with. It was suitably scary with moments of genuine humour. In fact I would go as far as to suggest that Carpenter’s The Thing should be used as a template on how to make a good film. *I would also add James Cameron’s Terminator 2 to that very short list*
Now we have the “prequel” The Thing 2011. I will say that the special effects were beyond spectacular. Sadly, that is the only good thing I can bring myself to say about the film. Despite the fact that the director and the producers set the pacing of the film at breakneck speed, I did not care about any of it.
The characters were not even two dimensional creations. They all appeared to be one dimensional filler. No one, apart from Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character, had a clear cut “job” in the film. Winstead was supposed to be the “heroine,” yet her character was so lacklustre and flat that I found myself not really caring whether she lived, died, or defeated the alien.
Every other character in the film seemed to be used to fill one or two functions. I can envision the director saying, “Right we need a large cast that an alien needs to chew through. We also need enough people that we can group one bunch as victims and one bunch as aliens. Since that really is all they are going to be doing, we won’t bother with giving them specific things to do in the film.”
Yes, the film did zoom along. Like a runaway train it sped to the conclusion, to it’s detriment. The script had so many holes, gaps and glaring omissions that I am actually amazed that it managed to run for an entire 103 minutes. But, having said that, the film felt much longer.
I will say that the last bit of the film – the “teaser-like” flashes we the audience got intermixed with the end credits – did indeed fill the bill as a prequel. Sadly, it was really the only part of the film that I got anywhere near excited about.
So my final verdict about the film? Great FX! Mediocre characters and performances with the only real prequel being at the end of the film. I am so glad I did not see this at the cinema.
I would have asked for my money back.