The Thing (1982) vs The Thing (2011)

The Thing 1982 vs 2011

Three movies were based on the short story Who Goes There? by American science fiction author John W. Campbell Jr. I reviewed the first one earlier, and since the other two are so similar narratively and visually I'll review them together.

1982 version - In the Antarctic a Norwegian helicopter chases and shoots at a sledge dog. They end up near an American science base. The Norwegians are killed before they can give an explanation, so the Americans take in the dog. The Americans go to investigate the Norwegian camp, and discover the Norwegians found something in a block of ice. A creature starts killing and taking on the form of the men at the American science base.

2011 version - The producers of this movie thought the '82 version directed by John Carpenter was perfect, so they decided to make a prequel instead of a remake. This movie tells the story of the Norwegians and how they came in contact with The Thing which assimilates and imitates it's victims.

Storyline   1982 version   ★★★★★  -  2011 version   ★★★☆☆
As I said above I'm reviewing these two movies together because they're so similar visually and narratively. However the synopsis shows they're two completely different stories. What gives? The synopsis actually highlights the main narrative differences between the movies! Once The Thing starts attacking people, pretty much the same things happen.

The 1982 version has The Thing imitating a human most of the time, and only attacking single isolated people. The men in the science base have no idea which of them are Things, and mutual suspicion and tension are sky high.

Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady
Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady

The scene showing MacReady (Kurt Russell) playing chess against the computer is a nice touch, it shows us how he reacts when he can't win with cunning alone.

The 2011 version disappointed me, as it doesn't reveal anything about The Thing or the Norwegians that can't be deduced easily by watching the '82 movie. This movie even repeats key scenes from the '82 movie, such as the spider head scene and the blood testing scene, but at least with some twists.

The Thing in the '11 movie appears quite often, so the protagonists know who is who most of the time, making for a less tense atmosphere. On the positive side we finally get to see the inside of the space ship.

The opening scene from the '82 movie (Norwegian helicopter chase) could have given away the ending of the '11 movie, but instead the makers of this movie opted for a completely different ending (similar to the ending of the '82 movie!) The helicopter scene which leads to the '82 movie is instead shown as part of the closing credits of the '11 movie.

1982 version trailer

2011 version trailer

Visuals   1982 version   ★★★★☆  -  2011 version   ★★★★☆
At the time of it's release, the '82 movie had ground breaking special effects. The '11 movie's special effects are a tribute to the '82 effects as they are mostly animatronics, with few CGI bits added. Overall the atmosphere in the '82 movie is way creepier than the '11 movie.

The stories in these movies are supposed to have happened back to back in 1982. These movies show the stylistic difference between a genuine 80's movie, and a recent movie imitating the 80's style.

Final Verdict   1982 version   ★★★★★  -  2011 version   ★★★☆☆
The '82 movie is definitely better than the '11 one as it's creepier and tenser. The '82 movie is the original, while the '11 is the imitation / prequel.

On it's release the '82 movie was a box office and critical failure, and only later did it become a cult favourite. Notwithstanding my criticism, the '11 version is an above average monster movie, so who knows, in the future it could become a cult favourite too!

Part I of this article series - The Thing from Another World (1951)

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