Unnecessary Prequels, Part One

I just got around to watching The Thing (2011) and Prometheus, prequels to the fan-favorite science fiction films The Thing (1982) and Alien. Yes, the prequel to The Thing is called The Thing. More on that later. But first . . . spoiler alert. You know the drill.

Presumably one makes a prequel to answer questions the viewers had after seeing the original film. Like after The Thing (1982), when viewers wondered what exactly happened at the Norwegian Antarctic camp which first found the shapeshifting alien and dug it up from the ice. Or when otherwise-satisfied viewers left the theater after Alien and said, “But who made humans?” Oh, wait, no one asked that after Alien. Ever.

First up, The Thing (2011). The short answer to “What happened at the Norwegian camp?” is “The exact same freakin’ thing as at the American camp except with a female lead.” In some ways this is a remake, as it hits almost every plot point of the original, except with Norwegian accents and occasional subtitles. Some of the dialogue is almost verbatim. It’s a preremakequel.

They tried to open it up a bit more by going inside the alien ship, but it’s not much of a diversion, since we already know they kept the alien from escaping, since the ship was still there in the ice in the original film. Which is, of course, the challenge of making such a direct prequel . . . the audience already knows the ending.

Nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly effective film despite the fact that it’s the same plot and is completely unnecessary. As we get to the final scenes, they are, inevitably, the opening scenes of the 1982 movie. By giving it the same name (see, I told you I would get back to this), the filmmakers seem to be asking us to accept that it’s just one big movie. The problem is that the reason why the Norwegian camp scenes in the 1982 film were so effective was precisely because we didn’t know what had happened there. The prequel deflates that by spelling it all out. No one who hasn’t watch The Thing (1982) should watch the prequel first, because it’s just one long spoiler.

There is some cleverness to how the producers of the prequel nestled it into the original. I’ll admit that when the prequel first moves into the room with the alien in the ice block, which we saw in the original film after all the destruction, it’s kinda cool. Not everything fits, however; when Mac visits the ship in the ice in the 1982 film, they don’t see the two snowcats that should be there, one with a charred alien corpse, the other with a frozen dead woman. In the end, however, the entire prequel feels like a really long deleted scene from the original. And like most deleted scenes, even when they’re fun to watch, you’re not really missing anything by skipping over them.

Next week: Unnecessary Prequels, Part Two. (See what I did there? I’m doing a sequel about prequels.)

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