The Thing returns

But new prequel won’t rely on digital effects alone.

The crew behind the prequel for The Thing have said that the new film won’t focus purely on computer-generated effects, in keeping with the spirit of the original film.

Three decades after director John Carpenter’s paranoia-filled remake of The Thing From Another World, Universal has created a prequel that takes place just before the 1982 version.

Directed by Dutch filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen Jr from a script by Ron Moore and Eric Heisserer, the new film addresses a number of unanswered questions from the previous instalment, including the deserted base, its frozen suicide victim and the ill-defined alien corpse.

Unlike the Eighties version, which relied on cutting-edge make-up effects by Rob Bottin, the prequel will utilise a combination of digital and practical effects, the latter created by the team at Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.

According to ADI co-founder Tom Woodruff Jr: “Today’s challenge is maintaining a practical presence on set and not overplaying the digital hand. We have emails from fans who are very worried that the film will go all digital for its creature effects, but I think what we have is a good balance.

“On top of that, Rob Bottin is a genius,” claims Woodruff. “Creature effects artists in the business today are here because of the inspiration of Rob’s work. Alec Gillis [also from ADI] and I are a half-generation ahead of a lot of people we work with so we’re here because of Harryhausen, Planet Of The Apes and Alien, so we certainly empathise with respecting a classic in our work. No one wants to be the one to put a new coat of paint on the Sistine Chapel. Luckily, we’re dealing with the events that lead up to the Carpenter/Bottin story, so other than one singular creature of Bottin’s that appears in our version, we have a clean slate to work with. We have wall-to-wall creatures on set, and a lot of them will be supported and made more exciting with digital assets in the film.”

As anybody who’s seen the 1982 film already knows, The Thing’s prequel will take place in an isolated Antarctic research facility where a team of Norwegian scientists unearths – and accidentally unleashes from its frozen prison – an alien creature with the ability to mimic the form of any living creature. As members of the team are infected and paranoia begins to grow, it’s up to the survivors, including palaeontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Carter (Joel Edgerton) the crew’s pilot, to stop the alien invader from killing them off one by one.

For Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World), who plays the first major female character in The Thing franchise, comparisons to Alien’s Ripley are inevitable. “I definitely expect people to bring up the Ripley thing,” she concedes, “but I’m not trying to play it the way Sigourney Weaver did or take anything from that. But I think the story, which has an alien and a female who becomes the leader at a certain point, it’s most likely going to draw comparisons.”

And as far as comparisons go, Edgerton, who plays dashing helicopter pilot Sam Carter in the prequel, is reluctant to step into the role of his cinematic predecessor. “I guess he’s similar to the Kurt Russell character in the later or earlier film, depending on how you look at it, but only in that he’s a helicopter pilot. Apart from that, he’s totally different; we’re not trying to create any similar characters. There are three Americans that run this Seahawk helicopter to the base, who are kept in the dark as to what’s been discovered. We only realise what has been discovered once it’s a bit too late. The rest of the film is a mixture of trying to determine the truth, mixed with complete paranoia and then a scramble for survival.”

The Thing prequel was first reported as being in production by Variety in early 2009, with Battlestar Galactica and Caprica creator Ronald D Moore attached to write. Moore’s script, however, described at the time as a companion piece to the Carpenter film, was later completely rewritten by Eric Heisserer. Filming began in March and ended on 28 June, taking place in Toronto. In addition to Winstead and Edgerton, the film also stars Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Erich Christian Olsen and Jørgen Langhelle. An aborted attempt to produce a four-hour miniseries sequel was in development at the (then) Sci Fi Channel in 2007 and received Carpenter’s blessing, but all mention of the project was later removed from the network’s website.