Here's to you, Snake Plisskin, R.J. MacReady, Jack O'Neil...
The Thing — R.J. MacReady (1982)
At least when Hollywood decided to return to the well that birthed one of the best sci-fi/horror films of all time, they had enough wisdom to realize that trying to improve on the original (which was, itself, a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World) would be an exercise in futility. Instead they served up a prequel…and it went about as well as you might expect. Once again making magic with John Carpenter, The Thing finds Russell playing blue-collar helicopter pilot MacReady as an average guy in an impossible situation. It’s a situation that will swiftly determine whether he’s a survivor or a victim, with no middle ground available, and even though it was the ‘80s, MacReady is no Schwarzenegger/Stallone style action hero. He’s smart and capable, but never superhuman. The constant edge of desperation in his performance sells the bleak situation he and the rest of his companions are stuck in, but he never passes over into full panic or paralysis. When the final scene rolls around, it’s no surprise that MacReady is one of the last men standing. Will he survive past that ambiguous ending? He’s damn sure got a better shot than most.
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