2011’s The Thing is technically a prequel to John Carpenter’s flick of the same title, although it’s basically a remake. If you’ve seen the 1982 film, you’ve seen the better version. The two movies are almost identical, save for the fact that the lead is played by an actor of a different gender. But for the most part, I’m struggling to remember if certain scenes happened in this film or the earlier one, or if they might have happened in both of them.
The basic plan here is that a thing is unearthed in Antarctica, and a team is sent in to dig it out and find out what it is. When it turns out to be thething, the thing that’s in the title of The Thing that was also the same thing that was in the first The Thing, they are systematically picked off until there are few remaining, and we are eventually led to John Carpenter’s film. It’s a horror movie with a bunch of jump scares that are neither scary nor startling, and is an unnecessary film at best and it’s unenjoyable at worst.
The lead role, taking over for Kurt Russell, is given to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, because after Black Christmas and the third Final Destination movie, she knows how to go through a horror movie. She plays a paleontologist who gets recruited to try to get the alien out of the ice safely, but it breaks out before she can lay a tool on it. It then starts doing what it does best, namely absorbing people and making it look like them, allowing anyone to potentially be “infected” as it’s able to act exactly like anyone it consumes.
Most of the tension, presumably, is supposed to come from the characters not knowing who around them might be infected. It’s scary when everyone surrounding you might be waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on you. In 1982, John Carpenter did this just fine, and it still works today. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t work in this film, although I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because it’s too predictable? Or perhaps it’s because you know it’s a prequel going in and you know that most of, if not all of, the characters have to die by the end in order for Carpenter’s film to happen.
That’s the problem with a lot of prequels. There’s not a lot of tension, as we know more or less exactly what’s going to happen by the end. What offsets this, usually, is that we’ll learn something or enjoy the story as it goes along. That’s not the case here. We learn nothing that we didn’t already know, and since the story is exactly the same, there’s absolutely no reason to watch this film. Nothing is learned, there’s not a single moment of originality, and I can’t think of a single reason to watch it.
It’s a bad sign when a 1982 film has better special effects than one made in 2011. Here, most of the creature work is CGI, while before it was all practical effects. It felt more real last time around, like there was actually something in the room with these characters — at least, in the few times you could see it. Here, the alien appears early and often, rendered with not-good CGI, and is far less effective.
I kind of get the appeal of making a remake of John Carpenter’s movie. But that hasn’t been working out well for the last decade, so it seems to me as if the prequel title was thrown on just to try to differentiate it from … pretty much all the Platinum Dunes titles of the last five years. But if it was planned as a remake, you have to actually attempt to improve on the original. I see none of that intent here. There isn’t a lot of talent behind or in front of the camera, and the budget was too low to allow for the special effects to compensate for that.
Do you know what I want to see in the wake of The Thing? A Jaws prequel. Here’s how you make it awesome: Make Jaws an alien from space. It crashes down to Earth before humans began building ships. It ate all the sea monsters, which is why we can no longer encounter them. Then, once pirate ships began sailing the open seas, Jaws appears to demolish them! Then it leads into Spielberg’s classic and the three sequels. It would probably be better than those, anyway. Someone get The Asylum on this.
There’s simply nothing interesting going on in this movie. Go see the original, skip this one, and you’ll be happier. I don’t understand why you’d want to watch a worse version of the same movie. It’s like watching the 1998 Psycho instead of Hitchcock’s. Although that one had even less originality than this — The Thing at least had a few unique scenes, while Psycho had none — and the update hasn’t improved anything. Updating older movies is all well and good, but this one just doesn’t do anything to warrant its existence.
The Thing is a boring horror movie that brings nothing new to the 1982 version and is more or less the same movie, just worse. It features nothing memorable, nothing worth talking about, and seems like it was made into a prequel at the last minute just to avoid the recent stigma of remaking horror films. It’s not scary, it’s not thrilling, and it’s not worth your time. You’re better off watching the original and forgetting that this one exists.