Any discussion of this film inevitably has to include a consideration of John Carpenter’s classic, the original The Thing. Of course, calling the original version of The Thing is a bit of a misnomer, as Carpenter’s movie was itself a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. It’s worth mentioning if only to try to establish a decent perspective on the prequel’s relationship to the revered original. Carpenter’s film is a phenomenal example of what a perfect sci-fi/horror movie can be. It practically oozes paranoia and fear, combined with brilliant bursts of action and amazing practical special effects.
In contrast, the prequel is left with the unenviable task of somehow expanding on the story, filling in the blanks that anyone with an imagination probably filled in years ago. Couple that with a heavier reliance on CGI effects (vs. Rob Bottin’s inspired creations) and it’s not really surprising that the majority of fans (or at least fans who are also critics) ripped the prequel a new one. But with a little distance and time, I’d argue that opinions towards 2011’s The Thing will soften and improve.
For one thing, this version’s cast is quite solid. While the guys playing the Norwegians tend to blend together a bit, each one does a pretty good job of infusing his respective character with little quirks and traits. Beyond that, Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a terrific job in a role that plays like an homage to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Alien. Joel Edgerton feels a bit under-used, but on the flipside, it’s cool seeing a more serious side of Eric Christian Olsen. And I’ll never complain about seeing Mr. Eko in action.
Beyond that, I have to give the filmmakers kudos at how well this movie syncs up with its “sequel.” I’ve seen a couple of interviews where they talked about how they felt like they were performing an autopsy on the original, reverse engineering the events to figure out what story of the prequel needed to include. Watching the films back to back, it’s a tribute to their attention to detail that the two movies work so well together.
The overall quality of the transfer is generally pretty solid. A few of the scenes are a little too dark to make out some of the action. Since I didn’t get a chance to see this in the theater, I have no idea if that’s how these scenes were shot or if this is a fault of the transfer.
The extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted/extended scenes and an audio commentary by the director and a couple of the producers. I particularly liked the deleted scenes and actually found myself wishing that they had included a number of them in the film. There were a number of quieter character moments that would have added some nice depth to the overall movie.
All in all, this is a surprisingly decent prequel. As a huge fan of the original, I was really skeptical of this even being made. But in retrospect, it manages to pay tribute to its predecessor, while also standing on its own two (or three or four) feet. Yes, it is the lesser of the two Things, but it certainly doesn’t deserve the vehement wrath that it received from fanboys of the original.