Here’s a critical and thorough assessment of the 2011 The Thing prequel by the Gore 4’s own Walking Ed Turner, written soon after the film’s release:
Excited as I was to see the prequel, I have to say it was hard to remain removed from the Carpenter version and judge the film solely on it’s own. To me it had some mighty big footprints to follow in, and their feet were a bit too small. Attention was paid to pre-continuity, but not completely. One case in point being; Video was recovered from the Swede-camp (I know, I know… They’re Norwegian, Mac), in Carp’s Thing, showing the Swedes using thermite charges to melt and blow the space ship out of the ice, thoroughly destroying it in the process. In the new Thing, they didn’t use thermite… They didn’t even try to blow the ship out of the ice. And the ship wasn’t destroyed by them in this prequel, and it was the ship’s engines that blew the ice off of it, making one wonder why the alien didn’t think to do that a hundred-thousand-some odd years ago!
They were, however, consistent with some of the other details, such as the mid-morphing swirly-faced guy that was found burned in the snow by Mac and Copper in Carp’s film. It bothered me that it looked pretty different in the new film, though, and I had NO idea that it was supposed to be TWO guys melding together – a newly created idea, I’m guessing. They also were consistent with the radio operator committing suicide with a straight razor, but I wanted to SEE that happen, perhaps adding to the unbearable tension and paranoia in this insane situation – emotions, of which, this film fell short in generating.
Another pet peeve is having a female lead. It simply wasn’t necessary. The filmmakers were all too obviously playing the ‘Ripley’ card, as so many films have since ‘Alien’, and again, falling short. There would have been nothing wrong with having an all-guy cast again, and perhaps, making the situation a little more realistic and terrifying. There’s just something scarier about GUYS being terrified. It’s all too expected of women, yes, still, even in this day and age. The female lead, or anyone for that matter, was just not the ‘anchor’ that Kurt Russell was in Carp’s film.
The CGI effects were top-notch, of course, but there is something to say about hard, mechanical, latex, rubber and buckets of goo played right on camera that gives a more visceral effect on the nervous system when seeing it. We know all too well that CGI can do ANY thing these days, yet somehow it can detract from an experience and drop you a little from the suspension of disbelief.
A rather large peeve of mine is: Never show the inside of an alien ship! That’s where belief can, and usually does, get thrown right out the porthole. It didn’t work in the re-release of ‘Close Encounters’, and it didn’t work HERE! It takes away all the strangeness and mystery. It works very few times in movies, Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ being one gleaming example. And since then, everyone copies it to some degree or another. Even THIS film showed influences of Giger’s design. Giger got it right – totally alien, sublime and surreal, like something out of a dream or nightmare. Something nobody’s ever seen or imagined before. Designs of aliens and alien spaceships have never been the same in movies since. And again, the inside of this Thing’s space ship showed Giger’s influences. I cringed inside when it looked like the ‘heroine’ and ‘hero’ were about to go inside the space ship. I just knew it shouldn’t be done.
The beginning and the end of the movie bugged me, also. It would have been natural to have opened the film the same way Carp’s film opened – with the space ship coming to Earth. Perhaps even going a step further to show it crash-landing. Perhaps even to open on a black, star-spattered screen with “100,000 Years Ago… Or So…”, before the entrance of the ship. Then go to “1982”.
The end thoroughly annoyed me. Going to end credits while cutting back and forth to the action that led up to the beginning of Carp’s movie was a BIG mistake. Of course, people in the audience, dopey and A.D.D.-stricken as they are, started leaving the theater as fast as they could at the first hint of an end credit, never seeing the follow-up scenes that should have been part of the film BEFORE any credits started rolling. Ok, we know basically what happens from here on out, but again, I wanted to SEE it, and see it as an integral part of the flowing story! Not as incidental scenes, only worthy of being shown THROUGH the end credits! And the end credit-music would have been MOST appropriate had it been the music from Carp’s Thing! It would have escorted us beautifully into the movie/story to follow.
It was said that the director was a big fan of Carp’s Thing, but I can’t say that I felt it. The film was slick and was really not a bad piece of work for a director’s first feature film after only doing commercials, but it lacked substance, vision and true creeps. I’ll certainly want to buy the DVD when it comes out, to own and collect, but not to love over and over again the way Carpenter’s film has had an affect on me. In my mind, there will no doubt be a sequel to this prequel, picking up at the end of Carpenter’s Thing, with, perhaps, the female lead making her way to the American outpost, and finding Mac and Childs frozen to death with a bottle of whiskey in their hands. To avoid being repetitive, the alien would most likely have to be brought back to civilization, where a whole lot of CGI mayhem could ensue. It would most likely fall short, yet could be a tour de force of CGI, but it’s probably the THING to do.