Whenever you make a sequel to a classic, you are guaranteed to disappoint – even if your movie is pretty good. That's what happened with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s faithful prequel to John Carpenter's now uber-classic "The Thing". Fans actually were expecting something at least half as good as the original. No one could meet those expectations – not even John Carpenter himself.
Still, "The Thing 2011" is a worthy, stupid movie. It's more than worth seeing.
Comparisons are, of course, inevitable, and where the new "Thing" really falls short in its cast. Carpenter had Kurt Russell top billing his film. But the half dozen or so supporting actors that were there behind him are all highly memorable personalities, funny, watchable and, most importantly, totally male. There's something about a bunch of guys holed up together somewhere bantering with one another that gives any film a sense of … guy coolness.
By contrast, the 2011 prequel gives us a less-than-inspiring Sigourney Weaver wannabe as the lead, in the form of Mary Elizabeth Winstead of "Grindhouse", playing an American paleontologist recruited to help the Norwegians from the first film – the ones that unearthed the alien spacecraft buried beneath the ice of Antarctica, circa 1982.
After examining the enormous spacecraft and retrieving a frozen alien, they naturally make the huge mistake of taking a tissue sample, only to discover what the audience already knows: the "Thing" takes over other living tissue, kills and then imitates other beings, spreads like a virus and, if it gets away from the base, could overtake the entire world. Same problem the team of the original movie had.
The first half of this film is indeed a major letdown, pretty much serving as a remake of the original film, with the Norwegians surprisingly speaking to one another in English most of the time. But things pick up mightily in the second half, when the paleontologist discovers a unique way to find out who isn't and is an alien. What really carries the film are the amazing gore effects, which outdo the original. Basically the "Thing" transformation scenes are sick enough and the story ultimately suspenseful enough, that you should find yourself at least glad you saw this movie. This "Thing" is underrated.
It ends a bit too suddenly, leaving room for another "Thing" film, and nicely tying things together with Carpenter's film.