Let me start of by saying that I'm huge fan of John Carpenter's The Thing. I remember that movie just freaking me out as a kid and how crazy and real the effects felt at the time. I watched this again this weekend and I still feel the movie holds up very well and I'd recommend it. Plus, I wanted to refresh myself on the story.
When I saw that they are making a prequel to the The Thing, I was cautiously optimistic. I wouldn't mind seeing an update, provided it's faithful to the original or doesn't ruin anything the orginal did. However, Hollywood doesn't have a very good track record with prequels and remakes these days. It's one of the reasons I watched the original again, as I wanted to see how much of a prequel this really is.
Note: When I say 'the original', I'm only referring to the 1982 version and not the 1950's The Thing from Another World. I've yet to see that film.
The story isn't much different than the original: a group of scientists stationed at a Norwegian research facility in Antarctica find an alien spaceship and bring a specimen back to the station for study. Shortly after, the specimen escapes and they find it can imitate any organic life form. People start dying and nobody knows who is real and who is an alien. It's madness, I tell you!
Even though The Thing is a prequel, it felt more like a remake. It really didn't do anything in the story that make it stand apart from the original. There were some good effect sequences, but it felt too CG. They lacked the creepiness of the original. However, I will say the guy sitting a few seats over from me was visibly squirming throughout the movie. He looked he was a little 'off' though, so take that for what it's worth.
The cast wasn't bad. I thought they all performed well. I like Joel Edgerton a lot, but he felt kind of underused to me. It was nice seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost) in something else and even Eric Christian Olsen wasn't bad.
This is really Mary Elizabeth Winstead's (Scott Pilgrim, Live Free or Die Hard) movie though. They tried to give her a little bit of a Ripley vibe from the Alien franchise and I think she did a pretty good job. If nothing else, she's nice to look at.
Directed by yet another first time director, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Woah, that's a mouthful. I'm going even going to try to pronounce that name. He did a good job for the most part.
Written by Eric Heisserer, who at first should be criticized for spelling his own first name wrong, but has also written things like the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake and Final Destination 5, so not exactly a great resume for a writer, but this is his best work so far.
In a way, The Thing can't win: If you've seen the original, this movie will contain no suspense for you. You know what's going to happen from the first minute and it really doesn't do anything new that the original didn't do better. If you haven't seen the original, you'll like it more, but won't really understand why it's a prequel. It being a prequel was kind of pointless, because you don't lean anything new from it. There's nothing that happens in The Thing that you couldn't have figured out from watching the original.
There was also an inconsistency with the original that was a little off-putting and kind of made some of the final sequence bullshit, but again, this is only if you've seen the original and remember all the details. You won't even know what I'm talking about if you haven't seen the original or don't remember it well.
I will say they nailed the music though.
Again, I don't think The Thing is a bad movie. It's a weird recommendation, but I think if you're going to watch it, I strongly recommend you watch the original first. However, if you haven't seen the original, you'll likely enjoy it more, so it's tough for me to recommend it outright.