I initially thought that the 2011 version of The Thing was yet another attempt to mess with the horror cult classic by John Carpenter but upon doing some research, I learned that the film is actually about the events that happened prior to the horrific incidents that happened in the Kurt Russel starrer released in 1982.
The 2011 version stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, Die Hard 4.0) as American paleonthologist Kate Lloyd who is tapped to take part of a Norweigian team in the discovery of a spaceship buried under the Arctic and an alien life form frozen in ice. Unbeknownst to them, the alien is still alive and breaks out of its frozen prison without much effort. It also has the ability to kill and replicate the cells of humans, enabling it to fuse with its victim and use its body as a host before it strikes anew. In a bind, the team is left with no choice but to quarantine themselves in their base to try and figure out which one of them is hosting the alien to try to contain the danger to civilization and put an end to the alien threat that they unleashed.
As a prequel, the film remains faithful to the premise of the original (including the setting) and ends where the other one begins. Its strength lies in its success in merging the elements or horror, sci fi and mystery and its ability to combine old school horror techniques with a much more modern presentation.
What’s good about this film is that there is a steady progression in the story — there is a beginning, a middle and an end (although audiences are left to analyze if Kate makes the right call). First, the team tries to figure out the alien’s capabilities are. Next, conflict ensues as to what course of action to take, all this while the alien goes on a killing spree and kills them off one by one. Compatriots are pitted against each other, friends and families are forced to take action against perceived allies and division among the ranks compound differing motives (of course, the scientists want to preserve the discovery even while the other guys prioritize survival). In this sense, the presentation was very similar to the general air of Stephen King’s The Mist, because the team has to only to work with what little they know and fight instinctively using whatever tools are available to them against a seemingly insurmountable foe.
The look of the alien is not so far out of the league of previous movie aliens. It is spiderlike and has the ability to fuse with its victim. There was one brilliant scene where one member of the team was being attacked (I won’t mention which) wherein the alien, using the body of another member of the team fuses with the other with the alien simultaneously occupying two bodies and using the form to stalk his other prey. The special effects in this movie is awesome so huge props to the special effects team. My only complaint was that the beginning was a bit too dark, so the overall magnitude of the unraveling of the spaceship lost some momentum. Also, most of the Norweigian dudes look too similar to each other so it was a bit hard to identify with them until the story moves forward.
The movie stayed true to its original material (Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.) and it showed great respect to the classic by not making a muck out of it. The effects, although it had great CGI at its disposal, did not overdo its execution and Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.deserves much credit for this. All in all, the premise of the movie is a bit generic but it managed to deliver suspense, a couple of good scares and got the audience involved in figuring out who is hosting the alien, so good job :)