The Thing suffers from the same issues which plague many prequels. The familiarity it needs to breathe initially ends up suffocating any tension and it becomes less of a discovery and more of a checklist. No matter how noble the intentions or how intriguing the backstory they have created doesn’t so much expand the story as play it out exactly as we expect with any new element feeling derivative (Predator fans will know what I mean when they see it).
The combination of practical and CG effects works better than expected with the creature designs echoing those of Stan Winston and Rob Bottin thirty years ago and the production design does a good job of evoking the world and there is a definite cohesion to the world the director brings.
Like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus we are offered an explanation and backstory to one of the finest horror films of the last fifty years, where the two project diverge is that Scott decided not to skip happily down the prequel route and craft another story in the same universe rather than a direct lead up to the events of the first film. There’s no doubt that fans of Carpenter’s film will enjoy the ax being planted in the wall and other examples explaining the grim discoveries MacReady and his team made in the early section of the 1982 film but this can’t be all; the respect paid to the original film cannot be to the detriment of your own.
I liked Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Ripley-esque lead, though I felt the later prominence of Joel Edgerton’s character crowded what could have been a tense finale, and the final moments of the film nodded to the original film one too many times. Despite some surprisingly effective visual effects work the film falls because it lacks the strength to stand on its own, becoming a dull echo of the Carpenter film it looks to for inspiration. Populating the film with well known Norwegian actors added a tangible authenticity to the film, perpetuating the sense of otherness which the film necessitates, however in towing around the burden of Carpenter’s film The (new) Thing is never allowed to go for the throat and scratch its way under the skin.
There’s a nice behind the scenes look at the shoot and a focus on the creature creation which made me a little sad as there’s clearly a lot of love for the project and the world they are revisiting. This makes the blunted result all the more dissatisfying. The deleted scenes offer a few insights, particualry to the death of a character who turns up in the 1982 film. Truth be told I enjoyed the extras more than the film. If only because there’s some life here.