By Shane M. Dallmann
Okay, at least they waited nearly thirty years before attempting this. So… do we have a prequel worthy of being screened before John Carpenter’s THE THING, or do we have something that should have been sent straight to DVD?
Oh, what the hell do YOU think?
Was there a compelling reason to go here again? A new twist to the theme to freshly hold our attention, perhaps? One or two, perhaps. Full points for figuring out that the Thing would NOT be able to replicate artificial add-ons such as tooth fillings and titanium bone fixation devices, at least–of course, the “say ahh” sequence isn’t QUITE as suspenseful as the blood test in the Carpenter original (we’ve pretty much left the Howard Hawks film by the wayside at this point).
Adding female characters? Well, nothing against Mary Elizabeth Winstead–I’ve always liked her and she’s fine here. Conceptually, it means very little to the story, however–but a bit more on that later.
Special effects? State of the art CGI with some prosthetic action thrown in, but nothing, I’m afraid, that rivals the pure visceral shock value of what Rob Bottin innovated way back then. Now go back to the Carpenter film–reconfirm just how much of it involved the building of character and suspense–giving the monster action, when it DID occur, maximum impact. I’m afraid they went for the overkill this time around–to the point where not only could you guess who would turn out to be the Thing ahead of time, but it didn’t even MATTER after a while.
Case in point: the bitter rivalry and mistrust of MacReady and Nauls was just as intense as any monster action in the Carpenter film (I keep wanting to say “original,” but you know how it goes). The new THING blows it terribly by setting up a rivalry that could have built up just as powerfully but then… from here on it’s a…
…but then it actually SHOWS one of them being attacked by the Thing! And the other one KNOWS it! So what possible DIFFERENCE could it make that it could still look like so-and-so?
A couple of good moments here and there are dragged on much too long in the end. And the worst mis-step of them all comes in the form of a climax that obviously wants to be ALIENS rather than THE THING (now THAT’s why we have a female lead, methinks).
For me, the very best part of the movie was the closing sequence that brings on the Morricone score and builds very specifically to the opening shot of the Carpenter film. The LINK itself is perfect… but of course that leaves us with a rather important character unaccounted for, because THIS movie doesn’t have the guts to do what it really SHOULD do in a freaking PREQUEL.
Not the worst movie ever made, but nothing but a piece of Kleenex that will turn to dust long before anyone forgets the film that inspired it.