This is a review of both the original 1982 film and the 2011 prequel since they are pretty much one story split in to two movies. The 1982 film features Kurt Russell in what, at the time, was one of the scariest and coolest sci-fi movies this side of Alien. The new release takes us back to the same snowy location and tells the story of what happened just prior to the events of the first movie. If I had ever watched the original, I don't remember it, so I took the opportunity to see it on Netflix's streaming service the night before I attended a screening of the new one.
It seems strange to me that both films have the same title even though the new one is not a remake of the old one. What makes it even more confusing is that the new one takes place before the old one thus giving it prequel status as opposed to sequel or remake. To keep things from getting any more confusing, I am going to now refer to each movie by the year it was released (1982 and 2011) as opposed to trying to explain which The Thing I'm talking about over and over.
In some ways it was good to see 1982 first although it did take away some of the surprises of 2011 since it is the second part of the story. Overall, these are both very effective films in what they set out to accomplish and that is to provide some good intense moments of alien carnage and lots of fun action involving explosives, shot guns, and flame throwers. Each film follows the same path of discovering the alien, realizing what the alien is, and then trying to destroy the alien before it destroys them and heads out to conquer the rest of the world.
The acting in each of these movies is serviceable and 1982 provides some good cheese to go along with all the action. Seeing early 80's versions of Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley (no mustache or oatmeal!) is very much worth a look and the now cheesy looking special effects still provide some shock value if not a few laughs. Even so, some of the make-up and modeling effects work does stand the test of time, especially when we see shot and burnt up bodies that are half alien and half human (you'll understand when you see it).
2011 is less unintentionally humorous mainly because the dialog is better written and the effects are obviously far more advanced giving a more urgent sense of danger. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton are the stars of 2011 and both turn in solid performances although there are no standout lines or overly dramatic monologues to be heard. You also get more big action sequences than 1982 which mainly focused on the paranoia of the group of humans facing the threat of being isolated and killed by the alien.
If you haven't seen either of these movies, I would say watch 2011 first to stay in line with the story rather than going chronologically by release date. If you have seen 1982 already then you are not given this choice but you will still be able to have a great time with finding out just how the alien arrived and what exactly happened at the Norwegian base.
Below is the trailer for The Thing as well as the trailer for The Thing.