It's a good imitation of the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name, but it isn't the real thing.
If you aren't familiar with what The Thing is, then you need to go and watch the 1982 version right the heck now. It's better than this movie.
Don't bother reading the rest of this.
Now that you've presumably watched the 1982 Thing, this prequel basically follows the same structure. You already know what happens in this film as it links directly to the 1982 Thing.
2011 Thing tells the story of the Norwegian Camp. They discovered an alien spacecraft by following an ancient energy signal. They discovered a body encased in ice outside of the spacecraft so they fly in Kate, an American paleontologist who has experience with thawing creatures, to the Norwegian Base. Eventually, the Thing breaks free from the ice and starts killing or assimilating people. Hilarious things ensue and people die.
One of the great aspects to Carpenter's version is that all of the creature shots are practical effects. As a result, the creature looks and feels real and the characters respond to it in a realistic manner. In Carpenter's version, the Thing is shown to be an intelligent creature. It only attacks when cornered, and prefers to assess the situation in order to sow distrust.
With the prequel, they've opted to use both CGI and practical effects. I found a couple of cgi shots which bordered on being completely unbelievable and absurd. It didn't feel possible or helpful or realistic for the creature to 'thing out' by splitting in half down the centre and to grow some teeth. Humans are shown to be ultra fragile in that one touch from the thing can cause skin merging and subdue the prey. It makes no sense for the thing to even need to transform out of humanoid shell.
Thanks to modern computer technology, the Thing is now able to move around thing out in gruesome detail. So we get scenes where a ridiculous monster trapezes down hallways knocking everything apart. I guess that's cool. The creature in this film doesn't feel very smart. It feels like an unrealistic, dumb monster.
There's a lot of room for improvement for 2011 Thing. The characters in this film don't feel distinct in either their looks or their behavior. There are really only three or four characters that stood out. I think the main problem is that many of the characters have the same beard. Was this intended to throw off the trail of who ends up on the helicopter at the end? Like some kind of Beard-Plot-Shield? We know that at least two bearded men survive in the helicopter at the start of the 1982 Carpenter film. Most of the characters are merely thing-fodder. Contrast this with 1982 Thing where each character felt real and unique, despite how little screen time they got.
It feels to me like Kate was acting not smart for a lot of the film. Imagine you found living alien cells that imitate other cells under the microscope. What would you do in a facility full of scientists? Kate decides not to tell anyone. Remember, this was before the shower/helicopter scene so she didn't really have any reason to mistrust anybody. When she's telling everyone about the imitation the next day, the dialogue felt like it was ripped straight out of Kurt Russell's mouth. Same with her speech outside in the snow. I was seriously contemplating leaving the theatre when she says she has a test for the thing. If it turned out to be a fire-blood test, I would have left.
As the film progresses, the Norwegian camp looks more and more like the one we see in the 1982 film. We see why weird monster remains are where they are. We see holes get put in buildings, and axes in walls.
It's largely faithful to 1982 Thing and has dialogue which could be lifted directly from that film. No real big plot hole (Norwegians were shown to be using dynamite to uncover the alien ship in 1982!), and everything mostly fits. There's no sense of real paranoia, and they could have used the language barrier better. I think the tension would have been much better if certain lines were not subtitled. Thing 2011 is an entertaining film which adds interesting things to the franchise. It just won't be as well regarded as The Thing 1982.
The 1982 movie didn't leave things very clear. We didn't know if either of the characters we see at the end was human or Thing. There's not really that kind of ambiguity to this film.
So when the Thing escaped from the ice-block, it inflected a dog, which was unseen for the rest of the film until the end credits. It can be used to infect explain any of the characters… including the woman character, and the helicopter doctor guy. It brings up the question… why didn't the dog try and infect Lars during the night? Why didn't the dog thing the suicide scientist?
Why did the doctor guy thing out in the helicopter? There's not really any reason for it to Thing out at that time. It wasn't cornered. For all it knew, they were landing again because they forgot something… but it decided to thing out and cause the helicopter to crash.
There are two possible times for him to be assimilated… after the crash and inside the spaceship. If two humans could survive the crash, then the thing probably could have too. It could assimilate Carter if he's unconscious or something. The problem is that his black co-pilot was with him the entire time and he was human the entire movie (as demonstrated in the breakroom scene.) Would the thing infect one while leaving the other human? It seems like a really weird stratagem. This means that both were human when they attacked Lars and stole his flamethrower.
So he must have been turned while in the alien spaceship. As he's calling out for Kate, the thing tracked him down. So why wouldn't Carter-thing try and convert Kate right then and there in the spaceship. He had the weapons and she's not really suspecting anything. In a one-on-one encounter, it doesn't really make sense for the thing to not engage.
When he's pleading with her to not burn him, I thought it would have been interesting if Carter actually breaks out of character and speaks as the thing. Maybe throw lines like "I don't even care about your world. I just want to go home." Or something.
Now, what if Carter was human right at the end of the film? That he removed his earrings because it's god damn cold and the metal saps heat away. Or that he sometimes wears his earring on either side of his face. Other people say that they heard him scream like a thing as he's burning. I was paying attention to see if he things out with tentacles, which he never did. I think it would be poignant to see Kate burn the only other human due to mistrust.