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Sitnam
04-19-2011, 09:22 AM
The Thing has been playing everyday non stop for a month and a half. I love it and have it going on the background often. But to this day I have no idea what they were even doing at the National Science Institute Station 4 in the first place.

R.J. MacReady - a helicopter pilot, fine.
Dr. Blair - makes sense to have a doc.
Windows - sure, radio operator
Dr. Copper - two doctors?
Vance Norris - kennel master?
T.K. Carter - cook?
Palmer - ?
Childs - ?
George Bennings - ?
Clark - ?
Garry - ?
Fuchs - ?

DrFidelius
04-19-2011, 09:25 AM
Important Science Stuff, with Potential Military Applications

Harmonious Discord
04-19-2011, 09:32 AM
They pretty much just needed to maintain a presence so other countries didn't get a clear title to the Antarctic. The bonus is they could core the ice and study climate and look for spores that the winds dropped on the ice. It's to bad the spore hunting didn't work out so well for them.

stpauler
04-19-2011, 09:37 AM
I'd assume the kennel master would be for a dog sled.

Arkcon
04-19-2011, 09:56 AM
Did you ever see Forbidden Planet, a 1956 sci-fi movie starring Leslie Nielsen, in perhaps his first role ever? Notice how everyone is really professional, except for the cook? Sure, he's important, but everything about him, from his whining about deceleration, his freaking apron, his accent, programming the robot to make booze ... is so different from everyone else. He's there for comic relief, but you'd never have such a person on a real expedition. It's just a horror movie cliche -- redundant characters to provide bodies. Even the recent movie Aliens vs. Predator: Charles Weyland is way too weak to be traveling to Antarctica, he actually compromises the mission, and the lady in charge knows this, but we need bodies. Contrast with Guinan on Star Trek, she's never dead weight, even as the bartender. The cook on the original series? Not there, they didn't need the body count that time. Simple.

Omar Little
04-19-2011, 10:45 AM
Anyone looking forward to the prequel to Carpenter's movie coming out later this year? Plot centers on the Norwegian exploration site that the US explorers discover destroyed in the 1982 film.

Capitaine Zombie
04-19-2011, 11:12 AM
Anyone looking forward to the prequel to Carpenter's movie coming out later this year? Plot centers on the Norwegian exploration site that the US explorers discover destroyed in the 1982 film.

Considering the pile of shit that are the various Carpenter remakes, not really.

Anyone played the video game? While it had a cluncky system, it remains to me one of the best movie adaptation ever. And it managed to really create that feeling that you cant trust anyone. Movie kind of failed on that one, the plot isnt very coherent, and had too many redundant characters.
Despite all these flaws, what a great movie.

RikWriter
04-19-2011, 12:48 PM
Anyone looking forward to the prequel to Carpenter's movie coming out later this year? Plot centers on the Norwegian exploration site that the US explorers discover destroyed in the 1982 film.

No, not interested in it at all.

DrFidelius
04-19-2011, 12:53 PM
Anyone looking forward to the prequel to Carpenter's movie coming out later this year? Plot centers on the Norwegian exploration site that the US explorers discover destroyed in the 1982 film.

I wasn't interested enough in the 1982 movie to pay much attention to it, I care even less about any prequel.

Tamerlane
04-19-2011, 12:53 PM
Dr. Blair - makes sense to have a doc.

Chief biologist, not a medical doctor. In charge of alien autopsy, because, y'know, it's an alien ;).

Dr. Copper - two doctors?

Actual medical doctor.

Vance Norris - kennel master?

No, that was Clark. Norris was a geologist, talking about the age of the ice where the space ship had been embedded.

Palmer - ?

Back-up pilot. He offered to fly everybody out to the site at first, but was dead drunk.

Childs - ?

He's the only one I'm unclear on or can't recall. Mechanic? Another pilot? Something blue-collar at any rate, like everyone except the science folks - Blair, Copper, Fuchs, Bennings and Norris.

George Bennings - ?

Meteorologist. You see him checking the weather and commenting on the storm moving in.

Clark - ?

Dog-sled operator/animal handler.

Garry - ?

Base chief. I presumed actual military, but am uncertain.

Fuchs - ?

Junior biologist. I always assumed he was Blair's graduate student.

ETA: The rest you have right. Carter = cook, Windows = radio, MacReady = pilot.

awldune
04-19-2011, 01:15 PM
In the original story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Goes_There%3F) the team is there to study a magnetic anomaly, which is theorized to have caused the Thing to crash.

The wiki article says the team in the story had 37 men, which might warrant two doctors.

Ferret Herder
04-19-2011, 01:28 PM
I'm really interested in the prequel film, but considering how much I love the 1982 film, I'm worried about how wrong the new one could go.

Sitnam
04-19-2011, 01:57 PM
Actually now that I think about it I think Windows was a pilot too.

Just before they talk MacReady into flying in bad weather, Windows offers to take them up and they shoot it down right away "ok, but thanks for thinkin' about it though"

ETA: Thanks Tamerlane, I figured the others had some role to play. Now I just gotta ask why they'd have an alien autopsy specialist in camp. :)

Bytegeist
04-19-2011, 02:40 PM
[ Garry? ] Base chief. I presumed actual military, but am uncertain.

Palmer calls him "Captain" or "El Capitan" near the beginning of the film, just after Garry has shot dead one of the Norwegians. Perhaps Garry is or was a real captain. Or, perhaps more likely, Palmer is just making wise cracks.

Actually now that I think about it I think Windows was a pilot too.

Just before they talk MacReady into flying in bad weather, Windows offers to take them up and they shoot it down right away "ok, but thanks for thinkin' about it though"

That's actually Palmer you're thinking of, not Windows. (Windows is the skinny guy with the full beard.)

Miller
04-19-2011, 04:08 PM
Considering the pile of shit that are the various Carpenter remakes, not really.

What else has he remade?

Anyone played the video game? While it had a cluncky system, it remains to me one of the best movie adaptation ever.

Hated it. Hated. I've got kind of a collector thing going on with video games. Even ones I didn't like much, I hang on to - I've got games on my shelf that have only ever seen the inside of a game console once, but I'm still hanging onto them. The Thing, I threw out.

And it managed to really create that feeling that you cant trust anyone. Movie kind of failed on that one, the plot isnt very coherent, and had too many redundant characters.
Despite all these flaws, what a great movie.

This, I also disagree with. The Thing is one of the few movies I consider absolutely flawless, and one of the few so-called horror movies that I consider genuinely frightening. Not because of the gory monster fx (which is great, but not really scary), but because of the sense of choking paranoia that the film evokes.

As for the roles all those character fill, I'd expect there to be a fair amount of redundancy. They spend a lot of time totally cut-off up there. If somebody has an accident, it can be a good long while before they can get a replacement. If you only have one doctor, for example, and he gets hurt or sick, who takes care of him? I figure you want at least two people for every critical post at the station.

blondebear
04-19-2011, 04:18 PM
What are they doing in the Antarctic?

Not much, just chillin'.

Arnold Winkelried
04-19-2011, 04:40 PM
If you only have one doctor, for example, and he gets hurt or sick, who takes care of him?
In Soviet Russia Antarctica, doctor operates on himself!
Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report (http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b4965.full)

BrotherCadfael
04-19-2011, 05:00 PM
According to Stephen King, in Danse Macabre:



We're never under any illusions that this Arctic base has been set up just for the eggheads, who want to study such useless things as the aurora borealis and the formation of glaciers. No, this base is also spending the taxpayers' money in important ways: it is a part of the Distant Early Warning line, part of America's Vigilant and Unceasing Etc., Etc., Etc.

blondebear
04-19-2011, 05:11 PM
The DEW Line is in the Arctic, not the Antarctic.

Miller
04-19-2011, 05:13 PM
The DEW Line is in the Artic, not the Antartic.

That's just the one the government is willing to tell you about. The real threat to our liberties comes from the creeping threat of Australian Bolshevism.

Capitaine Zombie
04-19-2011, 05:29 PM
What else has he remade?


As I can recall, there's a remake of Fog, Halloween, Assault on Prescinct 13. I hear they're planning a remake of Escape from New York, and possibly of They live.


Hated it. Hated. I've got kind of a collector thing going on with video games. Even ones I didn't like much, I hang on to - I've got games on my shelf that have only ever seen the inside of a game console once, but I'm still hanging onto them. The Thing, I threw out.


Haha, a console player, say no more.


This, I also disagree with. The Thing is one of the few movies I consider absolutely flawless, and one of the few so-called horror movies that I consider genuinely frightening. Not because of the gory monster fx (which is great, but not really scary), but because of the sense of choking paranoia that the film evokes.


The Thing is definitely one of my fav movies. But it is far from flawless. And the fact that it manages to be so good while having such a fair share of flaws is quite an achievement, that Carpenter should be proud of.
The biggest problem of the movie is that it is constantly torn between a paranoia movie (I think the original novella was closer to that) and a very creepy horror movie. But pretty quickly, Carpenter abandons any effort to make the paranoia plot stick (the plot, not the mood) and focuses on the monster aspect. It is fairly obvious when you listen to the commentaries on the DVD that no one in the crew really knows who is contaminated, and at what point (besides, for a paranoia plot to thicken, it would have required the growing of more Things, gradually replacing everyone. From the moment that you have only one beast, you kind of sacrifice focusing on the "Trust no one". It remains a subplot. The amusing computer projection of what would happen if the Thing came into contact with civilization is completely contradicted by the fact that there is only one Thing. It isnt the only contradiction of the movie).


As for the roles all those character fill, I'd expect there to be a fair amount of redundancy. They spend a lot of time totally cut-off up there. If somebody has an accident, it can be a good long while before they can get a replacement. If you only have one doctor, for example, and he gets hurt or sick, who takes care of him? I figure you want at least two people for every critical post at the station.


This isnt a documentary, the two old fart doctors are completely redundant (and why the fuck does Richard Dyshart have a an earring in his nose, btw?).
Half of the cast cant act, the really interesting characters are those that have their area and personalities well defined, like Childs or Clark. And, besides, Carpenter has a hell of a time shooting dialogue sequences with the full crew, the bad acting is often underlined in those.

Despite so many flaws, one of the best of Carpenter's movies, and I'm a Carpenter fan.

Bytegeist
04-19-2011, 06:34 PM
... besides, for a paranoia plot to thicken, it would have required the growing of more Things, gradually replacing everyone. From the moment that you have only one beast, you kind of sacrifice focusing on the "Trust no one". It remains a subplot. The amusing computer projection of what would happen if the Thing came into contact with civilization is completely contradicted by the fact that there is only one Thing. It isnt the only contradiction of the movie.

I'm not sure why you think there can only be one Thing at a time.

For example there is definitely a point where "Jed" the dog and either Norris or Palmer are Things. (But then Jed gets killed.) Later there's a point where Norris or Palmer is a Thing, and Bennings is well on his way to becoming another one. (Then Bennings is killed.) Later there's a point where both Norris and Palmer must be Things, and Blair is probably getting attacked or infected off camera, up in the toolshed. There's also a brief moment when Palmer has been exposed as a Thing and Windows is in the process of being assimilated. (Then both Palmer and Windows are killed.)

Larry Mudd
04-19-2011, 06:43 PM
I'm not sure why you think there can only be one Thing at a time.Definite article. Duh. ;)

Evil Captor
04-19-2011, 06:51 PM
That's just the one the government is willing to tell you about. The real threat to our liberties comes from the creeping threat of Australian Bolshevism.

"Let's put another shrimpy bourgeoisie on the barbie, matey!"

AncientHumanoid
04-19-2011, 06:52 PM
Definite article. Duh. ;)

John Carpenter 1:1

Capitaine Zombie
04-19-2011, 07:00 PM
I'm not sure why you think there can only be one Thing at a time.

For example there is definitely a point where "Jed" the dog and either Norris or Palmer are Things. (But then Jed gets killed.) Later there's a point where Norris or Palmer is a Thing, and Bennings is well on his way to becoming another one. (Then Bennings is killed.) Later there's a point where both Norris and Palmer must be Things, and Blair is probably getting attacked or infected off camera, up in the toolshed. There's also a brief moment when Palmer has been exposed as a Thing and Windows is in the process of being assimilated. (Then both Palmer and Windows are killed.)

I agree with your points but they underline the incoherence of the movie. It is clear that Carpenter doesnt know if he wants a movie where the Thing is spreading (as the apocalyptic computer rendition says) or one where a monster is killing each base member and absorbing their DNA. The thing is...you never have more than one active Thing at a time in the movie.
It's basically torn between doing a virus story and a whodunit one (as I said, I believe the whodunit take is that of the original novella). Carpenter has never been a good writer in that a lot of his plots are like that. Good ideas, poor sense of story structure.
It's painfully apparent when you listen to the audio commentary. Basically the actors say that Carpenter wanted everyone to possibly be the Thing but actually never shook off his lazyness to work up a timetable of the infection.

Ferret Herder
04-19-2011, 07:05 PM
I agree with your points but they underline the incoherence of the movie. It is clear that Carpenter doesnt know if he wants a movie where the Thing is spreading (as the apocalyptic computer rendition says) or one where a monster is killing each base member and absorbing their DNA. The thing is...you never have more than one active Thing at a time in the movie.
Yes you do, just not on screen.

Wait - you kind of do, when Norris' head pops off his (being attacked) body and tries to run off. That's when they know for sure that each piece of the alien creature wants to survive, and MacReady develops the "blood test."

Chef Troy
04-19-2011, 07:28 PM
According to Stephen King, in Danse Macabre: Nitpick: that quote refers to the 1951 original, not Carpenter's remake.

Miller
04-19-2011, 09:16 PM
As I can recall, there's a remake of Fog, Halloween, Assault on Prescinct 13. I hear they're planning a remake of Escape from New York, and possibly of They live.

I could be wrong, but I don't think Carpenter was directly involved in any of those. A quick check on IMDB lists different directors for each of them, and only gives Carpenter a screenwriter credit for the original version.

That said, Carpenter's work in general has been in a long decline. I gave up on him sometime around the release of Vampire$, so I don't blame anyone for being leery of a prequel to The Thing. But I don't think Carpenter has sunk so low as to cannibalize his own reputation. At least he's still making original bad movies.

Haha, a console player, say no more.

I don't limit myself to one platform, although I do find myself buying more for consoles than PC these days. I generally don't care for ports - if a game was designed to be played on a console, I prefer to play it on a console. If a game was designed for the PC, I prefer to play it on the PC. I bought The Thing for X-Box. Maybe that was a mistake, and the PC version was significantly better, but as I recall, my problems with the game were pretty fundamental to the design of the game, which I doubt would be radically altered for a different platform.

The Thing is definitely one of my fav movies. But it is far from flawless. And the fact that it manages to be so good while having such a fair share of flaws is quite an achievement, that Carpenter should be proud of.
The biggest problem of the movie is that it is constantly torn between a paranoia movie (I think the original novella was closer to that) and a very creepy horror movie. But pretty quickly, Carpenter abandons any effort to make the paranoia plot stick (the plot, not the mood) and focuses on the monster aspect. It is fairly obvious when you listen to the commentaries on the DVD that no one in the crew really knows who is contaminated, and at what point (besides, for a paranoia plot to thicken, it would have required the growing of more Things, gradually replacing everyone. From the moment that you have only one beast, you kind of sacrifice focusing on the "Trust no one". It remains a subplot. The amusing computer projection of what would happen if the Thing came into contact with civilization is completely contradicted by the fact that there is only one Thing. It isnt the only contradiction of the movie).

I think you've radically misread the plot of the film. The creature clearly has the ability to be in multiple places at the same time. There's at least one scene (the infamous defibrillator scene) where we actually see it divide itself. There's also all the times where they destroy one instance of the thing, only to have it pop up somewhere else - they destroy both parts of the divided thing in the med lab, there's the guy they find out in the snow who's still in the process of being transformed, there's the burned corpse they find that's evidently the remains of someone who realized they were infected, and killed themselves before the monster could take them over. If there were only one version of the creature at a time, the movie would have ended at any one of these points.

This isnt a documentary, the two old fart doctors are completely redundant (and why the fuck does Richard Dyshart have a an earring in his nose, btw?).

He doesn't. He has a nose ring in his nose. Duh. ;)

Seriously, though, if having two doctors isn't redundant in a real arctic weather station, having two doctors in a fictional arctic weather station isn't redundant, either. It is, at the very least, realism. Moreover, having two characters with backgrounds in medicine or biology is necessary to the plot, so that you can have one of them snap and destroy the radio, once he realizes the threat posed by the monster, and another who can still serve as a mouthpiece for theorizing about the creature's nature.

Half of the cast cant act, the really interesting characters are those that have their area and personalities well defined, like Childs or Clark. And, besides, Carpenter has a hell of a time shooting dialogue sequences with the full crew, the bad acting is often underlined in those.

I don't think any of the performances were particularly bad. Granted, the movie doesn't call for a lot of really difficult or nuanced performances, but I think the cast was, by and large, sufficient to the needs of the plot. And the plot needs a fair number of bodies to function. If you pared down the cast to just the major characters, you lose a lot of the paranoia. A smaller cast means there's less people you have to keep an eye on, and less opportunities for the creature to kill people.


It's painfully apparent when you listen to the audio commentary. Basically the actors say that Carpenter wanted everyone to possibly be the Thing but actually never shook off his lazyness to work up a timetable of the infection.

I have listened to the commentary. I did not come away with the impression that Carpenter was lazy, or that he didn't have an idea of what was going on in his own film.

BrainGlutton
04-19-2011, 09:33 PM
The Thing: what are they doing in the Antarctic?

Things.

Isamu
04-19-2011, 11:31 PM
Hated it. Hated. I've got kind of a collector thing going on with video games. Even ones I didn't like much, I hang on to - I've got games on my shelf that have only ever seen the inside of a game console once, but I'm still hanging onto them. The Thing, I threw out.

Yeah, I'm a big fan of the movie so I had to have the game. Damn it was clunky as hell. The fear suppression mechanism in the game was a great concept but just didn't work (when people started freaking out I gave them extra weapons, made them leader of the party etc. but they still freaked the fuck out and shot themselves :smack: ). I finished it. Once. Never played again.

Arrendajo
04-19-2011, 11:51 PM
I'm really interested in the prequel film, but considering how much I love the 1982 film, I'm worried about how wrong the new one could go.

Yep. Carpenter's The Thing is one of my all time favorites.

Justin_Bailey
04-20-2011, 02:23 AM
That said, Carpenter's work in general has been in a long decline. I gave up on him sometime around the release of Vampire$, so I don't blame anyone for being leery of a prequel to The Thing. But I don't think Carpenter has sunk so low as to cannibalize his own reputation. At least he's still making original bad movies.

Vampires is criminally underrated and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also gave rise to one of my favorite Roger Ebert "Answer Man" columns ever (paraphrased):

Reader: Don't you think it's misogynistic for the Baldwin to slap around the tied up prostitute?

Ebert: Yes, slapping around a defenseless (and bound) women is a horrible thing. However, the prostitute was a vampire and seconds before had tried to gnaw off the Baldwin's face. So slapping her around is entirely appropriate.


I bought The Thing for X-Box. Maybe that was a mistake, and the PC version was significantly better, but as I recall, my problems with the game were pretty fundamental to the design of the game, which I doubt would be radically altered for a different platform.

I played The Thing on the PS2 and I loved it. The fear mechanism was fantastic and it was one of the most genuinely creepy games I have ever played. If you've still got it lying around, give it another chance.

Capitaine Zombie
04-20-2011, 08:23 AM
I could be wrong, but I don't think Carpenter was directly involved in any of those. A quick check on IMDB lists different directors for each of them, and only gives Carpenter a screenwriter credit for the original version.


I never said nor even insinuated that he made them. But he was paid big checks for all of these, and endorsed them all. As we are discussing a prequel/remake of a Carpenter movie done by someone else than Carpenter, how appropriate to remember all the similar projects, and how they all sucked.


That said, Carpenter's work in general has been in a long decline. I gave up on him sometime around the release of Vampire$, so I don't blame anyone for being leery of a prequel to The Thing. But I don't think Carpenter has sunk so low as to cannibalize his own reputation. At least he's still making original bad movies.



Personnaly I think his filmmaking took a serious nose dive when he separated with Dean Cundey and took on Gary Kibbe. Cundey was the technical counterpart to Carpenter's imagination, Kibbe wasnt.


I don't limit myself to one platform, although I do find myself buying more for consoles than PC these days. I generally don't care for ports - if a game was designed to be played on a console, I prefer to play it on a console. If a game was designed for the PC, I prefer to play it on the PC. I bought The Thing for X-Box. Maybe that was a mistake, and the PC version was significantly better, but as I recall, my problems with the game were pretty fundamental to the design of the game, which I doubt would be radically altered for a different platform.


Nah, I was joking, as I kind of remembered that you and another poster had one of those PC Vs Console mock-wars. The system in the Thing was very cluncky on PC because it was a direct adapt of the console version. Maybe it still flowed better with a keyboard and mouse than with a pad. Anyway, I love the game, despite his cumbersomeness.


I think you've radically misread the plot of the film. The creature clearly has the ability to be in multiple places at the same time. There's at least one scene (the infamous defibrillator scene) where we actually see it divide itself. There's also all the times where they destroy one instance of the thing, only to have it pop up somewhere else - they destroy both parts of the divided thing in the med lab, there's the guy they find out in the snow who's still in the process of being transformed, there's the burned corpse they find that's evidently the remains of someone who realized they were infected, and killed themselves before the monster could take them over. If there were only one version of the creature at a time, the movie would have ended at any one of these points.


Having seen the film at the very least a good fifty times (in various states I confess, but on those fifty something times, I swear I was at least once neither drunk nor high), I dont think it would be possible for me to misread it. Overanalyzing it maybe, but not misread.
As I said, never more than one active Thing. You have several occasions where the Thing could apparently divide, yet the plot never picks up on it. If it can divide itself, if it can take on multiple human hides at the same time, then the Thing could escape easily, and overpower the crew by the middle of the movie (and there wouldnt have been any survivors in the Norwegian base).
You seem to think that means Carpenter wanted to do a infection/virus like story. I think that Carpenter didnt really know what kind of movie he wanted, and went with every plotlines he thought was cool, not realizing that they were contradictory. Kudos to Carpenter's magic for the movie being awesome enough that obvious plot problems dont harm it that much.


He doesn't. He has a nose ring in his nose. Duh. ;)

Seriously, though, if having two doctors isn't redundant in a real arctic weather station, having two doctors in a fictional arctic weather station isn't redundant, either. It is, at the very least, realism. Moreover, having two characters with backgrounds in medicine or biology is necessary to the plot, so that you can have one of them snap and destroy the radio, once he realizes the threat posed by the monster, and another who can still serve as a mouthpiece for theorizing about the creature's nature.


"Necessary to the plot" is the mantra of bad writers. The two doctors dont seem to have anything different from one another (apart that one actor can act -Dyshart- and the other overplays it like few bad actors can -the constant overacting in the autopsy scene is really tiresome).
As characters, they're treading on each other's shoes.
In a whodunit, or a crew movie, that's the last thing you want.
Even if you think you need two characters essentially having the same responsabilities, they have to be really different in terms of personnality or looks. Choosing two actors in the same age range to hold exactly the same position is not the way to go. Particularly when the overabundance of characters ensures that you have too limited screen time to properly develop them and make either of them meaningful.


I don't think any of the performances were particularly bad. Granted, the movie doesn't call for a lot of really difficult or nuanced performances, but I think the cast was, by and large, sufficient to the needs of the plot. And the plot needs a fair number of bodies to function. If you pared down the cast to just the major characters, you lose a lot of the paranoia. A smaller cast means there's less people you have to keep an eye on, and less opportunities for the creature to kill people.


Oh man, there is some seriously bad acting in that movie. Even more underlined by some quite good acting from Kurt Russell or Keith David.
The dialogue scenes with the full cast are really cheesy (and clearly Carpenter doesnt really know where to position his camera, nor edit the scene. Funnily, as it was shot on set, he could place his camera anywhere, I have a feeling that had it been shot on location, Carpenter's directing would have been more inspired).


I have listened to the commentary. I did not come away with the impression that Carpenter was lazy, or that he didn't have an idea of what was going on in his own film.


Well, we obviously differ on this. Apparently not knowing who is infected and at what point should be the audience's state of mind, definitely not that of the storyteller.

lieu
04-20-2011, 08:49 AM
This thread got me to watch it for the umpteenth time again last night. Question: At the end when just MacReady and Childs are left and the station is destroyed and on fire, Mac asks him where he was. Childs gives a not too convincing answer of how he thought he saw Blair (?) and chasing after him got lost in the snow. So Childs very well may be infected. Mac goes on to say the Thing probably wants to just let itself freeze and wait for the inevitable rescue teams, that that's its only way out. All the other Things have been killed (I think) and Mac knows he's not a Thing but will soon be dead from the cold himself.

So why didn't Mac then kill Childs?

Justin_Bailey
04-20-2011, 09:04 AM
So why didn't Mac then kill Childs?

Because we have no idea which one of them (if any) actually is The Thing. If you show it, you ruin one of the all-time awesome endings in movie history. But if you leave it ambiguous, you get people talking and discussing it 30 years later.

Spoiler for the game:

In The Thing video game, neither is a Thing. But Childs dies shortly after from exposure and MacReady goes into hiding before showing up at the end.

Capitaine Zombie
04-20-2011, 09:08 AM
Because we have no idea which one of them (if any) actually is The Thing. If you show it, you ruin one of the all-time awesome endings in movie history. But if you leave it ambiguous, you get people talking and discussing it 30 years later.

Spoiler for the game:

In The Thing video game, neither is a Thing. But Childs dies shortly after from exposure and MacReady goes into hiding before showing up at the end.

Actually that's one of the other concept problems of the movie. The Thing is supposed to devour you and copy your DNA, it is supposed to be more of a doppelganger than a zombie like infection, yet, apparently, you cant tell if you're the Thing yourself or not. Weird.

But it makes for a great ending, so why bother?

Justin_Bailey
04-20-2011, 10:16 AM
Actually that's one of the other concept problems of the movie. The Thing is supposed to devour you and copy your DNA, it is supposed to be more of a doppelganger than a zombie like infection, yet, apparently, you cant tell if you're the Thing yourself or not. Weird.

But that's explained in the movie. The characters who are the Thing don't know it because of how traumatic the transformation was. But they become totally aware (and start attacking the others) when provided. Like during MacReady's blood test.

Capitaine Zombie
04-20-2011, 12:05 PM
But that's explained in the movie. The characters who are the Thing don't know it because of how traumatic the transformation was. But they become totally aware (and start attacking the others) when provided. Like during MacReady's blood test.

Doesnt make any sense, the Thing doesnt infect people, it kills them and copy them. Why would it suffer memory problems every time it copies someone?
The "I dont know I'm something else" trope belongs to infection scenarios, not doppleganger ones (at least I cant think of any examples with such a plot).
BTW, I dont see at what point that "explanation" is given in the movie. In the commentary, I remember, but not in the actual movie. Where or when do they say that?

Arnold Winkelried
04-20-2011, 12:43 PM
But that's explained in the movie. The characters who are the Thing don't know it because of how traumatic the transformation was. But they become totally aware (and start attacking the others) when provided. Like during MacReady's blood test.That "when provided" is supposed to be "when provoked"? I don't remember how they explain it in the movie, but in the original short story, the creatures know that they are alien, but also are expert mimics of the organism they have taken over. In the short story, the reason why the aliens don't band together and just attack all the humans is because they are still in a small minority and prefer to work by stealth rather than through open aggression.

John DiFool
04-20-2011, 12:45 PM
If they aren't aware, then how did Blair know how to build a mini-flying-saucer, or to assimilate Gary at the end? They simply try to maintain their cover until it is blown, but will work behind the scenes to further their/Its ends.

AncientHumanoid
04-20-2011, 12:46 PM
That "when provided" is supposed to be "when provoked"? I don't remember how they explain it in the movie, but in the original short story, the creatures know that they are alien, but also are expert mimics of the organism they have taken over.

That's how I remember it, too. Funny thing is, I can't really recall if I filled in those blanks from the old story to the movie or if it comes across adequately in the movie itself. Did anyone here see the movie that wasn't already familiar with the story?

Justin_Bailey
04-20-2011, 02:18 PM
That "when provided" is supposed to be "when provoked"? I don't remember how they explain it in the movie, but in the original short story, the creatures know that they are alien, but also are expert mimics of the organism they have taken over. In the short story, the reason why the aliens don't band together and just attack all the humans is because they are still in a small minority and prefer to work by stealth rather than through open aggression.

Yes, that should say "when provoked"

Capitaine Zombie
04-20-2011, 04:01 PM
Yes, that should say "when provoked"

You realize that is contradictory with your previous take that the Thing somehow had memory problems after transformation?
Either the Thing knows it needs to lie low, no matter what, and is very conscious of what it is, or it doesnt know its true nature and wouldnt see the point of trying to hide anything.

Justin_Bailey
04-20-2011, 04:51 PM
You realize that is contradictory with your previous take that the Thing somehow had memory problems after transformation?
Either the Thing knows it needs to lie low, no matter what, and is very conscious of what it is, or it doesnt know its true nature and wouldnt see the point of trying to hide anything.

How so? The trauma of the transformation could easily cause amnesia (that's how it worked in The Faculty, which was a high school riff on The Thing), but when "attacked" the Thing wakes up and fights back.

Miller
04-20-2011, 09:37 PM
Doesnt make any sense, the Thing doesnt infect people, it kills them and copy them. Why would it suffer memory problems every time it copies someone?

I think it does infect them. Isn't there a scene where they find a burned skeleton in the snow, and they surmise that it was someone who realized they were infected, and immolated himself to prevent himself from changing?

The "I dont know I'm something else" trope belongs to infection scenarios, not doppleganger ones (at least I cant think of any examples with such a plot).

It's not uncommon in those scenarios, either. There's a short story, Bradbury, I think, where the main character learns at the end of the story that he's not the person he remembers being, but instead, is a duplicate of the guy with a mini-nuke built in. Star Trek: Deep Space 9 did a variation on it, where Miles O'Brian is convinced that everyone he knows has been replaced with a copy. At the end of the ep, he finds out that he's the copy, made when the real O'Brian was kidnapped by aliens.

In the case of The Thing, I don't think that the creature itself forgets what it is, but rather, as part of the infection process, it keeps the original memory intact, presumably as superior camoflage, but it still has its own intellect running beneath it, ready to overwhelm the human consciousness. A kind of Manchurian Candidate from space, if you will.

I do think you're right that this idea isn't offered directly in the film itself, though.

Spoke
04-20-2011, 09:41 PM
Anyone looking forward to the prequel to Carpenter's movie coming out later this year? Plot centers on the Norwegian exploration site that the US explorers discover destroyed in the 1982 film.

What do we care about a bunch of Swedes?

Chronos
04-20-2011, 09:57 PM
It's not that the Thing infects people, but rather, that it copies them in such great detail that it also copies their memories and (at least a superficial overlay of) their personalities. So while the copied personality is active, that personality might be genuinely worried that it's a Thing, and if the personality is strong enough (or close enough to the surface at the moment), the copy might even seek to destroy itself.

At least, that's how it worked in the original story. I've never seen the movie.

Justin_Bailey
04-21-2011, 12:57 AM
It's not uncommon in those scenarios, either. There's a short story, Bradbury, I think, where the main character learns at the end of the story that he's not the person he remembers being, but instead, is a duplicate of the guy with a mini-nuke built in.

That was the premise of the movie Imposter, which was based on a Phillip K. Dick story.

devilsknew
04-21-2011, 01:36 AM
Patriot Hills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Hills) (that wikipedia article is perfect coverstory), all a bit too convenient.

But seriously, I think the film is entirely realistic in depicting an arctic expeditionary team, or a seasonal isolated work station, not unlike sea and arctic oil rigging or other maritime expeditionary forces. Most recent and somewhat successful use of this theme was in the comic book/movie 30 days of Night. It's really Alien in the arctic, this film was a specific response to the success of Alien in '82.

devilsknew
04-21-2011, 01:43 AM
Personally, I'd rather see a new film out of Hollywood and Carpenter rather than a rehash of the Thing or turning it into a franchise. I hate this remake fad.

Miller
04-21-2011, 01:53 AM
That was the premise of the movie Imposter, which was based on a Phillip K. Dick story.

That's the story I was thinking of. I didn't think it was a Dick story, because I remember reading it, and being able to understand exactly what was going on.

:p

Red Barchetta
04-21-2011, 02:33 AM
Personally, I'd rather see a new film out of Hollywood and Carpenter rather than a rehash of the Thing or turning it into a franchise. I hate this remake fad.

Carpenter's not making it and it's not a remake.

devilsknew
04-21-2011, 02:37 AM
Carpenter's not making it and it's not a remake.
Ohhh... then that's even worse, be betting on that to flop in Hollywood mogul.

Capitaine Zombie
04-21-2011, 03:57 AM
I think it does infect them. Isn't there a scene where they find a burned skeleton in the snow, and they surmise that it was someone who realized they were infected, and immolated himself to prevent himself from changing?


I dont remember this. I'll have to rewatch it. Arent you confusing with the half-transformed Thing that they burn in the middle of the camp, at night?


It's not uncommon in those scenarios, either. There's a short story, Bradbury, I think, where the main character learns at the end of the story that he's not the person he remembers being, but instead, is a duplicate of the guy with a mini-nuke built in. Star Trek: Deep Space 9 did a variation on it, where Miles O'Brian is convinced that everyone he knows has been replaced with a copy. At the end of the ep, he finds out that he's the copy, made when the real O'Brian was kidnapped by aliens.


It is a bit contradictory with the animalistic tendencies the Thing displays. Anyway, that sort of things tend to make more sense in a novel (where you can be shown things from the inside) than a movie (where you see things from the outside).


In the case of The Thing, I don't think that the creature itself forgets what it is, but rather, as part of the infection process, it keeps the original memory intact, presumably as superior camoflage, but it still has its own intellect running beneath it, ready to overwhelm the human consciousness. A kind of Manchurian Candidate from space, if you will.

I do think you're right that this idea isn't offered directly in the film itself, though.


Fair point, and in some scenes , it looks like that's what Carpenter was going after. The problem of the movie plot isnt so much in each scene, but that the whole picture itself isnt very coherent on either the Thing's nature, mind, and most especially its M.O.
But one could argue that even offering a better level of explanation might susbstract from the Thing's alienness. Better to be confusing but scary than coherent and only slightly creepy.

CalMeacham
04-21-2011, 07:43 AM
The problem of the movie plot isnt so much in each scene, but that the whole picture itself isnt very coherent on either the Thing's nature, mind, and most especially its M.O.

It's coherent, it's just not explicit. The original John Campbell story doesn't spell it out, either, but you can figure it out from what happens -- pretty clearly The Thing can superficially act like whatever it has taken over, because it apparently absorbs memories as well. But it's definitely The Thing underneath it all. Blair (the moustacheless Wilford Brimley Character) clearly looks and acts like Blair (when they come looking for him in the tool shed, and later when he attacks noiselessly in the basement), but he's a Thing by that point, secretly building his ship. Another Thing also pretty clearly takes on the persona of Palmer until revealed.


The question I have is why , once revealed, The Thing acts like a mindless rampaging monster, rather than interacting as an intelligent being (which it clearly is -- it knows how to build a spaceship from scratch). It never converses intelligently with people as "the thing", only as part of its cover. One could argue that it thinks of us as beneath it, or that there is some fundamental cultural gap that cannot be overcome, but when The Thing is acting like its shapeshifting self it never seems to act as if it has any intelligence the Thing as an incomplete Bennings, when revealed, simply makes an unearthly and inarticulate cry.

CalMeacham
04-21-2011, 07:47 AM
By the way, when my boss went on a sabbatical to Antarctica, we gave him an ice-cream cake and a copy of Carpenter's The Thing at his going-away party. In this light, I find it amusing that:

The Thing is typically viewed by members of the winter crew at the U.S. South Pole station after the last flight out (usually in a double-feature with The Shining). [31]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_%28film%29

lieu
04-21-2011, 08:01 AM
I think it does infect them. Isn't there a scene where they find a burned skeleton in the snow, and they surmise that it was someone who realized they were infected, and immolated himself to prevent himself from changing?
I dont remember this. I'll have to rewatch it. Arent you confusing with the half-transformed Thing that they burn in the middle of the camp, at night?No, there was a later scene where MacReady, the cook and one other person find an extremely charred body partially covered by drift outside the station. If memory serves, the cook asks "Is it Fuchs?" MacReady picks up a bent, destroyed pair of wire-rimmed glasses and says "Yes, it was Fuchs."

At least, that's how it worked in the original story. I've never seen the movie.Dude, do yourself a favor. The book aside, it really is an outstanding film that's a classic in its own right.

CalMeacham
04-21-2011, 08:11 AM
No, there was a later scene where MacReady, the cook and one other person find an extremely charred body partially covered by drift outside the station. If memory serves, the cook asks "Is it Fuchs?" MacReady picks up a bent, destroyed pair of wire-rimmed glasses and says "Yes, it was Fuchs."


They also speculate that he burned himself when he confronts the Thing, rather than be changed. Nobody ever suggests that he was infected, then immolated himself to prevent being changed over into a complete Thing.


It's always bugged me, by the way, that he was able to so completely immolate himself with only a flare, when gasoline-soaked Things don't seem to burn so completely (and crematoria apparently require high temperatures and long times to completely burn a person).




By the way, I get the distinct impression in the original story that Thing cells don't invariably infect completely -- they appear to be vulnerable to our body's antibodies and other defense mechanisms. I note that the Thing requires a macroscopic input to affect tissue. Which is just as well, because otherwise all the thing would have to do is to aerosolize bits of itself and send them through the ventilators in order to take over the entire station.

Mr. Excellent
04-21-2011, 08:12 AM
The question I have is why , once revealed, The Thing acts like a mindless rampaging monster, rather than interacting as an intelligent being (which it clearly is -- it knows how to build a spaceship from scratch). It never converses intelligently with people as "the thing", only as part of its cover. One could argue that it thinks of us as beneath it, or that there is some fundamental cultural gap that cannot be overcome, but when The Thing is acting like its shapeshifting self it never seems to act as if it has any intelligence the Thing as an incomplete Bennings, when revealed, simply makes an unearthly and inarticulate cry.

My guess is that when the Thing is employing a human persona, it isn't really "acting" - rather, as another poster suggested, it's running the human persona as a sort of program on top of its own personality. The problem the Thing has is that it doesn't fully understand the human persona - it's a black box, so far as its concerned. It can "run" the human mind, and observe the results, but it can't actually make intelligent adjustments on the fly. So if "let the human mind operate normally" isn't yielding the desired results, there's really nothing to be done other than ditch it entirely.

CalMeacham
04-21-2011, 08:36 AM
My guess is that when the Thing is employing a human persona, it isn't really "acting" - rather, as another poster suggested, it's running the human persona as a sort of program on top of its own personality.

Yes, but when it switches over to The Thing, it doesn't act like a rational, intelligent being -- it acts like a stereotypical monster, inarticulate and apparently unreasoning and surprisingly easily defeated.


As I say, you could argue that it's a cultural or even a species difference, and it's a feature of Campbell's original story, as well. But it's weird that a space-traveling species would act that way (and that's true even if it's not the original species that made the saucer -- it was flying it, after all, or at the very least a passenger). It's profoundly at odds with the behavior of just about any other space travelers in fiction from the same period. The only case of something similar are stories of "interstellar zoos" and interstellar animal transport, which I've never found satisfying.


I was so struck by this that I made a point about it in a science fiction play I once wrote.

Bytegeist
04-21-2011, 01:47 PM
Yes, but when it switches over to The Thing, it doesn't act like a rational, intelligent being -- it acts like a stereotypical monster, inarticulate and apparently unreasoning ...

Maybe that tentacle twitching is actually Galactic Sign Language, and we humans are just too ignorant to recognize it.

So, the Thing gets frustrated ó and eats us.

Miller
04-21-2011, 02:33 PM
The question I have is why , once revealed, The Thing acts like a mindless rampaging monster, rather than interacting as an intelligent being (which it clearly is -- it knows how to build a spaceship from scratch). It never converses intelligently with people as "the thing", only as part of its cover. One could argue that it thinks of us as beneath it, or that there is some fundamental cultural gap that cannot be overcome, but when The Thing is acting like its shapeshifting self it never seems to act as if it has any intelligence the Thing as an incomplete Bennings, when revealed, simply makes an unearthly and inarticulate cry.

I'm not sure how intelligent the creature actually is. As Blair, it builds a spaceship from scratch, but I wonder if it really knows what its doing, or if it's just emulating the behavior of some creature it had previously absorbed. It knows how to build a spaceship, but does it know how to invent a spaceship? To what extent is it capable of integrating the intelligence of the beings it consumes? Does it really know what they know, or does it just know enough to decide which "program" it needs to run to resolve a particular situation?

I note that the Thing requires a macroscopic input to affect tissue. Which is just as well, because otherwise all the thing would have to do is to aerosolize bits of itself and send them through the ventilators in order to take over the entire station.

I think we actually see that macro infection in the beginning of the film, when the dog from the Norwegian outpost is put in the kennel. It immediately impales the other dogs, but it leaves the tentacles implanted in their bodies - and, IIRC, you can see their flesh start to pulse and shift around under their fur. It seems clear that it was attempting to subvert all of the dogs in the station, which would give it excellent cover for infecting the human crew. If the kennel had been placed a bit more remotely in the facility, so no one could hear the commotion, then the next morning there would have been no sign of anything untoward happening, just a bunch of happy dogs in a kennel with their new friend.

Of course, that argues against the "simple animal" theory I put forth above. Clearly, the thing is an ambush predator, but this idea suggests that the creature at least understands human dynamics well enough to recognize that the dogs are service animals or pets, and would receive a lower level of scrutiny from the humans.

Which brings me to another unusual feature of the movie that no one else has brought up: why does the thing have a heart attack? In the lead up to the infamous scuttling head scene, an infected crew member suddenly keels over from what appears to be a coronary. During attempts to revive him, it suddenly reveals itself as the monster. Why would the creature do this? It never willingly reveals itself in front of more than one person at a time, but here it burst out in front of half a dozen people, one of them armed with a flamethrower. Interestingly, this scene can be interpreted as supporting either theory about the thing's nature.

The first possibility is that the creature can copy us, but it doesn't understand what its copying. When it took over that guy, it copied him completely, including a weakness in his heart that was nearly ready to fail.

The second is that the creature knows us well enough to fake a heart attack. Which is a pretty clever strategy. If one of the humans suddenly keels over dead, we'd just put him out of the way in some cold storage room. That instance of the monster could just wait there, safely, while its other selves attempt to finish off the station's crew. That way, if the crew succeed in purging the rest of the things from the station, it still can get to the mainland when the storm clear, and a rescue chopper shows up. The body will get taken back along with the survivors, and it can take over the world. What it didn't anticipate was the defibrillator paddles, which I think were genuinely damaging to it - a call back to the original film, where the creature's vulnerability was electricity.

As I say, you could argue that it's a cultural or even a species difference, and it's a feature of Campbell's original story, as well. But it's weird that a space-traveling species would act that way (and that's true even if it's not the original species that made the saucer -- it was flying it, after all, or at the very least a passenger). It's profoundly at odds with the behavior of just about any other space travelers in fiction from the same period. The only case of something similar are stories of "interstellar zoos" and interstellar animal transport, which I've never found satisfying.

I can think of a few stories from that era that feature space travelers (http://theunclean.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/cthulhu-rising.jpg) who are as inhospitable as the one in The Thing.

Mr. Excellent
04-21-2011, 02:42 PM
Yes, but when it switches over to The Thing, it doesn't act like a rational, intelligent being -- it acts like a stereotypical monster, inarticulate and apparently unreasoning and surprisingly easily defeated.


Perhaps the transition from "imitation mode" something closer to its normal state of operation is painful, at least when done at emergency speed. Or frightening, or otherwise stressful. Remember, all we know about this creature is that it was flying (or a passenger aboard) a spaceship. I'm sure there are many airline pilots who could handle themselves quite well in a fistfight - but I'm equally certain there are at least some who would panic and be entirely ineffectual. (Pilots are trained not to panic *while piloting*, and most of the training consists of drilling them in how to pilot during emergencies. Fistfights don't come up.) By a similar token, perhaps the Thing is intelligent, but just way, way out of its depth.

TreacherousCretin
04-21-2011, 06:04 PM
I am surprised and delighted by how interesting this thread is! One of my very favorite movies.

For me, all of the incongruities, apparent contradictions, etc. are part of the film's appeal, part of what makes it work.

HOWEVER .... the one thing that always yanks me out of the story has already been mentioned: Fuchs somehow managing to cremate himself with a flare.


For what it's worth, I've always felt that MacReady was never in danger of being absorbed -- The Thing would've done anything to avoid having to wear that hat.

.

Sitnam
04-21-2011, 06:27 PM
For what it's worth, I've always felt that MacReady was never in danger of being absorbed -- The Thing would've done anything to avoid having to wear that hat.
The hat is awesome, I doubt it could have handled the BAC though.

2 minutes The Thing would be barfing like a Long Island drinking freshman on spring break in Cancun.

Bytegeist
04-21-2011, 08:53 PM
I am surprised and delighted by how interesting this thread is! One of my very favorite movies.

For anyone who's still curious, there's a pretty good fan website for the movie here (http://www.outpost31.com/index2.html).

TreacherousCretin
04-22-2011, 11:34 AM
For anyone who's still curious, there's a pretty good fan website for the movie here (http://www.outpost31.com/index2.html).

Wow. These guys even have (transcription of) the on-set audio immediately after the dynamite stick exploded with more force than had been expected, nearly blowing Kurt Russell off his feet.

For the genuine JCTT fanatic. I'm not that far gone, but spent an enjoyable while on the site last night.


.

Tixenfleaz
04-22-2011, 11:26 PM
Yes, but when it switches over to The Thing, it doesn't act like a rational, intelligent being -- it acts like a stereotypical monster, inarticulate and apparently unreasoning and surprisingly easily defeated.

When all else fails, turning into a 12 foot tall Lovecraftian monster probably makes for a pretty effective escape mechanism. Bad dates, chemistry exams... I would've used it a lot in my teen years.

That little trick would scatter most people like kittens. The Thing had the misfortune of running into a bunch of tough guys who had no place to run.

Mister Cheech
04-22-2011, 11:57 PM
In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In Love Story, why do the two characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason. In Oliver Stone’s JFK, why is the president suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason. In the excellent Chainsaw Massacre, by Tobe Hooper, why don’t we ever see the characters go the the bathroom, or wash their hands, like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason. Worse - in The Pianist, by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide and live like a bum, when he plays the piano so well? Once again, the answer is - no reason. I could go on for hours with more examples. The list is endless.

Miller
04-23-2011, 03:28 AM
Thank you for that enlightening addition to the discussion.

AncientHumanoid
04-23-2011, 06:55 AM
In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In Love Story, why do the two characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason. In Oliver Stoneís JFK, why is the president suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason. In the excellent Chainsaw Massacre, by Tobe Hooper, why donít we ever see the characters go the the bathroom, or wash their hands, like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason. Worse - in The Pianist, by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide and live like a bum, when he plays the piano so well? Once again, the answer is - no reason. I could go on for hours with more examples. The list is endless.

Question 1: because his parents are brown

Question 2: mutual attraction

Question 3: political conspiracy

Question 4: footage edited out

Question 5: hiding from NAZIs, duh

Pine Fresh Scent
04-23-2011, 01:09 PM
When Carpenter went on Letterman he played the entire kennel scene, complete with face peeling, chest splitting goodness. After the clip, the audience seemed to have been shocked into silence by what they had just seen. Dave's reaction was classic: "So it's a story about a boy and his dog...":D

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