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Intriguing analysis for the lead up to and ending of "The Thing"
August 21, 2011 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Was Child's Infected? (Part1) (Part 2) An in depth analysis of John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, focusing on the alien assimilation timeline, and, perhaps more intriguingly, an ending that may be less ambiguous than you would initially believe.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 (125 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
A friend of mine met Keith David a few years ago and asked him if he was The Thing and he refused to answer. DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS.

Great fucking movie, off to watch the video.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:24 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


A good time to post Peter Watts brilliant short story prequel/sequel/sidequel/assimilationquel from the 'other' point of view:

The Things
posted by memebake at 2:31 PM on August 21, 2011 [22 favorites]


Spider head.

Jesus, that still creeps me out
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 PM on August 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I believe he was not.
exhibit A

(He tosses torches to Sanchez and Palmer.)

MACREADY
Sanchez, you and Palmer search the
inside...

PALMER
I ain't going with Sanchez.

Sanchez snaps his head toward Palmer. Palmer looks at the
others.

PALMER
I ain't going with him. I'll go
with Childs...

SANCHEZ
Well, screw you, man!

PALMER
I ain't going with you!

CHILDS
Well, who says I want you going with
me?!

Palmer was already infected...he stopped rolling fatties. also, he does get safe moment to infect Childs at that point. as evidence...

PALMER
What'd we ever do to these Things
anyway...

Childs freezes and snaps his head around facing Palmer. A
beat.

PALMER
What?

CHILDS
Don't walk behind me.

Another beat.

PALMER
Right.

He moves to the other side of the wall, parallel with
Childs. They continue on, skimming along the sides of the
corridor in plain view of one another.
posted by clavdivs at 2:33 PM on August 21, 2011


does not get the chance, rather.
posted by clavdivs at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2011


LOL @ the short trailer of this dude's movie in the youtube vid.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:35 PM on August 21, 2011


Was Child's what infected?
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on August 21, 2011 [26 favorites]


Neither Childs nor MacReady is the Thing, but they're both willing to die out there in the ice to save the rest of the world. That's what Carpenter has said in interviews and, frankly, it's the only way the ending really makes (artistic/poetic) sense.
posted by Joey Bagels at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is another 1982 alien invasion film in which keys play a key role -- role called Keys, no less.

The film? E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:43 PM on August 21, 2011


That's what Carpenter has said in interviews

On the DVD? I don't remember that. Or where/when has he said it?

I don't think Childs was infected.
posted by cashman at 2:46 PM on August 21, 2011


Oooooh the double shots with the identical camera move of Childs surrounded by coats with one of them rearranged is real slick.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:47 PM on August 21, 2011


Of course Childs was infected. He was the sole remaining black character, he HAD to be evil.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always kind of believed Childs was infected, but if he was, why wouldn't he just crawl off to the perimeter of the camp and freeze and wait for the rescue party? Why risk coming up to Mac at all? What good could possibly come out of it (other than a boss ending)?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:52 PM on August 21, 2011


I think this guy is delirious. Seriously. "Whiskey again! SEE? The last time he gave someone a drink, it was a COMPUTER! Don't you get it? COMPUTERS ARE THINGS."
posted by neuromodulator at 2:56 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


(OT aside: If you've never seen this awesome music video/stop-motion action figure recreation of THE THING, do yourself a favor and check it out!)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't buy the whiskey+computer evidence but it has always been my belief that MacReady was getting ready to kill Childs in that scene. Whether or not Childs is infected is almost beside the point. Call me callous but were I in MacReady's place and knew I wasn't infected I'd probably torch the other guy and have to live with it.
posted by Justinian at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2011


Call me callous but were I in MacReady's place and knew I wasn't infected I'd probably torch the other guy and have to live with it.

Why not? They're both going to freeze to death anyway.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:03 PM on August 21, 2011


The New York Times June 25th, 1982 review of the film starts off "JOHN CARPENTER'S ''The Thing'' is a foolish, depressing, overproduced movie that mixes horror with science fiction to make something that is fun as neither one thing or the other. " and ends with "''The Thing,'' which opens today at the Rivoli and other theaters, is too phony looking to be disgusting. It qualifies only as instant junk."

On the DVD commentary they talk about how it was a flop at the time and people hated it, but it's still funny to see it in print.
posted by cashman at 3:04 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do find it interesting that both the script and Kurt Russel say he had a weapon in that scene.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2011


Call me callous but were I in MacReady's place and knew I wasn't infected I'd probably torch the other guy and have to live with it.

Why not? They're both going to freeze to death anyway.


Its like the after-nightmare nightmare. Freeze to death with the Thing and not spare humanity from the tormented invasion (eventually) or freeze to death having killed a competent, innocent man to spare yourself the worry.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought James Arness was The Thing
posted by philip-random at 3:07 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why risk coming up to Mac at all? What good could possibly come out of it (other than a boss ending)?

One of them should have killed the other, just to be sure.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:07 PM on August 21, 2011


On the DVD commentary they talk about how it was a flop at the time and people hated it

Ditto Tron, Blade Runner, Brazil, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Clue....

So many of the truly defining movies of the 80s were flops at the time. Not sure what's up with that, but it's true.
posted by hippybear at 3:11 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, Tron really IS a bad movie. And Labyrinth. Clue really doesn't hold. The Dark Crystal is paper-thin. Watch some of these movies again, as an adult, without your nostalgia glasses on, and you'll see what everyone else saw back in the day.

The Thing is a resolutely good movie, though.
posted by incessant at 3:14 PM on August 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ditto Tron, Blade Runner, Brazil, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Clue....

, Megaforce,
posted by cashman at 3:15 PM on August 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Um... okay, Tron isn't a very good movie, but it's reaching way beyond the capacity of its time. Labyrinth is brilliant, as is Clue. The Dark Crystal is outstanding but, as you say, thin... world creation taken to a limit never seen before.

I've watched them repeatedly across the years, often with a decade between viewings. I'm not coming at them from a point of nostalgia. They are all films which are hugely admired today for the leaps they took forward. The Thing also.
posted by hippybear at 3:17 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was just a baby Thing was in theaters and I didn't watch it until college in a film studies course. It is unequivocally good. Nary a misstep.

Also to this day my favorite scene is at the very beginning when the dog opens the door. No creature has ever looked so alien to me.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:22 PM on August 21, 2011


Why risk coming up to Mac at all? What good could possibly come out of it (other than a boss ending)?

If it waits outside of camp, the remaining popsickle is unlikely to ever be found. If found, it's likely to be burred frozen. It needs to be inside the camp, and it needs cause of death not to be obvious (fled explosion, froze).

One of them should have killed the other, just to be sure.

To be sure, you burn the other then yourself.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:22 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Carpenter had a sequel written in which the two characters are rescued and events unfold from there. Such a sequel relies on there being an alien. I suppose the alien might come from some other source, but it seems more likely that the alien was, in fact, impersonating one of the two men. I'm gonna guess Childs was infected.

And there is that change of coat color ...
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2011


And Labyrinth. Clue really doesn't hold.

You're angryin' up the blood, young man.
posted by codswallop at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seriously, "Childs" spelled "Child's" with the apostrophe?

SN:DR*

* Spelling Nightmare: Didn't Read
posted by dno at 3:28 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


So many of the truly defining movies of the 80s were flops at the time. Not sure what's up with that, but it's true.

I'm probably going to make people tired of hearing it, but it really does go back to Lavers Law, they were probably ahead of their time, some of them at least. It's those that seem to hold up longer than run of the mill ones. Watched Videodrome last night, and while the "cathode ray tube" part is dated, it was spot on and telling in many others. (The us having "screen names" in the future that are names we choose, able to access things no matter how depraved or violent, etc.)
posted by usagizero at 3:33 PM on August 21, 2011


The New York Times June 25th, 1982 review of the film...

"One of the film's major problems is that the creature has no identifiable shape of its own."

One of Vincent Canby's major problems with this movie was that he had no identifiable clue.
posted by rory at 3:42 PM on August 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Clue really doesn't hold

I will end you.
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on August 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


I always felt that when Macready drinks after Childs he's become infected, but I just reviewed the ending and realized that Macready never drinks after Childs, so I think it makes perfect sense to view it as a test. Think about it, if Childs really was uninfected and fled, then he would re-approach the camp thinking that any survivor was probably infected. Therefore he would be foolish to drink after any of them. Macready's laugh after the drink and the sudden swell in the familiar synth seem to make it clear that this was a test for Childs and he failed. This explanation is supported by the specific mention from Blair that they should all start preparing their own food.

I had never noticed the sound of the keys dropping before either. That's a fantastic detail and just goes to show how rich and wonderful the film is.
posted by cyphill at 3:48 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, having watched this movie at least 20 times (one of my all-time faves) things like the keys dropping and the jackets moving around make me feel like a failure.
Back to movie-watching school for me!

but seriously, thanks for posting this. Made my Sunday.
posted by mannequito at 3:55 PM on August 21, 2011


Was Child's what infected?

DET ER IKKE EN APOSTROF!!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:00 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've also seen the movie a good 15 times and never noticed the keys dropping. And for that reason I am thankful for this post.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:03 PM on August 21, 2011


, Megaforce,

I mentioned once before that I was surprised to be reminded that The Thing, Blade Runner and Megaforce all were released on the same day. My giddy enthusiasm as a teenager to see one of these movies in particular is matched only by my embarrassment thirty years later as to which one it was.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:07 PM on August 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


It was Blade Runner, wasn't it? That's where I was on June 25, 1982. And I was there again on the 26th and a matinee the 27th... and by the time July 2 rolled around, it was gone.

Oh, so sad.
posted by hippybear at 4:17 PM on August 21, 2011


And here I thought that the entire point of The Thing is that it's a B monster movie without either of the two standard endings for B monster movies: the heroic "just add water" solution or the final-second gotcha. Using frame-by-frame analysis to make the case that it's really a "just add water" or "gotcha" ending seems like missing the point.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:18 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Excellent analysis. I agree Childs was infected.
posted by Renoroc at 4:26 PM on August 21, 2011


I would like to see Julia Childs digitally edited into this movie. That is all.
posted by zippy at 4:36 PM on August 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I had seen the original The Thing on cable TV one evening, when I was a kid. It was spectacularly good relative to it's campy sci fi contemporaries. When I heard Carpenter was remaking it, I was really hoping that the remake was going to do it justice. It did, and I was thrilled to see how good it was.

Thirty years later, and John Carpenter's The Thing still resonates with many of us. By definition, it's a classic.

And yeah, I am convinced now that Childs was infected. However, I have always had in the back of my mind that either - or both of them - could have been infected.
posted by Xoebe at 4:57 PM on August 21, 2011


What's a "just add water" ending?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:01 PM on August 21, 2011


SEA MONKEYS!
posted by clavdivs at 5:04 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sea-monkey-doo?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2011


SEA MONKEYS ARE THE THING!
posted by neuromodulator at 5:14 PM on August 21, 2011


What's a "just add water" ending?

A surprising number of alien horrors can be defeated with everyday common substances. H. G. Wells arguably penned the first by having his aliens killed by the common cold. The Blob is defeated by teens wielding fire extinguishers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2011


I guess we can all look forward to the re-remake!

Seriously, Hollywood, at this point in the game, in your desperate, clumsy grasp for borderline not-actively-vomit-inducing ideas for movies, just send some mailouts. "You may already have a 'story idea by' credit for a major Hollywood production!" You jot some shit down on a reply-paid envelope and wait for your GREAT PRIZES!

Or try cold calling. "Hi, I'm Joel Silver. I work in movies. I know I'm probably interrupting your dinner, but I was just wondering if you had any ideas for some movies? What's that? A fella who has the power to kill people through a telephone? That's amazing! I need you on a plane to L.A. right away! Hugo Weaving will probably be the bad guy! Yeah, I think he's great too!"
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did you read anything about the re-remake? Because it's not really that.

I'm as sick as the next halfway intelligent person of the lame recycling going on in Hollywood, but I must confess I think the idea of trying to reverse engineer a prequel from what is shown of the Norwegian camp in the Carpenter film sounds like fun.
posted by neuromodulator at 5:18 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh and here's the Prequel (not quite a remake) trailer if you're interested...
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:18 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Kirk. Your meaning was eluding me, and the interwebs were no help with that particular phrase.
Although, in The Thing's case, it's "just add fire".
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:19 PM on August 21, 2011


And here I thought that the entire point of The Thing is that it's a B monster movie without either of the two standard endings for B monster movies: the heroic "just add water" solution or the final-second gotcha. Using frame-by-frame analysis to make the case that it's really a "just add water" or "gotcha" ending seems like missing the point.

I don't understand how you can be disappointed that it took 30 years for someone to piece the ending together using tiny visual and thematic clues scattered throughout the movie.
posted by mannequito at 5:31 PM on August 21, 2011


I will end you.

Can't we have a simple discussion about movies without someone threatening to "end" someone else? We don't have folks threatening to begin people that they agree with. (Well, they might choose to begin other people. If they are romantically compatible.)
posted by JHarris at 5:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm as sick as the next halfway intelligent person of the lame recycling going on in Hollywood, but I must confess I think the idea of trying to reverse engineer a prequel from what is shown of the Norwegian camp in the Carpenter film sounds like fun.

Oh, totally. I will be on the edge of my seat, vomiting with anticipation. "How's it going to end?" I will bellow. And then: A SHOCKING TWIST!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:33 PM on August 21, 2011


tumid dahlia: "Hi, I'm Joel Silver. I work in movies. I know I'm probably interrupting your dinner, but I was just wondering if you had any ideas for some movies? What's that? A fella who has the power to kill people through a telephone? That's amazing! I need you on a plane to L.A. right away! Hugo Weaving will probably be the bad guy! Yeah, I think he's great too!"

Been done. I'd like to say that it was the reason I decided to join Telstra as an apprentice tech a couple of years later, but unfortunately I've never actually seen it.

Hugo does have a touch of the Richard Chamberlains about him though.
posted by Pinback at 5:37 PM on August 21, 2011


Good lord. Time for a remake, then!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2011


A surprising number of alien horrors can be defeated with everyday common substances. H. G. Wells arguably penned the first by having his aliens killed by the common cold. The Blob is defeated by teens wielding fire extinguishers.

Always keeps some Jello handy. Never know when you'll need to smear it on the floor.
posted by cashman at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A surprising number of alien horrors can be defeated with everyday common substances.

That's why I like to keep this handy.

*CHK-CHK*

For close encounters.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:55 PM on August 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Regarding a potential prequel:

Oh, totally. I will be on the edge of my seat, vomiting with anticipation. "How's it going to end?" I will bellow. And then: A SHOCKING TWIST!

So when those three infected dogs get away, all in different directions, you'll just be, like, "meh"?
posted by gurple at 5:56 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure. I will probably have minimized VLC by then and will miss the unfolding developments in the illegal cam version of it that I will have downloaded on a whim.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:25 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I blame the Swedes.
posted by clavdivs at 6:29 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're not Swedish, Mac. They're Norwegian.
posted by brundlefly at 6:39 PM on August 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Those of you who don't already know about it may be interested in the various Thing comics miniseries from Dark Horse (under the title The Thing From Another World). The first two continue the story from the 1982 film, and they answer the Childs question pretty definitively.

Nerd fight about Thing canon...GO!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:57 PM on August 21, 2011


a "just add water" ending?

In 'The Day of The Triffids' this was literally true. And incredibly dumb.
posted by Sparx at 7:18 PM on August 21, 2011


Neither Childs nor MacReady is the Thing, but they're both willing to die out there in the ice to save the rest of the world. That's what Carpenter has said in interviews and, frankly, it's the only way the ending really makes (artistic/poetic) sense.

I think either Childs or MacReady is the Thing, and, frankly, it's the only way the ending really makes (artistic/poetic) sense. To me that's why the ending is so good.
posted by the noob at 7:24 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Explaining the ending? I'll kill yeeeeewwwwwwww.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:36 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Explaining the ending? I'll kill yeeeeewwwwwwww.

Surely you jest!
You do realise that this thread about the end of a (30 year old) movie may have one or two spoilers included?
posted by the noob at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2011


I just wanted to say I'll kill yeeeeeeewwwwwwwww, to be honest.

Actually, I wish more people had 'essays' like this up on YouTube, and/or took film this seriously. Interesting stuff.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:46 PM on August 21, 2011


Sorry about that extra apostrophe :-/
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 7:50 PM on August 21, 2011


Sorry about that extra apostrophe :-/

You can't fool me, Apostrophe. Now take off I Haven't Killed Anybody Since 1984's skin and let's talk about this like adult members of our species.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:08 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


a "just add water" ending?
In Signs this was literally true. And incredibly dumb.
posted by johnofjack at 8:27 PM on August 21, 2011


a "just add water" ending?

In Titanic this was literally true. And incredibly dumb.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


johnofjack: "In Signs this was literally true. And incredibly dumb."

"We're going to invade a planet that's mostly covered in water? Are you sure that's a good idea, High Chancellor?"

"Nonsense."

"But we're allergic..."

"LET'S GO NAKED!"
posted by brundlefly at 8:37 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I like the theory that the antagonists weren't aliens, but were actually demons. They weren't hurt by water, but by holy water that had been blessed by the sister.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 8:47 PM on August 21, 2011


@memeblake - thanks for the link, that was a great Peter Watts retake of the story.
posted by jackbrown at 8:58 PM on August 21, 2011


I will end you.

With a candlestick, in the parlor.
posted by oneironaut at 9:00 PM on August 21, 2011


In The Wizard of Oz, this is literally true...
posted by stinkycheese at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2011


"But we're allergic..."

"LET'S GO NAKED!"


They're an intergalactic conquering force on massive gravity-warping ships capable of invisibility, and their invasion force uses the military force of... spitting on people. Which they can only do once or twice, before someone hits them with a stick. I cannot express how much I hated that Zod damn movie.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:24 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


how is thinggy formed

how child's get infected
posted by speicus at 10:30 PM on August 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


About those fire extinguishers. Too bad the scene where they were discovered in storage had to be cut for length. Too much time was spent moving the surf boards, croquet sets, barbecues, the lemonade stand and Slip'n'Slides out of the way.
posted by warbaby at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984: "I like the theory that the antagonists weren't aliens, but were actually demons. They weren't hurt by water, but by holy water that had been blessed by the sister."

I didn't think it was possible, but you've made me hate that movie even more.
posted by brundlefly at 11:00 PM on August 21, 2011


Interesting analysis. I'm not sure I agree with all of his connections, the feeding of the drink to the computer link to Childs drink just feels a bit stretched. Not that I disagree with the notion that the drink was a test, I'll have to pop this in for another look. I also missed the keys and coats until now.

As to the prequel, I dunno. It could be an Aliens to Alien situation, transferring a cool universe from one genre to another and having both in some way be definitive of the genre. Hard to tell with a fresh off the boat director. It could be an explosively creative flash of brilliance fueled by youth and the first big shot, or it could be another shitty action film. If I were in Vegas, I know where I'd lay my money, but I'm a jaded motherfucker.
posted by calamari kid at 11:26 PM on August 21, 2011


Interesting about the keys. That's something I completely missed.
posted by emh360 at 12:18 AM on August 22, 2011


Seriously, "Childs" spelled "Child's" with the apostrophe?

I read that as a hat tip to "is our children learning?"
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:13 AM on August 22, 2011


The best AMU of all time. All male universe. Not counting the female chess program.
posted by wolfewarrior at 2:34 AM on August 22, 2011


Only an infected would pronounce "detail" like that.
posted by fullerine at 4:08 AM on August 22, 2011


Interesting analysis. I'm not sure I agree with all of his connections, the feeding of the drink to the computer link to Childs drink just feels a bit stretched. Not that I disagree with the notion that the drink was a test, I'll have to pop this in for another look. I also missed the keys and coats until now.

I don't agree with the earlier commenters that this is a stretch. He's not claiming that the computer chess scene is linked because it's "a thing, an object" and he's battling it with whiskey. He's claiming that chess is being used as a metaphor by the writers, which is hardly a stretch at all. Chess and the mechanics of check-mate are widely used as metaphors. It's a very small leap to link the two scenes because they both contain whiskey, and further in this interpretation, the whiskey is being used as a check-mate option in both scenes.

I think it's a fascinating and entirely plausible, even likely, reading of the scenes.

FWIW, this is the same guy who broke down visual anomalies in The Shining in this previous FPP. I like his style.
posted by odinsdream at 5:58 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


That scene where Mac is testing the blood with the water and the one infected is a big surprise and they're all tied down to the couch with The Thing which is jittering and jiving and stretching itself to the ceiling -- ARCH FEAR FEAR

Okay, question: The guy who turns into The Thing but then dies and then the doc tries to restart his heart (AND THEN LOSES HIS HANDS OH GOD OH GOD) why did the guy who was The Thing die? I mean, he didn't have a human heart no more, right? So what was up with that?
posted by angrycat at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"i hated her... -so- much. it... it... the fee... it... flame... flames... FLAMES on the side of my face... breathing... breathl... heaving breath..."
posted by radiosilents at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's not claiming that the computer chess scene is linked because it's "a thing, an object"

I know. I was joking.

But I do think it is questionable to jump to "the whiskey and chess are significant metaphors" rather than "they were simple characterizations". I don't see any reason to not think they're simple characterizations; they are simple, common traits people have and there's nothing in their presentation that suggests anything more complex is at work. So it's possible that they're meant as metaphors, but it seems much more likely that this is serious beanplating.

His supporting points of the significance of things seem to really indicate (to me) how hard he is trying to make the movie conform to his theories. Like showing Macready shoot whomever that was and then claiming that this somehow supported the chess theory because he forced The Thing into checkmate - that's a stretch. We can shoehorn a chess metaphor into any situation with conflict. Or claiming that the significance of the similarity in the shots of the jackets is drawing attention to the fact that they have been rearranged. That's possible, but given that it's also possible that a) maybe the people there don't always hang their coats on the same hook or b) maybe the set dressers didn't bother to check the arrangement of the two scenes against each other or c) maybe they purposely rearranged the coats just to suggest the passage of time, I don't think "The Thing is capable of perfect imitations of people in all regards except it can't remember where they obsessively hang their coats" or something is really sensible.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:01 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the fundamental disagreement is that this analysis presumes that there are two stories being told by the makers of the movie, the first is the movie plot itself, and the second is what's communicated by the design choices of the movie-making process itself, as embodied in and revealed by the end product.

Mr Ager is coming at this partly as a filmmaker himself, and so I'd assume his own intentional selections during that process inform his criticisms of other works. He references this specifically in both this series and the discussion of The Shining.
posted by odinsdream at 10:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right, and I think he's projecting his own preferences outward a bit much. Like, there's a point where he says something about the ambiguous ending was probably a move calculated to increase the commercial appeal, and ... that makes me not sure he's seen any commercial movies lately. Ambiguity is not super popular in Hollywood these days.

That's not to say I disagree with those preferences. I love ambiguity (when done well), and I also love lots of little clues and puzzle films. But I am not convinced that this is what's happening here. This seems more like his pattern-hunting algorithms are out of whack.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Call me callous but were I in MacReady's place and knew I wasn't infected I'd probably torch the other guy and have to live with it.

Why not? They're both going to freeze to death anyway.


The narrator of the critical analysis specifically states that The Thing is impervious to cold, so they will not freeze to death, thereby potentially spreading the disease should The Thing make it to any mainland continent.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 11:21 AM on August 22, 2011


He means "if they were human they would freeze to death so torching them doesn't really cost anyone anything".
posted by neuromodulator at 11:23 AM on August 22, 2011


Also, speaking of ambiguous endings and rehashing old movies, I just read that apparently the ending of Taxi Driver is supposed to be literal (he is treated as a hero and forgiven by whatshername) and DeNiro wants to do a sequel (ugh).
posted by neuromodulator at 11:40 AM on August 22, 2011


Good science fiction gives you answers, great science fiction leaves you with questions.

I like the chess analogy, because most games involve a process of "simplification" in which most of the pieces are removed from the board. But this can support any number of theories about who is infected and why.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:20 PM on August 22, 2011


Okay, question: The guy who turns into The Thing but then dies and then the doc tries to restart his heart (AND THEN LOSES HIS HANDS OH GOD OH GOD) why did the guy who was The Thing die? I mean, he didn't have a human heart no more, right? So what was up with that?

Ah yes, this is the scene that culminates in the infamous spider-head mentioned upthread by Brandon Blatcher. I mentioned it just the other day in the defibrilator askme too.

My interpretation is The Thing takes its 'perfect imitation' role very seriously. When it gets shot, it recognizes it as something that would hurt it as a real human, and plays the part. Then, when it is on the table and feels the defibrilator, it interprets that as an attack from which it must defend itself, much like the hot needle/blood experiment. Bye-Bye Doc arms.
posted by mannequito at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2011


Here is the scene for anyone who wants to watch it, although it doesn't include the part where Norris gets shot. Definitely NSFW.
posted by mannequito at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


sorry to post again, but I just remembered that Norris doesn't get shot; I was thinking of Clark. Norris I believe dies in a weird way - there's some kind of struggle and he falls backwards, or MacReady punches him when they're trying to capture him .... damn, I really need to rewatch this. But I do believe I'm right about why it attacks the Doc and takes his arms.
posted by mannequito at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2011


Norris has a heart attack. My assumption is that Thing-Norris also replicates Norris' heart condition, although I've never thought much about how that would work.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:38 PM on August 22, 2011


In what can only be described as a remarkable coincidence, Rave Cinemas are actually screening The Thing this Thursday as part of a month-long horror series - participating theatres are shown here:
http://www.ravemotionpictures.com/seniorandhorrorclassics_locations.aspx
posted by sluggo at 6:24 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like showing Macready shoot whomever that was and then claiming that this somehow supported the chess theory because he forced The Thing into checkmate - that's a stretch.

It is a stretch. It's also not what Ager said. First of all, that scene was shown in support of the argument that the other station occupants are "used as pawns", referring to the sacrifice of other station occupants as part of the game. Secondly, the analysis rather supports the idea that MacReady feels that he's lost the game, if we're drawing parallels to the opening chess scene. I seriously doubt he'd describe the deaths of every human occupant of the station as a victorious checkmate. And Childs rather seems to have him at flamethrower-point.

Or claiming that the significance of the similarity in the shots of the jackets is drawing attention to the fact that they have been rearranged. That's possible, but given that it's also possible that a) maybe the people there don't always hang their coats on the same hook or b) maybe the set dressers didn't bother to check the arrangement of the two scenes against each other or c) maybe they purposely rearranged the coats just to suggest the passage of time

Maybe it's just been a really long time since you've seen the movie, but only a matter of minutes have passed in the film between those two points and the only people who could have been in that room during those minutes are Childs and the Thing. Everybody else is out in the shack finding the Childs-Thing's attempt at spaceship construction, which completely invalidates this line of reasoning (except for your argument that maybe the set dressers are really bad at their jobs, which certainly doesn't seem to be supported by any other part of the movie).

To be perfectly honest, none of what you're saying holds much water at all and it really seems more like you're desperately looking for holes in Ager's theory than it does that Ager's desperately looking for evidence to support it.
posted by IAmUnaware at 6:30 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be perfectly honest, none of what you're saying holds much water at all and it really seems more like you're desperately looking for holes in Ager's theory than it does that Ager's desperately looking for evidence to support it.

You're really charming.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:38 PM on August 22, 2011


How bout we stop arguing about The Thing and start talking about how Children of Men is the best movie of the 2000s?

I just watched it again. Holy fucking shit.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:24 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like someone just punched in the the stomach over and over for the last 2 hours.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:29 PM on August 22, 2011


...start talking about how Children of Men is the best movie of the 2000s?

I could not get past why people could no longer breed. It made no sense. And why, all of a sudden, someone could.

Great direction, wonderfully acted (the car shooting and escape, the apartment building in the war zone), but it felt like it was struggling with a dumb concept.

And the ending was so very MEH, whatever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 PM on August 22, 2011


I could not get past why people could no longer breed. It made no sense. And why, all of a sudden, someone could.

Children of Men is not the movie for you, I think.
posted by odinsdream at 7:43 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why does everyone go blind in Jose Saramago's Blindness? And then they can see? Exactly the same thing.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:45 PM on August 22, 2011


Why does Bernie only get up when there's cheesy conga party music on?
posted by mannequito at 8:05 PM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]



That was an interesting video, the only comment that stood out as possibly wrong to me was;

He'd just discussed the idea that the Doc was already infected, due to the shirt colour, and then breaks all the radio control, as to stop help arriving.

I thought that was odd, in that I always assumed the Thing wanted to get to civilisation and have a party. So to break the radio would be counter productive, as opposed to sending out a distress call (then possibly breaking it). I took that to mean the Doc was still human in that scene.

Admittedly, it's been 15 years since I watched it :)
posted by lundman at 9:55 PM on August 22, 2011


I agree with you on that lundman. Don't think Blair (assume you mean him and not the Doc) was infected when he knocked out the radios. The Thing was totally down to mingle with the rest of the world at the party.

So one question this video doesn't answer is when Blair actually got taken over. Ideas anyone? Must have been after he was locked up, meaning it had to be Palmer at some point.
posted by mannequito at 10:20 PM on August 22, 2011


Sorry yeah, I think I had the name wrong, been quite a while. And I was much more agreeable to the idea that when Blair was checked on in the shack, and wore heavy jacket, he was still human. So, some time after that he was taken, and jacket destroyed.

Guess I'll rewatch it soon, as a refresher.
posted by lundman at 10:24 PM on August 22, 2011


Regarding Blair going all Lizzy Borden on the comms equipment: at that point in the film the Thing no longer had the element of surprise, as everyone in the camp at least had some idea of what it was capable of. Sure, the communications gear would allow them to call for help, but it would also allow them to warn the outside world not to come too close (or to recommend nuking the site from orbit). Perhaps this was Blair-Thing's way of rolling up its sleeves and doing it the hard way.

Now, what I would really like to know: at what point in life did Doc Copper decide to get a nose ring? I have never seen the movie with director's/actor's commentary, so can anyone who has tell me if the nose ring is ever mentioned?
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2011



Some random page had this comment on that:

During the Q&A for Escape from NY, the addition of the nose ring on Dysart's nose was actually Dysart's idea. Carpenter discussed a story that everyone sat down and came up with backstories for their characters. Dysart from some reason believed himself a Russian spy undercover out to steal secrets and kill people. You know, I've seen this movie many times on my Signature Collection laserdisc but this was the first time I noticed the nosering. Thank God for the big screen!
posted by lundman at 11:56 PM on August 22, 2011


I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984: "Now, what I would really like to know: at what point in life did Doc Copper decide to get a nose ring?"

Do you know how many times I watched the film before I noticed that? An embarrassing number, that's how many.

I never Googled it till now, but according to Carpenter (via Ain't It Cool News), it's because he was a Russian spy. How nose ring = Russian spy, I have no idea.
posted by brundlefly at 11:59 PM on August 22, 2011


Damn it, lundman!
posted by brundlefly at 12:00 AM on August 23, 2011



Heh sweet :)
posted by lundman at 12:05 AM on August 23, 2011


Why does everyone go blind in Jose Saramago's Blindness?

Never saw it, but I'm assuming for the same reason as CoM: 'cause otherwise there would be no movie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:17 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984. I don't know why I always had it in my mind that this film was some piece of cheese not worth my time.

Holy shit, Kurt Russel is the lead? And it is a well crafted cult classic? I just d/l'd and watched it for the first time, and loved it! I wonder how many other surprise gifts from the distant past are lurking out there?

Thanks again!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:51 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never saw it, but I'm assuming for the same reason as CoM: 'cause otherwise there would be no movie.

I didn't see it either. I read it.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:36 AM on August 25, 2011


Interesting rewatching this tonight after this whole thread.

I have to say the chess/whiskey theme theory really makes sense from a film making standpoint. Not only do the two scenes bookend the movie and the character of MacReady, there's a scene almost directly in the middle where they're locking Blair out in the shed. Mac and Blair are alone together at the end, Blair is advising him to keep on eye on Clark; Mac just stands there silent for a moment, takes a swig out of a bottle of vodka, says "Trust is a hard thing to come by these days...", and leaves the bottle for Blair.
posted by mannequito at 11:35 PM on August 25, 2011


Just re-watched the movie before watching these videos and thought it was obvious that Childs is an/the alien. The whiskey sharing then Mac's chuckle and the dur-dur music all seems pretty obvious.
posted by octothorpe at 5:47 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the Wikipedia page for the movie, there was a happy ending filmed:
In the documentary Terror Takes Shape on the DVD, film editor Todd C. Ramsay states that he made the suggestion to Carpenter to film a "happy" ending for the movie, purely for protective reasons, while they had Russell available. Carpenter agreed and shot a scene in which MacReady has been rescued and administered a blood test, proving that he is still human. Ramsay follows this by saying that The Thing had two test screenings, but Carpenter did not use the sequence in either of them, as the director felt that the film worked better with its eventual nihilistic conclusion. The alternate ending with MacReady definitively proven to be human has yet to be released.
But that doesn't say anything about Childs.
posted by octothorpe at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2011


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