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Headscratchers: The Thing (1982)
  • One thing (geddit) that bothers me about the Thing is how it seemingly defies the laws of thermodynamics. I mean, cells need nutrients and energy, which would be obtained when it would assimilate other living beings. However, to do this, it would need to dismantle the victim and use it's biomass to provide for the already assimilated cells. Logic dictates that, in the end, at half of the prey's biomass would be used to sustain the existing cells, which suffice to say it wouldn't be of much use when trying to create a copy, since at most only some appendages would be left. Who Goes There? somewhat adresses this because the Thing is more like a sophisticated Blob that may or may not be actually a highly sophisticated monocellular organism. In the 1982 and 2011 remakes, it doesn't have this excuse, and worse yet it is clear that it was in dire need of "feeding", as the dog scene illustrated. So, the only logical explanation is that The Thing is somehow shitting out biomass out of thin air...
  • Why doesn't the Thing try to communicate with the humans? It's obviously not a dumb animal operating simply on instict, since it is shown to be able to operate the alien spaceship and attempt to build some spaceship. I always thought what happened in the Norwegian camp was a huge misunderstanding that escalated into shit hitting the proverbial fan, and by the time it reached Outpost 31 it the Thing was as afraid and paranoid as the humans surrounding it. But the prequel shows that it attacked first, without provocation, so it's just doing it for the evulz?
    • A nice thing about the Thing is that we never really know its level of intelligence. It is truly alien. It might be an intelligent shape-shifter who is play-acting at being human and for whatever reason never attempts to talk to the hostile creatures called humanity, or its imitation of humanity might be only be the camouflage of a dumb animal and it has no thoughts on the level of intelligence of humans, or something in between.
    • The Thing's intelligence is seriously all over the place. Yes, it does a lot of smart things in the movies, but it also does some pretty dumb stuff than even earth predatorial animals would avoid. My personal guess is that the basic Thing isn't intelligent at all, and as it absorbs sapient beings like the aliens in the saucer and the humans, it has much more info it can use (IE how to operate the space craft) but it doesn't necessarily make it smarter. It would be akin to a person memorizing every word on a book, but not understanding the meaning of the whole thing.
    • The book seems to support that, as the Thing from it is merely an imitator who has no knowledge of what the hell it is doing. Mind you, said thing was also considerably different from the movie things, so...
    • Maybe it is just doing it for the sake of killing and maiming. Maybe it's the alien version of a serial killer, and like Hannibal Lecter it keeps slipping away from its captors to kill again.
    • How we do know sampling biomass isn't how it communicates? Maybe we just interpreted its attempts at communications as attacks.
  • How the fuck does The Thing operate? Just assimilating cells does not grant it the capacity of replicating an entire organism, since it has no way of knowing how the cells are meant to be structured. I've seen suggestions of quantum computing and specialized photo-bionics, but is it even possible to achieve such a level of cell coordination in things (hurr hurr) that seem to not rely on nervous impulses? I know there's simple organisms that show cell plasticity, but they communicate by chemicals, and there's no way something that complex is going to change from a dog into Cthulhu's vagina just by shooting chemicals.
  • If the Thing's goal is to leave Antarctica and infect the other land masses, why didn't it simply grow wings and fly to where it wanted to go?
    • If it can only imitate life forms it has already encountered then it would need to have encountered something that can fly in Earth's gravity and atmospheric conditions (and in Antarctica's cold) before it could sprout usable wings.
    • Presumably, the Things hadn't assimilated any flying species. Or, for that matter, any species that wouldn't get frozen in Antarctica, until it assimilated the dogs.
    • From the original novel:
"Man studied birds for centuries, trying to learn how to make a machine to fly like them. He never did do the trick; his final success came when he broke away entirely and tried new methods. Knowing the general idea, and knowing the detailed structure of wing and bone and nerve-tissue is something far, far different. And as for otherworld birds, perhaps, in fact very probably, the atmospheric conditions here are so vastly different that their birds couldn't fly. Perhaps, even, the being came from a planet like Mars with such a thin atmosphere that there were no birds."
  • The simplest explanation for the film is that any form of animal locomotion would have been insufficient to get it out of Antarctica before it froze again.
  • So, if they can't know who's infected, why do they keep going off alone? It's not a perfect solution, but wouldn't staying in one another's company help stave off infection without the Thing revealing itself?
    • Honestly, because it keeps the plot moving. There's no real in-universe explanation that I can think of. In fact, you could ask this same question about pretty much every horror movie made from about the late 70's to the early to mid 90's, and the answer is the same.
    • I actually don't remember anybody going out alone after they find out that they're dealing with an assimilating alien virus. Blair being an obvious exception, who decided to go off alone since he felt he couldn't trust anybody.
    • IIRC, Alan Dean Foster's novelization explained that hole. The base required a bit of maintenance to stay up in the winter, and there wasn't enough workers to allow for a buddy system.
    • Staying in one big group is actually one of the stupider things they could've done. If they're all in the same room together all the Thing has to do is grow its fingers into tentacles with sharps spikes on the end and stab them each in the chest. Bam. Now everyone's infected.
      • Assimilation isn't instant. If it did this way, they'd have time to burn themselves.
      • Not if the Thing cells are inside them.
      • Even if assimilation isn't instant, there's nothing to say they'd be able to resist. We don't even know what happened to Fuchs exactly, but Bennings is quite obviously incapacitated during assimilation.
      • That the Thing never actually did this, while having the good occasion more than once, is actually one of the best pointers against the "one cell" theory. The Thing doesn't do or even try this, so we can assume that it's not capable of it. The Thing is not a virus in the microbiological sense.
      • Uh, yeah, it pretty much is. We clearly see in Blair's computer simulation that each cell is capable of assimilating and infecting surrounding cells. Honestly it's the only possible explanation for how the Thing's physiology would work. Otherwise there would be no way for Norris' head to detach from his body, sprout legs, and scuttle away on its own.
    • The novel also explains, that they figured out from previous examples, that the Thing needs around an hour to fully assimilate someone, so they agree to meet every 20 minutes. Who does not show up, will be hunted down and killed on sight.
    • To put it simply, they didn't trust one another. Initially they did try to stick together after they found the UFO in the Norwegian camp, but that changed after they killed Thing!Bennings and realized someone else had been assimilated. Suddenly Blair goes batshit and destroys the helicopter, radio equipment and kills the rest of the dogs, Clark gets despondent, and Childs is suspicious of MacReady. They could have stayed together, it's just that everyone thought one another was infected, and they knew they couldn't let themselves be rescued when one of them could be assimilated. Note that they do eventually decide to stick together once they've confirmed who was really infected and had dealt with them.
    • Because it gives the ending more of a hook. Is one or the other assimilated? Also, the Blair-Thing got more biomass from assimilating Garry, and possibly the still-living remains of other Things joined with it as well - what tries to come out of it at the end is a mangled dog.
  • This troper has always loved this film. But one thing has always bugged me: The radios. Wouldn't there have been multiple transmitters around the compound and wouldn't there have been a strict radio contact schedule in place in case of emergencies. Even if you were able to destroy all of the radio (and in a manner where they couldn't be repaired) how do you handle the contact schedule?
    • Didn't the incoming storm prevent them from radioing out?
      • Yes it did. Windows mentions during the beginning that they can't get a signal in the snow.
    • Blair was either insane or assimilated at that point. If he was insane, he was being overly paranoid and didn't want them to be able to call anyone, who would come in and risk those people getting infected or transporting a Thing to populated areas. If he was assimilated, he didn't want the humans to be able to warn anyone on the outside about the Things.
  • So, what was The Thing planning to do? What was the point of taking over the Earth by assimilating into every living being? Is there an advantage to it being everywhere or is The Thing's goals not logically sound?
    • We don't know anything about The Thing's backstory, so really it's impossible to say what it was actually thinking the whole time, or what it was doing on Earth in the first place (did it end up on Earth by accident or pure chance, or was an invasion planned from the beginning? Was The Thing acting on its own initiative, or was it a sort of biological weapon sent by another alien species - there are many theories out there). It is likewise unclear whether the assimilation process is necessary in order for The Thing to sustain itself (ie: providing it with nutrition), a purely defensive tactic used to conceal itself and eliminate potential enemies, or simply a means of reproduction. Since the events are shown almost entirely from the perspective of the human crew, and the audience shares in their ignorance the whole time, the finer details are irrelevant for the purposes of the story - all we know is that the thing is a very real and immediate threat which must be safeguarded against at all times.
    • What's the point of a viral pandemic?
    • Viruses' whole purpose for existsance is to make new viruses. The Thing is a very virulent, very complex, even intelligent virus.
      • The Thing is not a virus. More like an a bacteria or amoeba. Each one is a highly complex cell. At the very least, they're acting like any invasive organism does when introduced to an environment with no natural predators. Essentially assimilation is a combination of feeding (eating the dead cells from the organism) and reproduction (turning the live cells into more Things). So, global assimilation would simply be a means of them doing what any other life form would do.
    • We don't know that the Things would assimilate the entire world. That's solely based on Blair's ideas. It could be that they don't like Earth and just want to get the hell off the planet...
      • That doesn't follow logically. While it's still possible the Thing's motive was something other than total assimilation the evidence points heavily in that direction. After all, if it just wanted to go home then why bother assimilating the dogs, which drew attention to it? Analysis of the movie indicates that Palmer or Norris was assimilated before the kennel scene, which would mean there was no tangible benefit to assimilating the dogs beyond a predatory instinct.
  • My one and only beef with the movie: The Norwegians could have shot the dog pretty easily if the pilot had flown his helicopter like a helicopter, and not like an airplane that can't, you know, hover.
    • Sure, pretty easy to shoot a target of that size from a machine several meters above, strugling against antarctic winds.
    • Dog was assimilated. Shooting him honestly wouldn't do anything more than either piss him off, or slow him down a little. Originally, they had a scene with Clark mending a bullet wound and mentioning how lucky it was that he survived being shot. It was cut out for pacing reasons. Presumably, they were hoping to incapacitate him so they could thrown kerosine and thermite grenades on him.
    • They weren't exactly thinking straight at that point, and the prequel shows the the actual pilot of the helicopter had no real idea why the hell Lars wanted to kill that dog so badly.
  • My brother and I were watching the movie today and we both have one major beef with one part in this movie: When you see some Norwegians in a helicopter going after a dog with guns, kerosene and grenades, wouldn't you figure that there was something wrong with this 'dog' and just end its life?
    • They probably figured the Norwegians (who had up to that point shot at a dog, blew themselves up with grenades, and shot at the Americans, accidentally or otherwise) were deranged and that they needed to be stopped before they do anymore harm.
    • The dog was behaving perfectly innocently at the time. Its first reaction, upon seeing the American crew, was to run up to them and start licking them. The Norwegians, on the other hand, seemed completely crazy and out of control. I can see why the latter would come off as the ones who had something "wrong" with them.
    • Note that the Norwegian who blew up the helicopter was actually planning on blowing up the guys standing around the dog. That is not behavior that screams "the dog is sick or something and we're trying to save you!". It screams "we're sick or something and trying to kill you!".
  • At one point Norris was left alone and in charge of three of the cast (Copper, Garry and Clark) who were tied up, doped up and helpless to resist. A few minutes later, Norris was revealed as a Thing. The rest of the movie shows that none of the three was secretly a Thing. Why didn't Norris just take advantage of the situation and inject them with some of his Thing cells (using the hypodermic that he used to give them the morphine) and turn them into Things?
    • He would have been the only non-tied-down person there at what the others would conclude was the only time in which they could have been infected. It would have exposed him.
    • The same reason that dog was alone with Clark and didn't assimilate him: The Things can probly tell who's a high-risk target. The men were already under suspicion. And Clark was the most obvious candidate for assimilation, even to the humans.
  • This is one that Spoony brought up, and it's a good one: While it's cool that Blair is building his own flying saucer in the basement, what would it have run on? Gasoline?
    • In the Campbell short story, the Thing has used its leisure time to whip up not only an anti-gravity machine but a pocket-sized atomic generator to power it.
      • Spoony is wrong and that short story is unrealistic (where did he get the nuclear material required for the generator? to say nothing about the exotic tech required to cancel gravity) fact is, they never once use the word space ship - all they say is that it's a flying machine cannibalized with parts from the helicopter. Best guess it was designed to fly him to a nearby country - nothing more nothing less. So yes, he probably could power it on gasoline.
    • I've always pictured the mini-ship as more along the lines of a high-speed sled. Just something to either get to the ocean, or outside of the range where the humans could safely travel. The humans no longer have any dogs, or a working helicopter. All they have is the snow dozer, which would be slower than walking. And they can't really walk very far in the antarctic winter. Also, they were using kerosine, not gasoline to power the generator, dozer, and copter. The back of the rocket sled looks very much as one would expect the back of a rocket sled to look: Like that's where the flames come out of. They don't need to get into space with it, or even to another country. Just far away enough that the humans can't follow, and then shift back into a dog and jump into the ocean, where they can assimilate all life on earth from.
      • That wouldn't work, the Thing is quite suceptible to getting frozen.
  • Now, I'm no expert, and I've only seen pictures of Antarctica, but are there even mountains made of visible rock there? I was under the impression the everything above sea level was nothing but solid ice, but at the start of the film there are sweeping shots of mountains. So, am I wrong, or did the filmmakers muck up?
    • There certainly are mountains in Antarctica. Indeed, one of the reasons the base existed is for geological research, so naturally it was established near exposed rock.
    • There are some parts of the movie that were necessary goof-ups, too. They couldn't fly everyone down to Antarctica and film down there, so they flew them to Alaska and filmed there. They had enough problems with filming in the cold in Alaska. Antarctica is much colder, more inhospitable, and further away. Plus, if something broke down or someone got hurt, they'd be in big trouble down there. It's routine for those stationed in Antarctica to completely lose contact with the outside world for up to a month or so at a time. Other minor goofs included the time of day. Most fans of the movie don't know enough about Antarctica to pick up on these goofs. Just the nitpickers.
  • If each individual Thing acts independently of each other, and another Thing is just as likely to kill a previous Thing as a human, then why do they bother to infect more people and turn them into Things? What does it gain from this?
    • The Things are in it for their own survival. It's similar to why villains team up: because they stand more of a chance to survive by cooperating, most of the time. If another Thing (or Thing colony) is screwing up their chances of survival, or just getting in the way, they'll kill them. Individually, each Thing cell may only be as smart as an ant. But they have the ability to form hive minds to become smarter. The general perception is that the bigger a Thing colony (body) is, the smarter they can be. Note that the Norris Head Thing acts rather stupid, compared to the other Things. It just runs out into the open. Palmer Thing, seeing a chance to make itself look more human, points out the stupid Norris Head Thing, thus ensuring his own survival for longer and lowering any suspicions the others may have about him. Really, it's one of the ways that they're not so different from humans.
  • So... Is there any hints as to who the Thing is or isn't at the end?
    • The debate ranges on. Some say yes, others say no.
    • Carpenter states that originally, Mac was supposed to survive and prove that he was human with another blood test. But that ending was too upbeat, so they scrapped it in favor of the ambiguous ending.
      • There's also the infamous alternate ending, which makes it a moot point. Dog Thing lives...
      • Here's my reasoning. If both were Things, then why would they need to have that little chat? Misison accomplished, just wait for the rescue party. If one of them was the Thing, then wouldn't it try to assimilate the other, since neither had any weapons to defend themselves with? That only leaves the "both are human" variant.'
      • Neither had weapons? Did you miss the flamethrower Childs was packing?
      • The 2002 video game sequel (which actually IS canon) reveals that Childs died and MacReady mysteriously vanished.
      • Mac actually shows up at the end of the game in a helicopter, to assist you in fighting the final boss. Also, most people who watch the movie think it should stand on its own, independent of the other media.
    • This troper thinks that at the very least, it's exceedingly unlikely that Mac is a Thing, since only a few minutes at most could have passed between him blowing up Blair-Thing and reuniting with Childs, especially since the last thing we saw him do was run away from Blair-Thing.
  • When MacReady goes to check on Blair, there is a noose hanging in the shack. Yet Blair tells MacReady that he's fine and wants to return back and he's also infected by the alien. So what the hell?
    • This was roleplaying by Blair thing, in the original script Blair says that he will hang himself before the monster breaks in to absorb him.
  • In the "blood test" scene how the hell did the Thing!blood scream when stabbed with a needle?
    • The scene was generated with a monster puppet(which you can see if you look really closely). Presumably, upon being burned, the blood briefly took on a more animal shape in order to escape.
      • Yes, but even so it didn't look more complex than an amoeba. Did it even have anything to scream with?
    • It could have been vibrating. It looked to me like some sort of cup or bladder, which could have affected a plain hum and turned it into something resembling an unearthly shriek.
  • Up until MacReady tested his own blood with the hot wire, it seemed like everyone was treated him as practically above suspicion for being infected, as though the suspicion that he was insane (and human) overpowered the suspicion that he was an alien. What little I saw of "generic suspicion that could be alien-suspicion" was pretty subtle, if it even was there. This is especially highlighted when nobody challenges his statement that he knows he's not a Thing (because obviously, that's exactly what an infectee would say). Did I miss something completely obvious?
    • Er, did you miss the bit where Nauls abandons him in a storm after finding a tattered jacket with Mac Ready's name on it? Which then causes everyone else to think he's been infected and lock him outside? The only reason they let him back inside and start going along with what he's saying is because he's got a flare in one hand and dynamite in the other and is threatening to blow up the whole base if they don't.
  • What's the practical applications of flamethrowers in the Antarctic? Do they use them to melt paths or thaw machinery or something?
    • Pretty much. Mostly thawing machinery and pipes out.
  • How did they obtain the blood from Palmer without getting a reaction from the Thing?
    • Because the intelligence of the thing depends on its size: Palmer-Thing was clever enough not to react, the blood-thing wasn't.
  • Could the Thing have come up with a way to withstand fire? There are plenty of single-celled organisms that are able to survive the harshest environments, including volcanoes. If the thing were to assimilate those organisms, would it have been able to tolerate the heat?
    • I don't think so. The thing is a imitator of function and looks mainly, it copies biological structures but it's flesh remains "Thing". Let's say an alien creature developed skin that would allow it to survive inside a volcane. The Thing imitating it would have skin that looks exactly like that creature, but ultimately the skin would be composed of the same Thing-flesh that is vulnerable to heat.
  • What happens if the thing were to assimilate a flamingo? The flamingo gets its pink color by eating algae and crustaceans containing carotenoids that break down into pink and orange pigments that are distributed across its body. Would the Thing-flamingo also assimilate those pigments and become pink itself? Additionally, the second movie pointed out that the Thing is incapable of absorbing non-organic matter (such as metal tooth fillings), but there is an animal called an Crysomallon squamiferum whose shell is covered in an additional layer of iron sulfides greigite and pyrite, which no animal in nature has been known to use. It's "foot" is also covered in iron-mineral scales to provide further protection against predators. Basically its a snail covered in metal. So if the thing were to absorb that would it expell the iron and spit out a regular non-iron covered Crysomallon squamiferum, or would the complete integration of metal and flesh confuse the Thing so much that it wouldn't be able to make anything at all? Remember the victim's fillings were put in with surgery at some point in his life, so they're not a part of the individual, but the snail developed the armor naturally by absorbing it from the sulfide and metal rich waters near the hypothermal vents deep beneath the ocean.
  • Near the end, before Nauls wonders off to his death, why didn't he say anything to Mac Ready first?
  • Why did the Thing turn into a giant monster near the end when it could have more easily ran up to Mac Ready and do the thing he did to Garry?
    • While there was nothing official, theories posted in some fanfics range from the monster form was the Thing attempting different ways of communication and approachs (digusiing myself didn't work, I'll try being horrifying) to a distraction while one of the Things escape ("I'll make what they expect: a monster for them to fight. It will buy me time to bury myself in the snow").
  • Quick hypothetical; Can the Thing assimilate Viruses and Cellular Material outside the Cell? We know it assimilates Cellular material, but we've never seen it absorb more basic life then even a cell. If it can assimilate Viruses and Cellular Material, how does that work? And if it can't, can a virus kill The Thing?
There Will Be BloodHeadscratchers/FilmThe Thing (2011)

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