The Thing (1982) (John Carpenter's)

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The Thing (1982) (John Carpenter's)

Post  BoG on Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:11 pm



THE THING (1982) starring KURT RUSSELL
WILFORD BRIMLEY * KEITH DAVID * DONALD MOFFAT * RICHARD DYSART
TK CARTER * RICHARD MASUR * DAVID CLENNON * CHARLES HALLAHAN * THOMAS WAITES

I once had a long debate with someone about some films, from the fifties-sixties-seventies, and some of his arguments revolved around context - the context of the times in which the films were made/released. This may never apply better than to a discussion about the two versions of The Thing. The first one (1951), from Howard Hawks, was during the McCarthy era; Communism was the primary danger; focus was on teamwork, the power of well-organized democracy to counter the danger, and how we can rely on a stable American military/government to solve the problems. Potentially radical elements such as appeasers, say someone who theorizes peaceful gestures, were unreliable. Organization is the key to success here - Ken Tobey, as the main military man, manages a team to effect that success eventually.
I didn't like the old Thing film version when I was younger and grew to appreciate it only as I got to a certain age - perhaps I became conservative enough? Perhaps my original dislike also had to do with how much this old version veered from the original story concepts (I did read the story very long ago). The film still isn't in my top 10 of fifties Sci-Fi but I understand how it laid the groundwork for many of the films to follow. Now we get to the 2nd version from John Carpenter in '82. Where are we? Post-Vietnam; post-Watergate. Things (no pun there) appear a little less organized - not quite anarchy, of course, but there are undercurrents of distrust; fatalism; despair, even. Maybe even a bit of nihilism. OK, here we go...
When Kurt Russell's character pours his drink into the computer near the beginning, fizzling its circuits, it sent a message to me: here's a  guy who is fed up with a lot, who may even be near the end of his rope, is unpredictable, quick to anger and may even be capable of ruthless acts (this foreshadows the scene where he's truly tested and shows that he does not bluff). No more computer chess for this guy; the universe sends him a  real foe to vanquish. Russell was just off of Carpenter's Escape From New York and looks even more grizzled here, a wild man stuck in wild country, confronted by a wild alien.
I'm not going to say that his character and the others are likable - that much is true; a couple of them, including Russell, come close to being guys we can relate to, but mostly they are like the cold weather surrounding them - not very approachable. This is actually a common element in Carpenter's films - his characters are usually not warm, comfy human beings. But, I  don't think it works against the film in this case. See, the threat of this Thing is against the rest of the world, not so much this group of guys. The focus becomes: how do we keep this Thing from invading the rest of the world; not, how do we survive so the audience can cheer us at the end. Russell even states out-loud near the end, to make sure we get it, that the remaining survivors are not meant to survive to the very end; he and they are all expendable (fatalism, remember?), to make sure that the rest of the Earth doesn't get victimized.
This real possibility of the entire Earth getting hit is also spelled out. In one scene, Brimley's character does some computer projections and it shows him (and us) that Earth would be fully infected by the Thing in about 26,000 hours (3 years - these scenes always guarantee a chilling effect on me, like in all those Satan Bug-type of virus threats). It's a cold equation at play here - the lives of a dozen people vs. about 5 billion (this was back in '82). I'm not alone in admiring this film and admiring it a lot - it's currently at #162 of the top films of all time list or TOP 250 at IMDb. My only quibble is what I perceive as a weakness in some of the plotting, as if an extra few days weren't taken to tighten the script (another commonality in Carpenter's films). There's one scene a bit past the midpoint, for example; there have already been several victims of the Thing; the remaining men know what they face. Rather than band together or take steps to prevent further deaths, we are shown a scene of all the men separated, as if it's just another day in Antarctica, and one guy (Fuchs is the character) goes off alone to no good end. This was easily avoidable. But then again, this wasn't '51 and teamwork just wasn't  a strong point for us anymore. BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10
Thing Trivia: based on John W. Campbell Jr.'s famous novella, Who Goes There? (1938). There were sequels to this film in comic book format; one of the better ones were published by Dark Horse in 1992. It followed the character of MacReady (Russell - who does not really survive the film, as I see it) as he continues to tangle with the Thing monstrosity outside of Antarctica. Of course, this corrupts what I see as the creepiest factor of the Thing film - that if the Thing manages to make it off Antarctica, the rest of the world is toast; it's not really even a question. By the way, the Thing was building himself a little spacecraft in the film; I believe this was to take it to other parts of Earth, not off-planet. Nevertheless, there are many fans who would love to see a sequel to this. I ran across a fan-written synopsis of a sequel on IMDb about a year ago; it took place about 30 years later, still with MacReady, and covered about the first 20 minutes of a proposed film sequel. The funny thing is, Kurt Russell is still around, still active in film and could conceivably do it if they placed it in production within the next couple of years. And the '82 version was 31 years after the first one. However, all they managed was a prequel of sorts for a 2011 version of The Thing, without Russell or any of the characters in the '82 version. THING scenes:


Last edited by BoG on Sat Apr 04, 2015 10:07 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Behind the Scenes of the Thing

Post  BoG on Sun Nov 23, 2014 4:24 am





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