Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Disagree: John Carpenter's The Thing

Forget the new "remake/prequel" that's out right now, because there's no reason for it.  John Carpenter's original is a masterpiece and still as intense and potent as ever.  Recently I learned that my wife had never seen the film, so we rectified that as soon as it was possible.  She might leave a comment and mention what she thought of it.

I unequivocally love The Thing, and will defend it vehemently against wrong-headed statements against it... as such, instead of a review about how much I love it, I present a special "Graig and His Wife's Cousin Disagree", in which I argue with my wife's cousin about the film and it's ending (*this took place before I rewatched it recently:

from RL
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 7:59 AM
subject John carpenters THe Thing

Watched it last night....great movie....with quite possibly one of the worst endings ever to a movie? Is there a worse "wrap it up" ending to a movie? What a larry letdown to a great film that had me pretty hooked.

One of Kurt Russell's better films.

from Graig 
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 9:51 AM 
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing 

What do you mean "worse ending"? What was wrong with the ending? 
I'm sometimes blind to the flaws in things (no pun intended) I love, and I love The Thing, but the ending I thought was very poetic, with Kurt and Keith sacrificing themselves to absolutely ensure that the virus/alien/whatever thingie doesn't get back to civilization.So, with specifics, what did you not like about the ending? 

And worse endings? How about the last 30 minutes of nearly every Spielberg film from the past 15 years (AI, Minority Report, War of the Worlds), or the last acts of Mission to Mars, Event Horizon, Sphere... 

from RL
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 10:40 AM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

Again, great film, I couldn't sleep last night so I turned it on at 1 and watched it all the way through.

Kurt Russell walking out into the snow, not sure where the black guy is...black guy shows up, makes up some bullshit excuse for leaving his post, we're not sure if he's been infected or not, and they just sit down and start drinking...fade to black...what!?!?!? That looks like I just wrote the screenplay and finished it because I had to run to the bathroom to take a dump.

There is no way Kurt doesn't smoke that guy, or at least is a little more inquisitive about it after everyone else is dead and he just blew up the entire base.
- "where did you go!?"
- " I left my post, after I was instructed to stay on guard, because I saw the Quaker Oates man"
- "ah, ok...here is my J&B"

from Graig
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 11:26 AM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

Well, you see, you're just a racist :P
What makes you think Keith David wasn't off starring in a whole other (non-existent-because-black-men-who-weren't-Eddie-Murphy-didn't-get-their-own-films-in-the-early-80's) movie fighting his own battle against mutating alien creature things, then at the end of his movie he's walking towards the torched base station to find Kurt Russel just sitting there. Either man could kill the other, but neither is sure, and both are far too exhausted to push it any further.

Or, even just look at it this way, if either one of them was a mutated alien Thing, they realize at this point that there's no future for either of them, no survival anyway. Both men and/or Things are eventually going to freeze. If they're human, they'll die. If they're a thing they'll hibernate until they're found again, if they ever are.

It's what they call the "ambiguous ending", it's designed to make you think a little more about what's going on, rather than spelling it all out for you, which I imagine at 3am the last thing you want to do is think about it more.

from Graig
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 12:09 PM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

Heh, speaking of, the AV Club has a column on "Favourite Unhappy Ending" which includes....

from RL
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

I don't need John carpenter of all people to make me think, horror movies aren't usually stumpers. Cheap ending to a good movie that probably went over it's 2 million dollar budget in 1980something. Studio probably said to him back then "whoa john, youre already pushing 1.5 hrs". When you've killed everything else living, you don't get too tired to off one more person. Does John McLain get too tired to kill hans? Does maverick get too tired to be a wingman? Rubbish

Can't check the link, but I wouldn't even consider it unhappy. Old yeller is unhappy. Two guys inevitably freezing to death because they are stranded outside in -60 weather in Antarctica after they blew their shelter up? #nottoobright

from RL
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 12:36 PM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

Speaking of racist, I did enjoy kurt's undertone of grouping the Swede's and norwegians together

from Graig
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:24 PM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

So ignoring the fact that MacReady didn't kill "people" but "Things" impersonating people, and how he was tired, wary and unsure whether Childs was, in fact, a "Thing"... what *should* have been the ending, the ending that would have satisfied you?
(an honest question, I want to know what kind of ending would have given you closure)

A trip to IMDB yielded the below about alternate endings, which should tell you that the ending was intended and not just last minute (if the studio didn't want to spend more money they wouldn't have made him shoot extra scenes)

Is there an alternate ending?

Yes, two alternate endings were shot, although only one has been seen. The first is a shot of the camp the next day, burned to the ground with billows of smoke rising into the air. In the distance we see a dog running away from the camp. The dog stops and turns, looks at the camp, then continues to run again. The second ending is mentioned on the DVD but has never been used. It showed MacReady in an office with evidence that he has just taken and passed a blood test. This sequence was shot for safety because of the downbeat ending, but was never shown to audiences, not even in test screenings.

There is also a lengthy "Who was infected at the end" analysis on IMDB which is as inconclusive as the movie intended it to be, but may provide some closure for you?

Also, to back-up that Carpenter is generally very thoughtful about the endings to his films (or was, at least), see the attached which runs through analysis of many of Carpenter's films' endings:

from RL
date Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM
subject Re: John carpenters THe Thing

My problem wasn't the way it ended being left open, it was the fact the "coloured" guy showing up as though he went to go buy some smokes from the store and came back for a drink with Kurt, and he accepted it. Maybe I am a racist and don't trust black people, but that wouldn't sit right with me ;)


At this point I was getting a little to heated for a friendly conversation, and pulled myself out of it.  I went home, watched the film again and soaked in the ending, this conversation, flat out, explaining the situation:

Childs: Temperature's up all over the camp. Won't last long though.
MacReady: Neither will we.
Childs: How will we make it?
MacReady: Maybe we shouldn't.
Childs: If you're worried about me...
MacReady: If we've got any surprises for each other, I don't think either one of us is in much shape to do anything about it.

Not all that ambiguous.  Plus, Mac just survived a big TNT explosion, while Childs is still sporting the flamethrower, so despite my wife's cousin's protestation that Mac should have offed Childs, he so totally didn't have the upper hand to do so.  Plus, how do we know that Mac isn't infected or a replicant.... dun dun dunnnn.