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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle-dot-com

The Thing (Prequel)
Written by Eric Heisserer
Directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen
Released in 2011

An international team at a Norwegian Antarctic research base dig up from the ice a frozen creature from outer space.


Didja Know?


The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 movie of the same name. 


Didja Notice?


The Universal logo at the beginning of the film is not the one normally used by Universal since 1997. The one seen here is a somewhat updated version of the classic logo used on the 1982 John Carpenter film.


As in John Carpenter's 1982 film, this one's opening tells the viewer it takes place in Antarctica, Winter 1982. Antarctica is the icy continent at the South Pole. If it were really winter there as the story is taking place (June 21-September 21 on the continent), there would be no significant sunlight as the continent is essentially dark for the 6 months of autumn and winter.


The Norwegians are driving a Thiokol Spryte snowcat. The model ceased production in the early 1990s but are still in wide use.


At 1:41 on the DVD, Olav appears to be using a Cushman Model 301 Communications Monitor to track the signal coming from the buried spaceship. 


At 3:52 on the DVD, notice that Olav's glasses are resting on the inside glass of the snowcat's windshield as it hangs facedown in the ice trench.


At 4:14 on the DVD, the crew of the suspended snowcat begins to get a glimpse of the spaceship at the bottom of the ice trench. I've brightened the screenshot below to show more detail.

At 4:46 on the DVD, the computer screen shows that Kate is studying a specimen of Ursus spelaeus. This is a cave bear, a species which lived about 27,500 years ago, just as shown on the screen. As the camera pulls back at 5:01, we see the frozen remains of the creature.


The computer screen mentioned above suggests that Kate works at Columbia University in New York.


The monitor Kate is using on her lab computer is made by Sony.


The shot of the frozen cave bear carcass at about 4:56 is probably intended to trick the viewer who is familiar with the 1982 film into briefly believing they are seeing a Thing carcass.


The song heard playing on Kate's earphones at about 4:57 on the DVD is "Who Can It Be Now?" (1981) by Men at Work. She hums along with the song while she adjusts the view of the cable camera that is penetrating the interior of the cave bear carcass.


At 5:31 on the DVD, the sign on the door in the background shows that Kate is using Paleontology Lab B-206 at the university. Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life.


At 5:45 on the DVD, other paleontological specimens (mostly animal skulls) can be seen on the shelves in the lab behind Dr. Halvorson. In fact, throughout the scene in the lab, we see various silhouettes of animal shapes, such as a turtle, a carnosaur skull, and a plesiosaur.


Dr. Halvorson remarks in Kate's lab that she specializes in vertebrate paleontology.


Dr. Halvorson remarks that a colleague of his from Oslo has made a remarkable discovery in Antarctica. Oslo is the capital city of Norway.


At 8:00 on the DVD, there is a dashboard figure (possibly a hula dancer) in the cockpit of the helicopter.


During the copter ride to the Norwegian station, Carter asks Kate if she knows how the Cavaliers are doing. This is a reference to the NBA basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers. The dialog between Carter and Jameson suggests that the Cavaliers were not doing well, which was true; the team had a horrible 15-67 win-loss ratio in the 1981-82 season.


Carter and Griggs warn Kate that a nasty storm is moving in in two days. This sets up the outpost being unable to communicate with the outside world after digging the Thing out of the ice.


Jameson calls in to the Norwegian base from the copter with the call sign H-3 Sea King. This is probably meant to imply that the copter is a Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopter, which were in service from 1961-2006. The one seen here though does not seem to have the standard H-3 silhouette, but is probably a Sea King model of some other type. 


The Norwegian outpost is called Thule Station and an English language sign proclaiming so is posted outside. "Thule" is a word from classical European mythology that refers to a land far in the north. Many modern historians believe it was a reference to Norway, the northern most portion of Scandinavia, though it may have also referenced certain islands in the northern seas.


At 10:40 on the DVD, we see the Norwegian flag and another flag that seems to be related to an Oslo academy (see the note a few items below about the logo on the doors of the Sprytes) flying on the pole at Thule Station.


Thule Station appears to have at least 4 snowcats on site. We see Kate and the others loaded onto a large one (three passenger windows visible) after they get off the helicopter, while a second, smaller one (with 2 passenger windows) and two more with just 1 passenger window are seen later. (The screen shot below is from later in the movie after all personnel have returned to Thule Station.) Later scenes in the movie, where groups of people are in different places in the exterior of the outpost at the same time seem to indicate even more snowcats than that. Later still, the Juliette-Thing tells Kate she knows where they keep the keys for the five vehicles; is she/it referring to five snowcats or also including the helicopter?



When the large Spryte arrives at the cave site, 2 smaller, one-windowed Sprytes are already parked there. Also the one that fell into the ice trench earlier was of the 2-window variety; was it left stuck there or were the Norwegians able to tow it out somehow?


As mentioned above, two small 1-windowed Sprytes are already parked at the cave site when the large Spryte arrives. But when the camera switches to show Kate inside the vehicle as they arrive (11:03 on the DVD), the view out the window shows them driving past a parked 2-windowed Spryte!


At 11:08 on the DVD, a pole appears to be sticking up on the hill above the cave entrance. Possibly the Norwegians planted an antenna to facilitate communications between the cave site and Thule Station.


The doors on the Sprytes have the logo of Oslo Norsk Geo-(something) Academy.


A nice view across the top of the spaceship is seen at 13:06 on the DVD.


After viewing the spaceship, Kate and the others are driven to the nearby location where the Thing's body is frozen beneath the ice. But the Spryte they arrive in is now one with two passenger windows! Notice when they all return to Thule Station at 14:42 on the DVD, only the 3-winodowed and two 1-windowed Sprytes drive up; the 2-windowed one is still parked where we last saw it when the helicopter first arrived.


The form of the Thing in the ice seems to have similar spines as the one in the ice shown on the cover of the novelization of the 1982 film.
Frozen Thing Cover of 1982 The Thing novelization


A fuller view of the Thing in ice is given at 14:11 on the DVD.


Several photographs are seen on the wall at 14:46 on the DVD. The upper middle photo may be of the slats on the top of the spaceship (which open up when the ship is powered up late in the film). The left-most photos may be of the Thing in the ice.


At 14:52 on the DVD, two maps of Antarctica are hanging on the wall in the background.


It seems that there is only one snow dog at Thule Station (a husky and malamute mix as revealed in the novelization of the 1982 film). Why? What possible use is a single dog? In the 1982 film, Outpost 31 has six dogs for sled pulling as needed.


At 16:19 on the DVD, one of the station personnel (it's dark, so it's hard to see who it is) appears to have the Union Flag of the United Kingdom hanging next to his bunk.


At 17:20 on the DVD, we see that there is a signpost outside Thule Station pointing and stating the distance to various points around the world. It's too far away from the camera to read, but the Bonus Materials on the DVD give us a closer look. The signs all indicate real places in the world. Notice the top sign points to Nordpolen (North Pole) in four directions, all equidistant, since the station is almost at the exact opposite location (the South Pole) as it is.


The song the Norwegians sing in the rec room is a Norwegian song that was entered in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980, which director Heijningen heard one of the actors performing off set and decided to include in the film. The song is "Sámiid Ædnan" ("Lapland") by Sverre Kjelsberg and Mattis Hætta. Lapland is a region covering parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia that was demanding autonomy in the late 1970s and the song is about a hunger strike by its citizens during this time.


At 22:08 on the DVD, we see that Carter has an earring in his left ear. This sets up Kate's observation about it at the end of the film.


I have not been able to identify the brand of beer being drank in the rec room; we never get a close, steady shot of a bottle. Presumably it is a Norwegian brand.


At 22:45 on the DVD, as Griggs goes out to the copter to get some of "the good stuff", we hear the dog barking and howling in the background. This is presumably an indication that the dog somehow senses the awakening Thing in the ice block. At 23:18, we see the dog scratching at the bottom of the kennel door and trying to chew through the wires, just as one of the dogs does in the 1982 film. But how is it that the animal is able to sense the Thing's impending emergence while it's still frozen in the ice? Is the scent of the creature sublimating through the melting ice?


At 22:55 on the DVD, Griggs picks up a magazine that has an advertisement on the back proclaiming, "Carlton is lowest." The ad is for Carlton cigarettes and the slogan refers to the brand having less tar than other brands.


At 23:31 on the DVD, when Jameson opens the door to check on the frozen creature in the ice, we see that the door is labeled "STUVE ROM". "Rom" is Norwegian for "room" and I wasn't able to find the translation of "stuve", but most likely the sign is meant to read "Storage Room".


At 17:39 we see a sled-like contraption leaning up against the wall (on screen-left) in the storage room where the ice block is stored and another one at 24:34 is seen up in the rafters. These must be the two sleds we see cluttering the floor of the room in the 1982 film after the station has been mostly gutted by fire.


The windows of the storage room appear to be slightly farther apart from each other than in the 1982 film.


From the clouded, quick, and scorched glimpses we get of the Thing in the form it has in the ice and after it emerges, it appears to have somewhat of a dark, crab-like body and legs. Most likely this is not its true form, if it even has one.


At 25:12 on the DVD, an Antarctica map is hanging on the hallway wall. 


At 31:25 on the DVD, a version of the Norwegian coat of arms is seen hanging in the mess hall.  


The chalk boards in the mess room have Norwegian writing on them, presumably describing the food items of the last meal. The only words I've been able to read clearly and translate are marinert sild (marinated herring).


When Kate finds the titanium plate from Henrik's arm inside the Thing corpse, Karl confirms that Henrik broke his arm last year and had to go to Argentina to have it set. Argentina and Chile are the two closest countries to Antarctica, reaching the southern tip of the South American continent.


Notice that when Kate and Adam look at Henrik's cells, whenever we are given the microscopic view of the cells, we also hear squishy, watery sounds as the cells are seen moving around. A typical Hollywood trope of inventing sounds that don't exist, and that the audience couldn't possibly hear if they did, to add a sense of mood.


Carter wears a cap with a patch on it, but it's too blurry to read.


At 43:58 on the DVD, a sign on a door says "toalett". This is Norwegian for "toilet".


At 53:47, Kate and Lars disable the vehicles to prevent the Thing from escaping. But then, near the end of the film, both the Halvorson-Thing and Kate & Carter seemingly manage to repair two of them pretty quickly and easily, so what was the point?


At 54:37 on the DVD, Lars shows Kate the case full of grenades, which becomes important later in the film and in the 1982 film. It's hard to imagine though, exactly what was the use of grenades at an Antarctic research station?


The black and white photo on the wall of the mess hall at 1:00:14 on the DVD is of Olav V, king of Norway from 1957-1991. He was a very popular ruler and known as the "People's King".


At 1:01:41 on the DVD, we see the words "vaffel kake" on the chalk board in the mess hall. This is Norwegian for "waffle cake".


At 1:02:30 on the DVD, we see a Norwegian flag hanging in the mess hall.


One of the Things sabotages the blood test, just as one will later at Outpost 31 in the 1982 film.


As the station personnel gather in the rec room at 1:09:58 on the DVD, we see that there is a small Christmas tree with lights on it (plus the other Christmas lights strung around the bar seen earlier). This tends to suggest that the story takes place sometime around Christmas. That conflicts with the film's opening text that it is Winter, 1982, since Winter in Antarctica is June-September. Possibly the text refers to the Winter of the northern hemisphere since the film's country of origin is the United States, where Winter occurs in the months of December-March; this would also explain why there is still daylight seen in the Antarctic in both this and the 1982 film.


At 1:10:05 on the DVD, we see a box on the wall of the rec room that says "Post Norge". This is for deposit of postal items to be sent to addresses outside of the station, essentially meaning "Norway Post (Office)". 


At 1:10:43 and 1:13:03 on the DVD, several books are seen on the shelf behind Jonas as he is attacked by the Thing arm:
  Die Mittelstufe, Third Edition (I've been unable to translate this title. It may be German rather than the expected Norwegian.)    
  Snow Gods by Frederic Morton (Frederic Morton is an American essayist and novelist.)    
  Schottlandreise by H.V. Morton ("Schottlandreise" is German for "Scotland". H.V. Morton was a travel writer.)    
  Hvem Hvad Hvor (all three volumes of this are on the shelf; Hvem Hvad Hvor [Who What Where] is a Danish series of handbooks about yearly events in Denmark and the rest of the world).    
  The Power of Empathy (this is a book by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli Ed.D, Ph.D and Katherine Ketcham; however, this book wasn't published until 2000, so couldn't have been part of Thule Station's library in 1982! It may have been placed by the set dressers as an ironic statement of Kate's mercy in granting a fiery death to Jonas in the wake of the Thing absorption he was currently undergoing.)    
  40 Woorden in de Woestijn by (Bernard H.) Rootmensen    


At 1:11:06 on the DVD, there is some kind of a device (probably audio) in the rec room, behind Adam, made by Tandberg. Tandberg is a Norwegian manufacturer of audio and video entertainment systems (now owned by Cisco).


At 1:11:24 on the DVD, we see there are a bunch of mini Norwegian flags strung up above the bar of the rec room.


As Kate and Carter stalk down the hallway at 1:14:52 on the DVD, there is blood stained on the wall. But when did this stain get there? Who or what was injured/killed there?


At 1:16:12 on the DVD, Carter buries an ax into the wall in an attempt to stop the Thing arm that is crawling along it. The ax is later seen still embedded in the wall in the 1982 film. 


At 1:20:55 on the DVD, the two-headed Thing is left dead and burning and will be seen again in the 1982 film. The sculpture of the deformed creature is generally the same as the one in the 1982 film but looks quite different in the details; this can be excused due to the fact that this film needed to use the likenesses of the real actors who played the characters who became the fused creature, although the original, 1982 version appears to be more like a single person stretched apart in the process of transformation than the fusing of two individuals as depicted in this film.
From The Thing 1982 From The Thing 2011


The kerosene cans that are scattered near the burned corpse in the 1982 film are missing here. This film depicts it being burned simply with a flamethrower, with no extra fuel having been dumped on it.


The open hatch of the spaceship looks fairly different from the one in the 1982 film.
From The Thing 1982 From The Thing 2011


Here, we see the activated engines of the saucer melt the ice above it. But in the 1982 film, the crew of U.S. Outpost 31 bring a videotape back from the Norwegian station that appears to show the scientists using thermite charges to melt away the ice and uncover it.


At 1:27:18 on the DVD, we can see that the grenade held by Kate has a label including the initials TH on it, which may stand for thermite, a metallic powder that can generate an extremely hot burst of heat when combined with a catalyst. The label design is not the same as seen on the grenades used by Lars in the 1982 film.


The shot of the Thing revealing itself behind Kate at 1:27:30 on the DVD is reminiscent of the aliens coming to life from within the resin-coated walls of the base on Acheron in the 1986 film Aliens


Seemingly having destroyed the Thing, Carter tells Kate there is a Russian station about 50 miles from them. We do not hear of this outpost in any of the other Thing stories. And, since we soon learn that Carter is a Thing at this point, is his statement accurate? In the novelization of The Thing, Fuchs mentions that the Norwegian station (Thule) is about 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) from U.S. Outpost 31.


At 1:31:57 on the DVD, if you look closely, you can see that Carter no longer has the earring in his left ear, tipping us off that he is a Thing a little bit before Kate notices it at 1:32:13.


When Kate confronts the Carter-Thing, it seems that it doesn't have access to all of his memories because he puts his hand to the wrong ear (his right instead of his left) when she tells him she knew he was still human back at Thule Station because of his earring (which is now missing).


The shot of Colin, who has committed suicide by slashing his wrist and throat is a bit different than the shot of the suicide man seen in the 1982 film. He is slouched farther down in his chair here and the radio equipment is not as badly damaged. It almost seems as if the 1982 film wanted to give the impression that someone had deliberately sabotaged the equipment (as occurs at Outpost 31); that scenario does not occur in this prequel. The face is different, of course, too, but they needed to match the current actor, so that's understandable.


Given that Thule Station is said to be about 80 kilometers from U.S. Outpost 31 in the novelization of The Thing, it doesn't seem realistic that Lars and the helicopter pilot took so long to track down the dog, seemingly catching up to it only as it is nearing the U.S. outpost, having flown after it almost immediately after it flees Thule.


During the closing credits, we see the dog suddenly emerge from the wreckage of the station and bolt into the snowfields. This is slightly off from the statement in "The Things" that the main portion of the Thing's soul hid inside the Norwegian dog and fled while the human forms it imitated fought off the attack at the Norwegian camp. 


Lars' clothing and radio headset are slightly different than seen in the 1982 film. Also, the helicopter pilot has a different-colored headset and different goggles.
From The Thing 1982 From The Thing 2011


The closing credits name the helicopter pilot at the end of the film as Matias. The novelization of The Thing tells us his name was Jan Bolen. 


Notes from the Director's Commentary on the DVD, with director Matthijs Heijningen and producer Eric Newman


It is stated that they thought it was too unbelievable that the Norwegians would use a bunch of thermite to uncover the spaceship in the ice as implied in the 1982 film, hence the scene of the ship's engines melting the ice above it.


An early script featured a main character that was MacReady's brother as a helicopter pilot to the Norwegian station! There had been an idea to use digital effects to show a younger Kurt Russell as the original MacReady in a flashback to introduce the brother character.


The spaceship depicted in this film is slightly modified from that seen in the 1982 film.


It is confirmed there is only one dog at Thule Station.


The production was not able to account for all the holes in the station walls seen in the 1982 film by the end of this film; there were just too many to track.


Dr. Halvorson is loosely based on the obsessed, hubris-driven scientist seen in the 1951 film The Thing from Another World.


The filmmakers did not consider the spaceship to be the Thing's ship. A back-story in early drafts of the script described the Norwegians boarding the craft early in the film and discovering dead alien bodies and evidence that the ship was a zoology lab in space that had brought the Thing aboard (perhaps unknowingly) and it had escaped and attacked the crew, causing the crash. (Peter Watts' story "The Things" has a different explanation.)


The filmmakers assumed the Thing had no true form of its own, only assuming the forms of other life forms it had encountered.


The filmmakers assumed the Thing intentionally froze itself in the ice, waiting to be revived at some time in the future by other life forms.


At about 26:20 on the DVD, the portion of the Thule Station seen on the left of the screen is what is later seen still standing in the 1982 film.


In the first appearance of the Thing (after it has escaped the ice block), it has already absorbed the dog.


Heijningen says that, in his mind, the fillings found on the bathroom floor by Kate were Juliette's.


The radio communications problems being suffered by Thule Station tie in to dialog in the 1982 film, where Windows says he hasn't been able to raise anyone for two weeks. (In fact, Windows even goes on to remark, "I doubt if anybody's talked
to anybody on this entire continent...")


At around 44:37 on the DVD, Olaf speaks Danish to Trond and Trond speaks Norwegian to him. Norwegians and Dutch often speak to each other this way in the real world and are perfectly understood among themselves.


The filmmakers wanted to be able to see the actors' breaths to indicate cold, but in reality your breath would not be visible in Antarctica because there's no moisture in the air there.


Juliette's shocked expression as she Things-out is meant to suggest that she did not know she was a Thing. This conforms to the depiction of the Thing in "The Things" and in comments made by the cast and crew of the 1982 film.


Heijningen states he checked into the use of flamethrowers in Antarctica and found that they are not allowed, let alone used, on the continent.


The shots of the dog/helicopter chase during the end credits at 1:37:47 and 1:37:58 are from the 1982 film.


Notes from the Deleted Scenes


In the deleted scenes in the Extras of the DVD, there is a scene in which the crew of Thule Station attempts to contact Outpost 31 (the U.S. outpost in the 1982 film) when they can't get through to McMurdo. McMurdo Station is a real world U.S. research station on Ross Island in the McMurdo Sound of Antarctica. It was founded in 1956 and is the largest community on the continent.


In another deleted scene, Colin is seen to be the one who committed suicide in the communications room by slashing his own wrist and throat when he realized he was trapped by flames on one side and the Thing was about to enter on the other.


A more complete version of the helicopter arrival and dog chase from the end credits is seen. It shows Lars grabbing the box of grenades from one of the storage rooms and tossing it into the helicopter.


Notes from the U Control bonus feature on the DVD


The producers decided on a female lead character because they liked the idea of a woman acting as the voice of reason among a group of men. Also, they wanted to avoid unfavorable comparisons to MacReady in the 1982 film.


Unanswered Questions (and answers!)


In the 1982 film, Fuchs says there appeared to be ten people stationed at the Norwegian camp. In this film, we actually have 15, but 3 of them can be considered guests that would probably not show up on the normal station roster (Kate, Adam, and Halvorson.) That still leaves 12! (Carter, Jameson, Griggs, Edvard, Juliette, Lars, Olav, Peder, Jonas, Henrik, Karl, and Colin.) [I posted a link to this page on the Facebook page of The Thing Prequel and got a nice note back from the owner of the page, who pointed out that Carter, Jameson, and Griggs should also be considered guests of Thule Station and Matias (the helicopter pilot at the end) should be considered a regular crewmember, as suggested in one of the deleted scenes from the film.]


Why doesn't the Thing just imitate a flying creature in order to escape Antarctica for warmer (and more populated) climes? The original short story, "Who Goes There?", speculates that the creature may not have previously visited worlds which had a sufficient atmosphere to have flying life forms it could imitate. Peter Watts' short story "The Things" (if we were to take it as part of continuity) suggests the creature has visited a thousand worlds, in which case it seems unlikely it never encountered a flying life form it assimilated and could make use of now.


Why do the ship's engines power down after we see Kate blow up the Thing with her grenade? Did the engines need constant supervision to remain running? Did Kate and Carter "somehow" figure out how to turn them off?


What happens to Kate? Does she take the snowcat to the Russian station mentioned by Carter near the end of the film? Was that Russian station even real?


Why did the Norwegian helicopter pilot seen during the closing credit scenes fly to Thule station in the first place? I suppose McMurdo (or some other station) may have been expecting the return of the Americans by then and, when they didn't arrive and communication with Thule could not be acquired, sent someone to investigate. (The owner of the Facebook page of The Thing Prequel points out that a deleted scene from the movie suggests that Thule station's resident chopper pilot, Matias, is away, picking up kerosene at Halley Station. We're simply seeing his return during the closing credits.)


In the 1982 film, why don't MacReady and the others notice the burned and abandoned snowcat left behind by Kate at the end of this film? (There is a fairly compelling answer in the video evidence put together by the owner of the Facebook page of The Thing Prequel at YouTube. See the video below. Basically, it shows that MacReady and Company landed on the opposite side of the crater from where the two snowcats were parked and weren't able to spot them over the crater ridge.)



Memorable Dialog



his team found something quite remarkable.wav

the last place you want to be.wav

I never believed in this shit.wav

you're not here to think.wav


the friggin' thing's alive.wav

they're imitating him.wav

what are you, an asshole?.wav

so I'm going to get killed because I floss?.wav 


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