I really think you’re right about this. What’s more, in watching the '82 movie the question doesn’t really even occur to me. In fact, I think that’s integral to the horror, at least for me. That is to say that I want to lean to what you say a bit earlier:
But I’ve always tended to think that a person who is “infected” or “turned” by a thing has no idea that he or she has been infected until the critical point where the “thingness” comes forth…
I like this in particular because of how the two actors in the '82 movie, Charles Hallahan (Norris) and David Clennon (Palmer), play the scene, or more properly, their scenes. They seem just as surprised as everybody else. I really love how that plays out. It feels a bit Blade Runnery on this point.
I think the new version muddies this, and thus ruins the tension and horror for me. When Juliette leads Kate into that little room, it feels calculated and thus hammy. I had no doubt what was going to happen, and when Kate turns her back and the sound effect dutifully cranks up I’m not the least bit surprised. [On a side note, how much do these Thingquel names suck? When I reference the '82 version I get to say Palmer and Fuchs and Norris and Childs and Windows and MacReady (such a Dickensian one, that). Every one of those fucking names has a punch when you say it. Even the glasses-wearing-nerd is named Fuchs. Fuchs! You could imagine yourself yelling that in extremis and sounding actiony-cool. When I refer to this new film I’m talking Kate and Juliette and Braxton Carter and Dr. Sander and Adam Goodman and it all feels so amorphous because they’re all so limp. Lars is the only cool name. This movie needed a nickname wrangler. I’m not going to refer to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character as ‘Lloyd’. Why is that? Because ‘Lloyd’ makes no sense for this character and makes me think of Say Anything, and while I’m at it, ‘Kate Lloyd’ is a stupid name for an action hero(ine). And Juliette makes me want to barf planets. Jesus I miss Ripley.]
Back on point, what I’m most curious about is how far the alien could go in assimilation. That is to say, isn’t thought and memory, on a basic level, just biology and chemistry?
I guess though that I never thought of the thing as having intelligence, as such. I don’t think communication or discussion is possible, it’s just too alien and maybe just too primal. Kind of like an alien from that other freaky movie.
I think you’re right about the thing having intelligence, at least as we define it on a human level. Given the primal screams and sound effects. But given the thing’s ability to replicate, why couldn’t it replicate thoughts, memories, and speech? Why would that be any different than the virtual intelligence we humans create in computers, where computers “learn” to answer questions in real time?
Maybe that’s a stretch. I just want to hold on to Tom’s idea of us getting a conversation with the thing. Even one that devolves into some weird syntax errors as we reach the limits of the thing’s capacity for replication.
On another note, I still think it’s awesome that the ship starts up without a hitch after sitting in the ice for a hundred thousand years. Reminds me of those old Die Hard battery commercials.
“We have to rely on science.”