Monday, July 5, 2010

Blob vs. Thing

They say this debate’s been raging throughout geekdom for close to thirty years. Being a card-carrying member of geekdom (I confess I maintain dual citizenship status), I have to say I’ve never heard about it before until very recently.

It’s time to weigh in.

To be clear, we’re talking about John Carpenter’s Thing, not the vegetable-man of the 1951 classic motion picture. This newer Thing is actually truer to the source material of John W. Campbell’s monster from his immensely influential 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” The alien visitor has the ability to assimilate its victim’s DNA and thus is able to morph into any creature it has ingested.

The blob, that nasty single-celled nightmare that battled 26-year old teenager Steve McQueen in 1957, has the double qualities of shapelessness and a voracious appetite. You can run from it, for a while, but you can’t hide from it. It can squeeze under the door to get you. It can squeeze through a keyhole to get you. It’s silent and relentless.

I saw The Blob as a young kid and it permanently scarred me. I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing as a teen and it freaked the living daylights outta me, but I was able to sleep at night.

Enough about me. Who would win in a fight? Say, both land on planet Earth in the year 1957 in Antarctica, and are discovered in the year 2010 by, oh, I don’t know, how about a boatload of Greenpeace activists? What would happen?

First of all, all the Greenpeace activists would be alien chow quicker than you can say Saturday Afternoon Matinee. The Thing would assume human form and pilot the boat back to the mainland, and begin assimilating humanity. If we assume it can take over one victim a day at a simple exponential rate, than all of mankind will be Thingkind in 34 days *.

That’s why it was so important for MacReady to blow up the entire base in John Carpenter’s movie.

Now, while this is happening, the Blob needs a way out. Stuck in Antarctica, it’s frozen solid and a threat to no one. For it to wreak havoc, it would have to get to warmer climes. We have two scenarios here. First, the Greenpeace dudes leave it on their ship in its frozen form, and wisely keep it in a freezer. Second, they thaw it out on the ship.

Second option is more localized. Blob eats crew while Thing is assimilating crew, and we have a showdown at the bottom of the world. But think about it. Say sole Thing thing pilots boats back to NYC, the likely version of the first option. Someone eventually may thaw out the blob from the ship’s hold. Blob could then either slide off ship into the water and feed off marine life, or it could slide down the docks and take Manhattan much more viciously than any Muppet ever did.

Either way, we have a Thing-Blob showdown. Mankind is just the warm up act. An appetizer to the main dish.

The gist of the problem is pitting a single-celled creature against a creature that can metamorphosize into any other creature at will. Who would win in a fight?

If you ingest the thing, the thing ingests you. Likewise, if you ingest the blob, it ingests you. Both points are made in the various source movies. But saying T ingests B is the same as saying B ingests T.

Honestly, I have no idea what would happen when T tissue comes into contact with B tissue. But …….. I have to give the edge to the Blob, because it secretes a very deadly, very fast-acting super-acidic dissolvant. The Thing, I believe, takes a little longer to assimilate its victim, and this delay would make all the difference.

However ……… the Thing has intelligence, whereas Blob doesn’t. This could give the Thing an edge. Conceiveably, it could become aware of the Other’s presence and take steps to isolate it, freeze it, and ship it back down to the pole. The only thing that could prevent this would be a very fast-moving Blob, and Blob ain’t fast-moving. At least the McQueenian blob wasn’t (it moved pretty darned fast in the 1988 remake).

I lay the odds about 1.923 to 1 in favor of the Thing. **

(I can’t believe I spent 45 minutes thinking and writing about this … Well, yes I can.)

* 1 day for Thing to replicate, then 2^33 is roughly 8.6 billion, more than enough people in the world, plus some leeway for unsuccessful Thingian assimilation attemps.

** That’s about a 52% chance the Blob won’t make it.

No comments: