Godzilla has fought just about everything you can imagine including flying dinosaurs, lightning spewing dragons from space, sentient sludge piles, and large bugs. Every time he’s come up triumphant. 100 meters tall, fueled by atomic energy, tough as nails, and ready to throw down at a moment’s notice. Coming up with new and interesting opponents is a tough feat, but I think we’ve found one with a totally unique skill set that he hasn’t encountered even once in his almost 70 years onscreen. Regardless of what the American retitling of 1964’s Mothra vs Godzilla might tell you, Godzilla has never fought something quite like… The Thing.
The Thing is a creature originating in the 1938 novella, Who Goes There? written by John W Campbell Jr. It was first adapted to screen in the 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, but quite a few liberties were taken with the story and in particular the creature itself, so let’s discard that one. John Carpenter’s 1982 remake, simply titled The Thing is where Campbell’s original concept of this shapeshifting alien was truly first realized onscreen. There was a prequel in 2011 confusingly also just called The Thing. It’s additionally appeared in several comic books and video games primarily spinning off from Carpenter’s movie.
In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp. A helicopter shoots at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.
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This creature has a number of impressive abilities that all generally revolve around the idea that its body might as well be made of silly putty. Its main gimmick is a damn good one. Being a shapeshifter, it can assimilate its victims through physical contact and spread through a population like a virus. While it takes over a body down to a cellular level to create a second of its kind, this is not an instantaneous process and the creature prefers to take opponents out one at a time in secret. It is very much a stealth killer but has ways to defend itself when exposed as well.
This is where things get really interesting.
If The Thing finds itself backed into a corner, it has total control of its own form and can manipulate its own body into whatever it needs to be to get the job done. Mixing and matching bits and pieces of previous victims, it transforms into what amounts to the third act of an old Cronenberg movie. It’s just a fleshy writhing mass of dog tongues, human faces, tentacles, and sharp fangs. Additionally, it can separate into multiple creatures, each with its own sentience and cognitive thought. A head can detach and grow spider-legs or an arm can crawl away like some sort of fleshy centipede. Even a petri dish of blood can act on its own.
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The Thing is incredibly resilient and while we supposedly never see its true form in either Carpenter’s movie or its prequel (it does have a distinct alien form in the novella), I think that given its nature as a shapeshifter, the cell itself could be considered its true form. That’s what makes it so tough to get rid of, because it can come back from any wound if even a single cell survives. Fire is a good way around this, and the primary way that Macready and friends fight back in the movie. It also seems to be vulnerable to extreme cold and at least goes dormant when frozen solid.
Now, let’s assume that the Thing is starting off this bout disguised as a regular human-sized person. If that’s the case then it’s going to need to go through a growth spurt to take on Godzilla. As previously mentioned, it requires physical contact and some time to fully assimilate something. And we’re talking about a beast as huge as the king of monsters. It’s going to take a hell of a long time.
What the Thing might want to look for is a kaiju that’ll sit still while it does what it’s got to do. There’s a few options. Mothra in her cocoon might be a good way to go. But I have a hard time believing it could be fully taken over while nobody notices. That cocoon tends to be out in the open. And if the Thing is interrupted it could all be over. King Caesar stays tucked away sleeping until he hears his theme song and crawls out of his cave. Given the Thing’s desire to stay in the shadows, this is a great first victim.
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From there, it’s going to want to spread out and infect other kaiju while it makes its way to Godzilla. He’s beaten just about every single opponent there is. So even with the Thing’s additional abilities, it’ll be a tough fight one on one. Why not use numbers to its advantage? That said, I don’t think everyone in Godzilla’s rogues gallery is going to be able to be assimilated. As we saw in the 2011 prequel, inorganic matter can’t be replicated. That knocks out MechaGodzilla 1 and 2. And unless the Thing wants to turn into a pile of bones, Kiryu as well. Jet Jaguar is off the table. Gigan has that buzzsaw and the weird visor and blade arms even in its Showa-era form, so he’s out as well. Space Godzilla has those big crystal growths, so he’s gone too.
There are some kaiju that I just can’t decide if it could take over or not. Hedorah is a big pile of sludge and pollution. It’s a living creature though, so it has to be organic right? Would the Thing melt if it tried to assimilate Hedorah as the people turned into skeletons in the movie? What about Biollante?
I don’t see a reason that the Thing couldn’t take over a big plant monster. But outside of The Thing From Another World, where it’s made of plant matter, it’s never replicated this kind of organism. Biollante is part animal, so could it replicate only that part? Or how about this. Destroyah itself is a bunch of tiny trilobites. So would the uninfected ones notice the change in the others and break apart before the Thing could finish? I don’t know, Kaiju are weird.
All of this aside, there are plenty of more traditional beasts to choose from. Rodan, Ghidorah, Varan, Baragon, Battra, Megaguiras, the MUTO, Kong, Anguiras, and way too many more to count. That said, time once again becomes a factor here, as well as the problem of stealth. Flying foes might be tough to get to. I think it’s feasible to hide underwater and infect Ebirah, Titanosaurus, or Manda. None of these are really the heaviest of hitters, but might give the creature some breathing room to start taking risks, infecting kaiju more out in the open. If it does manage to get someone like Ghidorah, can it replicate the lightning breath?
Carpenter kept the workings of this creature’s biology at least a little vague on purpose. We’re thinking about it way harder than anyone intended us to. And we’re throwing this Thing into a situation it wasn’t written for. There’s a lot of questions that we don’t have answers for, but we can look at its behavior to make our final decision.
The Thing can do some cool things with its body and assimilating other creatures is a neat trick, but if it spends most of the movie sneaking around in the background, there’s a reason for that. Fire will quickly dispatch it when it exposed. Godzilla’s atomic breath is a pretty great substitute for a flamethrower, and honestly, he might be blasting some of these other kaiju on sight whether he knows they’re infected or not. I think it’s certainly possible for the Thing to take over enough other kaiju to outnumber and overwhelm Godzilla. But he’s fought off multiple opponents before and the Thing just requires way too much setup and way too many risks to get its plan going. There’s almost no place to hide when you’re the size of a skyscraper.