A movie on thylacines?

Last September I posted on the 75th anniversary of the passing of the thylacine. In case you missed it, I provide a paragraph and the movie from the original post:

Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of the last thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus, also known as the “Tasmanian wolf”), a marsupial that once inhabited New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania.  “Benjamin,” a captive individual on display in the zoo at Hobart, Tasmania, died on September 7, 1936.  Below I’ve put a 42-second video clip of Benjamin in his cage (despite his name, this individual may have been female). You can see additional clips here.

Alert reader Philip, from Canada, has called my attention to the appearance of a new advernture movie about the search for the thylacine, “The Hunter,” starring the scary Willem Dafoe. Here’s the trailer:

(Notice the use of the old thylacine clips. I wonder if they’ll have a bogus beast in the film.).

The official movie site is here, and Rotten Tomatoes (which, suprisingly, rates it a high 75%!) reprises the plot, which sounds like a marsupial Jurassic Park:

The Hunter is the story of Martin, a skilled and ruthless mercenary sent into the Tasmanian wilderness on a hunt for a tiger believed to be extinct. Hired by an anonymous company that wants the tiger’s genetic material, Martin arrives in Tasmania posing as a scientist. He proceeds to set up base camp at a broken-down farmhouse, where he stays with a family whose father has gone missing. Usually a loner, Martin becomes increasingly close to the family; however, as his attachment to the family grows, Martin is led down a path of unforeseen dangers, complicating his deadly mission.

The movie came out last September, but appears to have vanished rapidly. Perhaps the last statement of the above trailer applies: “It’s probably better off extinct.”

Has anyone seen this?


  1. BilBy
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Haven’t seen the film but have read the book. Don’t think I should give away any spoilers though 🙂

    • S A GOULD
      Posted April 5, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Have not seen ANY mention of this film, anywhere.

  2. Ray Moscow
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    I think the last line was, ‘So long, and thanks for all the sheep!’

  3. Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Meet Lumpy, the thylacine. This is the stuffed thylacine in the Natural History Museum in London. A number of people are trying to work out what to do to help with these last existing specimens.

    • Dominic
      Posted April 5, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      That is shocking! At UCL we have Thylacinus cynocephalus remains –

      • Posted April 5, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        It is shocking. But the museums are stupidly squeezed for funding. Never enter the cafe or the gift shop at the NHM with less than about fifty quid on you …

        • Dominic
          Posted April 5, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          I bought a good book on systematics by some French scientists in the NHM shop recently – cannot recall the title now. But they have zero Darwin or Wallace-related gifts.

  4. CJ
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    The movie didn’t come out last September. It is just now getting a limited US release.

    I just happened to listen to two podcasts just yesterday that talked about this film.

    MonsterTalk (a very good skeptical podcast that tracks the cryptid and monster communities) had a very good interview with the director.

    Science…Sort Of has a segment each week where they review trailers and they liked it. Additionally, one of the Science…Sort of hosts watched the entire film on iTunes and said it was very good.

    I think the reason it hasn’t make a big splash before now is because it is a foreign art house film. They can be great and never make a dime at the box office. It is just now starting to get coverage here in the states by playing all of the festivals. We’ll see if it gets a wide release. The limited release opens today.

    • atticsttatic
      Posted April 5, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I guess since it was released in Australia that doesn’t count…

  5. pktom64
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I have a question, maybe someone here will be able to answer me :

    Is it possible that the stripes on the back of Tasmanian Tigers are there for the same “purpose” of that of zebras ?
    I’ve read (I think on this very blog) that one explanation for those stripes may be that bugs (just flies?) are least susceptible to, well, bug a zebra thanks to his stripes…

    Does my question make sense? 🙂

    • Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      The thylacine was a predator. Think felids.

      • pktom64
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink


        But does that mean that it couldn’t be for the same reason (if the flies thing for zebras were found to be true)?

        Couldn’t the same thing have evolved for those species independently? (I understand things do evolve independently, am I wrong?)

      • Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

        But predators could be bothered by flies just as well as herbivores.
        Nevertheless, that whole theory (which was discusses a lot on Larry Moran’s site) seems odd to me, even though there is some slight evidence for it. If I recall correctly, the models used to test the theory were inanimate and odorless, while flies seem very good at using smell to find their prey. If the models had smelled like animals, the number of flies attracted to striped versus non-striped models would probably have been more equal. I suspect other visually-oriented mammals are the primary driving force for the evolution of stripes.

  6. Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard the film is beautiful to look at & that Tasmaia comes across as a character itself. Apprently the book is better, but the film’s not a bad intepretation. Not brilliant, but OK. Licius Shephard saw it & was impressed. He now wants to go to Tasmania – & I intend moving there asap.

  7. Liz Naples
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink


    This was a magnificent animal. Is it only in looking back, decades later, that we realize the huge loss to the ecosystem, when an entire species is wiped out?

  8. Tom
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I’m from Tassie and this film made a bit of news while it was being shot (a friend’s husband even ran into Willem Defoe in a local supermarket), and then when it was released last year. Haven’t seen it yet, but my mum HATED it (scenery shot well but stupid plot).

    I don’t have a desire to see it but did notice it was available to download on various networks if people here were looking for a way to watch it.

  9. JBlilie
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I heard Dafoe interviewed this week and the film sounded pretty interesting.

    It’s Hollywood, so of course it’s going to have an odd plot.

    My favorite film involving Tassie?

    Young Einstein starring Yahoo Serious. It has a science tie-in as well (well, maybe weird, off beat science tie in).

    “Oym splitting the bee-ah atum!” tink, tink, tink, KABOOM!!!

    It’s hilarious. Do see it. The sound track is good as well.

  10. Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Its available to rent at iTunes at the moment, and is apparently being re-released. There was an interview with Willem Dafoe on NPR the other day about the movie.

  11. JBlilie
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink
    • JBlilie
      Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      html fail …

  12. Achrachno
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I never heard even heard a word about this previously. Publicity budget must be vanishingly small.

    I don’t understand the economics of the movie business, but why make a movie if you’re not going to let anyone know that you did? Are publicity campaigns more costly than actual movie making? At least these guys made a trailer.

  13. endrekovacs
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I just saw it this week. The movie itself is shot beautifully, but the storyline is quite mediocre and is based on an evil premise. There is a computer generated thylacine in it and the ending is quite emotional.

  14. emmageraln
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry to report this film past me by…. 🙂

  15. Marta
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    This is not an animal I’d ever hear of before you first wrote about it some months ago.

    Jesus, how much richer the world would be if this animal was still here.

  16. Kiwi Dave
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    How depressing to see the last specimen of what looks like a magnificent animal locked up in a tiny featureless cage.

  17. Logan Moss
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen the movie yet but last week Sam Neill, who plays one of the main characters, was interviewed about it on Radio New Zealand. The interview is available online here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/atthemovies/20120329

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