Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Stupid Movies That I Love - They Live

Hey look, alt text! The first of many

They Live is John Carpenter at his angriest. In this movie he rails against modern society and its consumer led culture and while it has a powerful idea, it never really fulfils its promise. Still, despite the story's shortcomings and pacing issues, They Live contains some excellent ideas and scenes that have made it a firm favourite of mine.

Rowdy Roddy Piper (yes, the wrestler) plays Nada, a drifter who arrives in Los Angeles looking for work and a place to stay for the night. Nada meets up with a cardboard city community of other drifters and down on their luck cases and it's here that Nada becomes embroiled in a conspiracy. After a ruthless attack by riot police on the homeless community of LA Nada escapes with a box full of sunglasses. Nada tries on a pair and discovers that the world is not what it seems...

Sadly Roddy did not get a rematch against the aliens at Wrestlemania IV

Nada realises that he is effectively a stranger in his own land when he sees that he is surrounded by aliens disguised as normal people. Nada reacts in the only sensible way available, he goes on an alien killing spree. When that doesn't work he joins with the human resistance to end the alien menace once and for all.

It's clear that Carpenter was pretty pissed off at American society when he wrote the screenplay and there's a constant sense of despair and anger throughout the movie. Each character seems to be either struggling to make ends meet or is a secret member of the rich elite, looking to profit from mankind's physical and economic suffering. Earth is treated as an easily exploited third world country by the occupying alien force.

Despite the downbeat tone of the film there are some fantastically silly scenes as Nada gets into fights with aliens and other humans that he's trying to convince of the alien threat. Watch the movie below and see one of the greatest fights committed to film - please note that this fight began because Roddy Piper insisted that Keith David put on a pair of sunglasses:

When worn, the sunglasses vision turns the movie black and white replaces all advertising signs, TVs, and magazines into stark white signs that contain commands such as OBEY, SLEEP, CONSUME. The scenes where Nada wanders the streets of LA with his glasses on are chilling and contrast well with the sunny, advertising covered, colour scenes throughout the rest of the movie.

They Live influence has been felt through the genre since its release in 1988. I'm sure that They Live influenced Valve's Half Life 2 as the alien Combine in that game have a similar goal and plan to the aliens in They Live. Both want to subjugate and dominate the human race in order to use them as a slave race, they both attempt to change Earth's climate to suit their own needs, and both alien races have technology that is far in advance of our own. Unfortunately, They Live even influenced a Simpson's computer game - Bart Vs The Space Mutants. Check out the intro to the game:

*Sigh* I remember that into being amazing when it was first released. Time has not been kind...

Anyway, They Live is a B-Movie classic that introduces an interesting take on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers theme. What if the aliens had already invaded and we had already surrendered? What if we were blissfully unaware that we had already lost the war? Obviously we need wrestlers with mullets and sunglasses to save the day.


oneshallstand said...

That fight scene was so ludicrously over-extended, yet somehow remains great.

You also forgot to mention that the movie packs one of the greatest quotes of the era and Meg Foster's terrifying blue eyes.

Aaron said...

I didn't forget, I just didn't mention...

But yes, "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum" is a delightfully mad piece of dialogue.

Meg Foster does have terrifying eyes. Eyes that can pierce titanium.

Anonymous said...

The fight scene was over-extended for a reason. Investigate about this movie and you will see that is not stupid at all.

Aaron said...

Well done, Anonymous! You have read the title of the blogpost and taken offence without reading the words contained within.

If you actually read the words in the post above you'll see that I said, "Watch the movie below and see one of the greatest fights committed to film..."

The 'Stupid Movies' series is an affectionate look at over the top films that I enjoy despite their shortcomings. But you would know that if you'd read the post, right?