It’s James Cameron (opens in new tab)’s birthday and we’ll cry if we want to. Mostly because the wait between Cameron’s movies is painfully long these days. Oh for the glory days of swift releases between Terminator and Aliens and Abyss and True Lies. (Man, Jim Cameron ruled the ‘80s and ‘90s.) While you sit around wondering if Avatar 2 could possibly reach the same levels of public obsession by the time it finally comes out (complete with attendant Disney theme park), take a trip back to the director/submersible nerd’s earliest days and marvel at the fact that he’s pitted human beings against tank-treaded robots from the start.
Xenogenesis, made in 1978, is certainly of its time but it’s also redolent in the stylistic quirks of Cameron’s most iconic movies (opens in new tab). The shadowed, super tight shots of science fiction ordinance as well as an oppressive tone fueled by a mixture of fear and awe of technology are in place in this 12-minute student film. The story of a battle hardened woman and an artificial man exploring space and fighting robots on a living spaceship is pure ‘70s sci-fi pulp, but those are also precisely the character types that re-emerge in Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar. The robot “Cleaner” they fight is a dead ringer for the Hunter Killer in the Terminator movies.
For anyone that’s noted a tendency for Cameron to repeat himself over and over again in his movies--love and pacifism are life’s highest ideals but they’re almost always drowned out by war and/or greed is pretty much every movie he’s made--this is where it all began. Xenogenesis is the James Cameron universe prequel that time forgot. Celebrate all 62 years of the man’s life by giving it a view. Then yell, “ (opens in new tab)” at the top of your lungs and run outside like a champion.