In this installment of Major Directors’ Early Works, we’re going to look at the 1978 first film of James Cameron named “Xenogenesis”.
This is a quite staggering early work, if only because Cameron completely self-taught himself special effects by going to the USC film library and photocopying every thesis paper he could find and absorbing all there was to know about how to make fantastic worlds appear on-screen. The man truly is a genius.
I’m reading the most recent biography on Cameron right now, entitled ‘The Futurist’, and the slight bit that they discuss his early life reveals a man who can not only do it all, but can imagine it all and then create it all. And this early film shows just how much he wanted to achieve.
He is quoted in that biography as saying that after a viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, he realized there was something he needed to understand about what Kubrick did with special effects and that there was something he wanted to achieve in that same realm. He didn’t view 2001 and say there was something he wished he had done. No, he said he now knew there was something he wanted to achieve, to show people that same type of feeling Kubrick left him with and he wanted to dissect and learn how to create those effects so he could achieve that also. *Filmman shakes his head in awe*. That level of inquisitiveness is breathtaking.
As is this short film. There are robots fighting! There are lasers and a robot throwdown and I have to say, I was more giddy watching this than at any time during the Los Angeles street sequence in Transformers, and that scene made me pretty goddamn giddy.
The tank is an obvious precursor of the hunter-killers in Terminator and the other machine is an obvious precursor of the amp suits in Avatar. They even composited the cockpit onto the good machine and then show an awesome angle from behind the bad robot to show off that level of effects talent. *Filmman shakes his head in awe*.
And the ending, while leaving it wide open for a sequel, is still, you have to admit, pretty thrilling for what it is.
This is the birth of a miraculous filmmaker who would go on to make some of the greatest action films ever. How I wish he would get back to even effects like this, and leave the CG to George Lucas. Cameron is a master with CG, but please get back to real-world effects. The world misses things like this. And Michael Bay needs to learn how to film a robot fight sequence.