Thursday, December 24, 2009



James Cameron set out to create an epic that rivaled Star Wars. He succeeded. Avatar already has the largest opening for an original film (not a sequel or adaptation), and will keep climbing through the holiday season. I got to see it in IMax 3D, which was phenomenal being that the picture was crystal clear and sound was explosive.

The Story:

The story was a mix of Dances with Wolves and Aliens. There is a colonial force trying to subjugate a population of natives for a resource. A few people start to see the evil and destructive nature of colonialism and imperialism and side with the underdog. Enter Aliens where it becomes about the failures of human technologies against a so called "primitive" weaponry. Despite the technology difference the Na'vi (alien race) have something to fight for. By today's standards the story nothing exciting, but that's not what the film is about. Its about taking a universal story, (sadly the horrors colonial rule are universal now) and bringing it to life with spirit and heart.

The heart and spirit:

I have been beat into a stupor over big budget action films. None of them have heart. Michael Bay's take over of mega-budget films (to my demise) has been a scar on cinema for the past decade. Even Lucas and Spielberg have been making heartless garbage. Look at the latest Indiana Jones or the last three Star Wars films. The only success in moving the human psyche besides something violent or sexual was Lord of the Rings. Avatar has a heart and soul unlike Bay's films. When one watches Avatar they can feel Cameron's love for the story and characters. The love story was beautifully done between Jake Sulley and Neytiri. Even though they are animated you still feel the emotion and nuances in their performances to pull off the exposition of love between the two. I was surprised about the many spiritual themes in the film. They used the Zen story of a person being like a filled cup so nothing else can be taught to them. The cup thing was a little too much for me since I have been exposed to Zen quite a bit, but others who don't have that experience won't think it is as corny as I did. The real spirit comes through in another Buddhist theme (also Hindu) which is the interconnectedness of all things. Cameron uses a beautiful way to communicate this truth through metaphor in the film. I won't give away how things are bound and what role it plays, but it takes a seemingly "eastern" idea of ecology and makes it easy for audiences in the west to understand. Overall it's not a hollow in your face spamfest of special effects.

The Effects:

Wow. If this film takes an Oscar it will be in effects! There is just nothing to compare it to. The bio luminescent plant life on Pandora is fantastic. The environment was computer generated, but was photo realistic. I was blow away. The lighting was perfect, the trees and leaves swayed naturally, and movement never looked unnatural. The na'vi facial expressions were better than any motion capture work I have seen. As I mentioned before you can FEEL their performances behind the animation it is hard to explain since there is not much to compare it to. The end battle is one of the most epic and dynamic fights in film history. There are giant lizards dog fighting with huge gunships. 6 foot long arrows smash through the glass of cock pits, while machine gunners tear down Na'vi from the top of a flying aircraft carrier. On the ground mech suits rip the jungle apart with machine guns and flamethrowers, while na'vi and native animals are trying to destroy the human invaders. Its magnificent.

The Actors:

Worthington did a great job as usually. I was impressed with Weaver and Joel David Moore. The best performance came from Stephan Lang, playing Quaritch. He will go done as one of the biggest hard-asses in cinema. He drinks coffee while he slaughters na'vi. He doesn't realize hes on fire for at least 40 seconds then with little effort bats it out. He goes into Pandora's atmosphere to kick ass without an o2 mask... and holds his breath. He means business and wants to kill everything that moves. By no means it he a hero, but you have to hand it to the guy he know how to play a bad ass.

The music:

Meh.... Horner recycles his work on Titanic, Aliens, and Wolfen, which wasn't anything special. Don't expect to see trailers cut together using Avatar music in the future. I wish he wasn't so lazy. Cameron really should have got a different composer. The song at the end of the credits is full of cheese and felt out of place. Maybe just thrown in to put Avatar up for another "best song" nomination... I guess. They should have ended it with rock music or something cooler than a Celine Dion sound alike.

The Score:


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kilometre Zero: My first Kurdish film related to Iraqi history

Kurdish filmmaker Hiner Saleem's Kilometre Zero is a tale about a Kurdish man's journey across a war-torn Iraq. Zero takes place weeks before the chemical bombings in Iraqi-Kurdistan in the culmination of the al-Anfal operation. The film exposes the fission between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq through the relationship of the protagonist, Ako, and his Arab driver. This relationship is portrayed in a comical manner, showing that the disconnect between the two ethnic groups is much-a-do-about-nothing. The exposition of historical events in the story is sometimes executed through radio reports, but most of the history is insinuated as the narrative unfolds.

Saleem's story is experienced through Kurdish eyes. The Kurds are located primarily in the North of Iraq, which was "created by Britain," with "an enormously diverse population."[1] This diversity among the population was ignored since Iraq's creation, leading to a Kurdish striving for an independent state separate from the Arab majority. The Iraqi government saw this as a problem because they wanted a centralized state, which would exist under the banner of "Arab nationalism."[2] Conflict erupted between the two groups throughout the 1970's. The conflict usually ended in stalemates because Iraqi forces could do little against Kurds in the mountainous regions. The militants were also receiving significant amount of support from Iran. The Kurdish relationship with Iran would become a chief reason for Saddam Hussein to conduct ethnic cleansing through a reign of chemical terror on Iraqi-Kurdistan. This relationship was put on hold by a deal brokered between Iraq and Iran over the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which caused Iran to shut its borders to the Kurdish peshmerga, or militia, which caused the Kurds to be "decimated by the Iraqi air force."[3] A ceasefire was later forced on the Kurds and Hussein "uprooted as many as 250,000 Kurds" then "forced large numbers of Arabs to move to Kurdish territory" to dilute the population.[4] Despite Hussein's attempts, the Kurds were able to organize small pockets of resistance and keep the peshmerga in operation until the Iran-Iraq War, which dealt a devastating blow to Iraqi-Kurdistan.

The film focuses on the weeks before the Iraqi destruction of the Kurdish communities in the North. In 1987, Hussein became nervous about his stalemate on the Iranian front so narrowed his forces on the Kurdish territories. Hussein did this because he wanted to crush the peshmerga for sharing intelligence with the Iranians.[5] Ako, the main character, is introduced as a reluctant army reservist afraid of being sent to fight Iran for a country he cares little about. His feelings towards Iraq are illustrated by an early scene of the film where Kurdish men are rounded up and taken to a fortress for no reason other than to humiliate or kill. An obese man, Sami, is stripped to his underwear and told to run around and dance for the pleasure of Iraqi officers. Furthermore, there is an impromptu interview process where Kurds are asked about their profession and what they thought of President Hussein. If the answers are not sufficient, they are walked to a steep ledge and executed. This highlights the culture of fear the Iraqi government used to dominate any dissenting factions. This is accomplished by reinforcing an Arab identity and turning the Kurds into the binary opposite of Arabs. One way the Iraqi state achieved this state of fear can be seen in the film when Kurds are lined up and proclaimed agents of Iran, which is an agent of Imperialism. They are then shot in front of the predominantly Arab troops.

The binary is expressed in Ako's relationship with his Arab driver. Ako is sent to deliver a body in Iraqi-Kurdistan, only after a few days of fighting near Basra in the South. The driver and Ako rarely talk and when they do, it usually expresses an aggressive, yet comedic, disdain for each other. The driver does not hide the fact that he thinks Kurds are the source of Iraq's problems throughout the entirety of its national history. The filmmaker sets this hatred up, then has it climax when the two men get out of the truck in the middle of streets to talk about "Iraqis and Kurds." This is meant to finally set the story straight and explain the hatred between the two. Ako and the driver both tell each other to "say something," but neither says anything. This is the writer/director's way of saying the hatred is nonsense and irrational, because neither man can create a rational argument and make sense of the fractured relationship.

Another historical nuance in the film is expressed when the Iraqi check point officers want Ako to keep off the road during the day to hide the amount of causalities wreaked by Iran. This was characteristic of Hussein's policy during the war. He wanted to hide failures far away from the people, because he was afraid of losing support when his subjects saw the amount of loss inflicted by the Iranian neighbors.[6] The losses are seen when Ako's makeshift hearse pulls behind a wall and over fifty other cars carrying coffins are revealed. This exposes the extreme number of casualties that Iraq was experiencing during the war—a war that Hussein mistakenly thought would be a quick success.

By the end of the film, Ako returns to his beloved Kurdistan, which was deserted as a result of Kurds trying to escape the Iraqi bombings. After Ako is reunited with his family, director Hiner Saleem tries to paint the screen with terror. Ako and his family run for their lives as a jovial afternoon is turned into a war zone. The Iraqi jets pound the region without pause. The excessive bombing was commonplace in the al-Anfal operation. This is translated as the "spoils of war," which was largely a scorched earth policy against Kurdish territories.[7] In 1988, this culminated in the chemical slaughter of Halabja, where 5000 people were killed. The attack is referenced when Ako listens to the radio by an abandoned home.

The film ends on a positive note for Kurds. Ako and his wife, Selma, listen to another radio report in the 2003 at the time of Baghdad's fall. When they hear this, they exclaim, "We are free, our people are free!" The celebration is justified because Hussein's al-Anfal and ethnic cleansing of Kurds resulted in 80% of Kurdish villages destroyed and countless dead.[8] After Iraq's war with Iran, the Kurds constantly experienced forceful treatment and oppressive laws. One law even outlawed the Kurds from farming. This destroyed any form of self-sufficiency for the Kurdish population. With Saddam Hussein gone, Ako believes the Kurds are finally free.

[1] Cleveland, William L., and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. Fourth Edition. Philadelphia: Westview Press, 2009. Pg. 410.

[2] A History of the Modern Middle East. Pg. 410.

[3] A History of the Modern Middle East. Pg. 411.

[4]A History of the Modern Middle East. Pg. 411.

[5] Maher IV, Liam. Kurd's In Iraq Lecture (December 2, 2009).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Aliens is my favorite movie. There is too much I could write about it... Instead of doing a small review I will just post a paper I wrote about Aliens and how it has inspired me. Please enjoy.

Next is the Abyss in the countdown to Avatar.

Sweat surges from my forehead, as I huddle in a gloomy corner like a prey awaiting the opportunity to escape. My only salvation is the pulse rifle pressed against my chest—held with white, trembling knuckles. I want to close my sagging eyelids, as I see the glossy-black, banana-shaped head round the curved corridor. My adrenaline swells, as my brain becomes a piston.

Thump! Thump!

I snap the rifle to my shoulder and discharge a burst of molten-cased rounds. The ammunition dives through the creature’s exoskeleton, as skin-shredding acid sputters from its body.

Thump! Thump!

“Nick, come get something to eat,” my mom yells as she pounds on the door. The claustrophobic corridors melt away, revealing a ten-year-old boy’s cluttered bedroom.

Every child fantasizes about hunting a fearful beast or adventuring with a favorite superhero. My enemy just so happened to be the extraterrestrials from the film Aliens, and my heroes were of course the elite squad of United Space Marines featured in the movie. After seeing Aliens at the age of ten, I felt more than an urge to become an Alien-fighting marine—I wanted to capture these dreams and create my own films.

What makes the film Aliens great enough to influence my future? Every aspect of this phenomenon of cinema inspires me, so much that I could write a doctorial thesis on the infinite qualities that make this movie special. When I was younger, the atmosphere, characters, and creatures intrigued my adolescent mind. Now, with a wiser eye, I see what a true prodigy in film Aliens is, as it has not allowed time to deplete its worth.

The atmosphere for the science-fiction masterpiece follows the intimidating, claustrophobic ambience of its predecessor, Alien directed by Ridley Scott. James Cameron, the writer and director of the sequel, takes Ridley Scott’s terror tactics and perfects them by creating an environment even more menacing. With a feeling of ultimate seclusion, an alien creature brings down a marine transport, leaving the troops with very little exits from the planet LV426. For me, the setting alone created tremendous tension. As a child, I was terrified by the images of marines cramming inside a small corridor, only to become reproductive necessities to a bug-like, yet perfect organism.

The design of this ultimate organism also inspired my love for science fiction. No movie monster can out-scare or out-battle H.G. Giger’s basic design of the majestic, biomechanical alien. The elusiveness of the creature stirred curiosity and an obsession with its every feature. What is more mystifying than an eyeless, elongated, ebony head resembling more of a shield than an animal? What is more terrifying than a silent killer creeping across ceilings and walls with soundless speed? What is more threatening than a thrashing, daggered tail and a vicious second mouth, ready to cocoon victims who will become hosts for another ugly alien?

A unique feature of Aliens is the patient method of revealing the space monster; the viewer cannot see it, but he or she feels the presence of an Alien army ready to destroy. Cameron’s greatest display of skill was his ability to foreshadow the ominous Queen Alien. When filming the original Alien, Ridley Scott used a deliberate pace, building up to the alien’s first appearance. Cameron, however, hinted at the Queen throughout the entire movie. He tricks the audience into forgetting the Queen when the human characters seize the forefront of the story. Then, abruptly, a character finds herself standing inside an egg-scattered nest, as the Queen leers over her. It is this ingenious writing that continually places Cameron as a leading member of the film industry.

The characterization in Aliens has influenced much of the ways I reveal the strengths and weaknesses of characters in my writing. The character Private Hudson, played by Bill Paxton, is one example. Hudson begins as a cocky, smart-mouthed joker, but when the aliens begin attacking, he becomes a whining pessimist with little hope for survival. In contrast, Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, enters the film as a woman broken by nightmares of her first encounter with the beast. By the end of the movie, she demolishes the Queen Alien with a piece of warehouse machinery. Through the skillful building of Ripley’s character, Cameron demonstrates a person’s ability to transition from fragile to strong. When she finds an orphaned girl with tattered clothing and dirt-smeared skin, Ripley acts as her protective mother and valiantly faces the aliens that once petrified her in order to protect the child. With Hudson and Ripley, Cameron realistically portrayed the positive and negative human reactions to unthinkable situations.

Aliens is the first movie that taught me to notice atmosphere, detail, and dramatics. Aliens’ influence has increased with my age, rather than becoming obsolete over time. With advancements in computer graphics and special effects, older films seem outdated and “corny” at times. Aliens, though, is still an amazing piece of cinematic history because its effect is comparable to the films of today. Aliens inspires me to create motion pictures equally as timeless so that someone else can write an entrance essay for a film school, hailing my movie for its inspiration.

Today, another marine stoops with a rifle in his clutch, awaiting the assault of a gruesome beast. Meanwhile, I capture frames of drama, as the alien rounds the corner.

Thump! Thump!

“Nick, you need to get ready for work,” my wife yells, as I stop envisioning the future and smile.

Rocky II

It took me a while to get into Rock II. Compared to the first film it seemed to lack heart and motivation. The vanity of Rocky leads to his downfall, so he ends up having to get a shit job. The personal story in all this wasn't really communicated. I just didn't care. There are a few heart warming scenes (like those that made the first film) but they are two few to count. It is most likely because Stallone was budding as a young director and hadn't had much experience in the craft.

The high point of the film is of course the end fight. I wouldn't say it is as vicious the first Rocky v. Apollo, but it was shot pretty cool. There is a priceless hit for hit slowmotion sequence that should be revisited on youtube if you can find it. They also an interesting thing for the end of the fight where Rocky and Apollo both fall down and the fight is won by who can get up first, instead of who gets knocked down.

Overall I would say this one did very little for me. Rocky IV's shitty 80's feel at least kept me entertained.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some Cool Avatar Videos

IGN Video: Avatar Movie Clip - Thanator Chase

Check this one out for sure. The effects and mocap animation blow me away. Its crazy how far they have come even since Beowulf.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Terminator is slowly making it's way into my top ten films of all time list. The atmosphere, tone, effects (at the time were fucking crazy), and story are all top notch. The only thing that is silly is the sex scene, which was referenced in Planet Terror sex scene with hilarious music and editing. Check out the action sequences and look up how much Cameron actually had to work with, it wasn't much.

On another note, I have a thought that has to do with the latest film; Salvation... The best part of the Terminator films is the flash forwards to the future war with the machines. It was dark as hell, barren, and brutal. All of these things were omitted from the atmosphere in McG's lame installment into the series. The potential for a great film was there, but there was also a lack of concern for this potential in Salvation. Just a sad thought.

I would rather have this film :D Back to the Future fusion with Terminator

Next is my favorite film of all time. Aliens.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Countdown to Avatar with Cameron films!

Alright, Avatar comes out December 18th. There is about 6 weeks until then and each week I will be watching a Cameron film. Sorry to say I will be skipping Xenogensis and Piranha 2... I just don't have the time for those ones. Please if you want to have some fun do this countdown with me.

Week 1 - Terminator (this week)
Week 2 - Aliens
Week 3 - The Abyss
Week 4 - Terminator 2
Week 5 - True Lies
Week 6 - Titanic

And I leave you with some Scream 2 :D

Mickey: It's Bullshit generalization. Many sequels have surpassed their originals.
Randy: Oh yeah?
Cici: Name one.
Film Class Guy #1: Aliens. Far better than the first.
Cici: Yeah, well, theres no accounting for taste.
Randy: Thank you. Ridley Scott Rules. Name Another.
Film Class Guy #2: No way. Aliens is a classic. "Get away from her, you Bitch!"
Randy: I believe the line is "Stay away from her, you Bitch." This is a film class right?
Film Class Guy #2: Got you. Whatever. You know what I mean.
Randy: Name another.
Mickey: T-2.
Cici: You got a Hard-on for Cameron.
Randy: A big one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rocky IV

So, my friends came over and saw my Rocky bluray boxset, then opted to "see what Rocky IV looked like." Of course this turned into watching the whole film. I have never been the biggest fan of IV, but the more I see it the more I warm up to it. Although, I will never come to terms with that goddamn robot...
The overall structure of the film is pretty amazing. Its like a huge montage with little 2 minute spots of drama to "push the story". The fights in this one are pretty damn good. In Drago VS Apollo the hits hurt. Every time Drago smashes Apollo's head you feel it in your bones. There is one point when Apollo's head is slammed into minced meat and sweat explodes off of his fro in slow motion. An excellent reason to see it on bluray.

Rather than focusing on the Rocky Vs Drago fight I am more impressed by the preparation for it. Here's some things you can do to get ready to fight a roided out Russia hard ass:

Travel to Siberia
Lift stones
Lift stones with a rope
Lift a cart filled with people, dead man style
Pull a cart like a horse
Lift a downed carriage
One armed push-ups
Shadow boxing under a rope
Out run Russian spys and make them crash in the snow

In case you forgot...

Another Enter the Man Cave Give Away!

If you go to this post and be one of the first 7 to comment you get a Boondock Saints 2 poster! Check it out and spread the word about the Enter the Man Cave blog!!!

Thanks Geoff!!!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Machete Poster Out

For the Alba fan boys.....


Just watched Rocky on bluray! Forgot how damn good of a movie it is. I will be moving through the Rocky Collection this month and posting some thoughts on the series as I do. I picked up the bluray collection and so far the transfers are looking excellent. In Rocky the HD shines when Rocky is jogging in the early morning and it literally shines off Carl Weathers' chest in the last fight.

Everyone has seen this movie so there is not much I can say. I don't remember it being so raw (it has been 8 years since I've seen it though) and I don't remember Paulie being so awkward about his sister's virginity. Other than that it was the same old ass kicking movie I saw when I was a kid. We shall see how the next five films do in comparison.

Favorite Lines:

Mickey: You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!

Rocky: Don't smoke that. It makes your breath like garbage.

Rocky: I think we make a real sharp couple of coconuts - I'm dumb, you're shy, whaddaya think, huh?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hard Asses of Horror


I haven't post much this month, because it is the month of the horror film and Becky and I have been spending most of our movie watching time on horror films. So I'm going to bring some horror to the Action Effect, with my top Hard Asses of Horror. Enjoy.


Ripley has been my favorite character in the world of film since I was nine years old (when saw Aliens for the first time). In the first Alien she loses an entire crew to a nihilistic star beast, which terrifies me to this day. The second film her maternal powers and clumsy use of a pulse rifle keep her alive, where a unit of seasoned marines couldn't hack it. She even has a futuristic forklift (power loader) battle with the huge alien queen. This lady is a force to reckoned with. Ripley is the essence of hero in my book. A normal space trucker thrown into the grinder against aliens, all the while she keeps the things that matter ahead of her to survive. Like getting Jonesy (the cat) out alive in Alien, it's the simple human things that drive her and keep her thinking instead of being rash. That's what a true life hero experiences. They aren't products of screenwriters. They are products of keeping it cool in impossible situations saving the things that matter in life.

Hard Ass Lines: "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage," and obviously "Get away from her, you *bitch!*"


Ash in housewares is almost at divine status in my life. Sure in Evil Dead he's kind of a little bitch and whines a lot, but by Dead by Dawn he is ready to rockin roll with a chainsaw, a maniac laugh, and no fear of the Necronamican scum spawns. But the hard ass comes to full fruition in Army of Darkness. How many goddamn amazing one liners does he have in that movie? From being a scared little bitch to commanding a castle against a deadyte army, this guy really kicked some ass. Well there is the fact that no matter how much of a hard ass he becomes, he still is a coward and loud mouth braggart, but hell who wouldn't be? Cause it's good to be king.

Hard Ass Line: "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."

Peter in Dawn of the Dead

The ultimate HNIC (if don't know what that is look it up). Ken Foree pulls together what I think is the best performance in all the ___ of the Dead movies. Peter never shy's away from a fight, even against an army of raiders. The only thing he can do is make it harder on them to rob the mall. This man is also the king of zombie head shots, which seals him as an ultimate zombie killin hard ass. But what really brings him to the top of the series is when he stays behind to hold the zombies off and is about two seconds away from blowin his brains out.... Then has a change of heart and melee's his way through zombies to get on a helicopter just in time to escape.

Hard Ass Line: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Voodoo. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."

Jack Crow in Vampires

James Wood's masterfully pulls off a Carpenteresque hard ass in the vein of Russel and Piper. This south westerner hunts vampires while they sleep for the papacy, because he had to kill his own father after he turned into a vampire. Bad blood. In one of the cooler moments in cinema he uses a charred vamp skull to strike a match on. Then there's the issue of padre's wood, where Crow constantly gives shit to a young priest about getting wood from seeing him kick ass.

Hard Ass Line: " Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin? your ass back there... you get a little wood?"

Sex Machine and Frost

From Dusk Till Dawn is filled with hard asses, but two men seal the deal; Tom Savini as Sex Machine and Fred Williamson as Frost. Sex Machine not only has vampire killing prowess, he has a cock canon revolver that only God knows how he fires. When the gore starts to flow Sex Machine gets his and becomes one of the few who make it... but not too long. Frost, the other pinnacle of hard ass muthas, is an old Vietnam vet who uses his sheer size to rip through vampire scum. This is fully manifested when he tears the heart out of the biggest vampire in the famed Titty Twister with his bare hands (or bear hands one could say), then Sex Machine kindly gets the assist with a number 2 pencil. That's hard ass synergy if I've ever seen it. Frost is such a hard ass that not only does he have a Nam story to tell, but also when he becomes a vampire, within moments he is commanding the entire flock of vampire bats.

Hard Ass Line by Frost: "I came to my senses. I realized I killed the entire V.C. Squad singlehanded. There was blood... and chunks of yellow flesh clinging to my bayonet. To this day, I don't remember..."

Hard Ass Line by Sex Machine: "Now, let's kill that fucking band."


Dr. Loomis comes off as a little crazy sometimes, but what do you expect from the man who single handedly takes on the essence of evil? AND I am not talking about the egotistical Rob Zombie Loomis, who comes off as completely mad and self serving. We are talking about Pleasence, who by the end of the series (at least his time in it) is a scarred seasoned hard ass, who totes a snub-nose revolver ready to blow Myers away any chance he can get.

Hard Ass Line: "You've fooled them, haven't you Michael? But not me."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Express Elevator to Hell: Aliens as Apocalyptic Literature


An oblong skull beneath the texture of a cold, obsidian exoskeleton. Eyes enwrapped in a shroud of darkness that renders them invisible. A snake for a tail with metallic daggers. The vision of the alien beast is as fearsome as the images found in John’s Revelation. James Cameron’s Aliens is a modern apocalyptic film that warns against the world falling to the mercy of greed. The science-fiction film’s sense of hopelessness is weaved with the apocalyptic themes of menacing symbolism, pessimism, a cataclysmic end, and optimistic dualism. In place of material lust, Cameron promotes duty as a means of confronting the beast.

In a post-Vietnam world, Cameron wrote with great pessimism to illustrate a parable to a war he thought was about “protecting American business interests in South East Asia.”[1] In his day, Cameron saw major corporations filling global power gaps and the most technological nation in the world failing to defeat a far more primitive enemy. Cameron alludes to Vietnam when he pits a technologically-advanced force against a primal beast with only its numbers as a weapon. In the end, the Marines fail and Ripley must confront the monster herself.

Cameron sets up Ripley, the female protagonist, as a savior of the innocent, as she forges a maternal bond with an orphaned child named Newt that represents a vision of humanity uninfluenced by avarice. The opposite side of human potential, inclined towards malice and greed, is emulated by Burke, the corporate entity who observes the Marines. The outgrowth of such greed is the alien. This creature melds morbid mechanical imagery with the human figure to create a beast that serves as a 20th-century terror imbedded in any viewer’s conscience. This terror can only be wiped from existence in a cataclysmic explosion, which is a strong apocalyptic theme found in many of Cameron’s films.

Dualism is imbedded into the storyline: good versus evil, innocence opposed to corruption, and duty against survival. These conflicting ideas galvanize the conclusion of the film, as two maternal figures—one a destroyer and one a savior –battle over Newt. Cameron has no intention of creating an absolute dualism because in every situation, the good triumphs. The evil force that is smashed is the aliens, which are awoken by Weyland Yutani Corporation’s voracity.

Cameron’s Apocalypses:

Aliens was released in 1986 as a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. Alien was primarily a horror film, where the stakes of failure only resulted in the characters’ phenomenal destruction. Cameron escalates the risks by endangering all of humanity at the hands of a giant corporation, Weyland Yutani. The evil corporation’s scheme in the first film is to capture an alien organism at the expense of the crew. Their ploy is not only unsuccessful, but it is responsible for the deaths of the entire crew save Ripley. At the climax of the film, she shoots the alien beast into oblivion. Aliens begins where Alien ended, but it is no longer just a horror film. Cameron transforms his sequel into a “Vietnam metaphor,” filled with military power and war-like violence.[2] The reception of Aliens was outstanding, garnering two Oscars and seven nominations. The success of Aliens and its director could be because of the apocalyptic themes in his films. Being the director of the quintessential apocalypse series, the Terminator films, James Cameron has sealed himself as the powerhouse in the apocalyptic genre. In an analysis of apocalypse in popular culture, biblical scholar Jon Paulien says Cameron “has shown considerable interest in biblical scholarship and may” intend using “the themes of the Apocalypse.”[3] Even though Paulien is referring to the Terminator films, Cameron is sure to continue these themes in other films.

Cameron uses revelatory themes to create a story about Ellen Ripley--the sole survive of the first contact with the destructive and valueless alien species. After discovering that hundreds of people may have been in contact with the creature, Ripley must return to the dreaded planet, LV.426, to face her greatest fear, the alien. When on the planet, the motley squad of Marines realizes they are underequipped to handle the aliens. The stakes rise when Ripley takes Newt, a lone survivor on the colony, under her wings. The incorporation of Newt elevates the scope of the series to include those typically seen as safe from danger. Cameron made the alien threat real to all humans, not just Marines and space truckers. By putting a little girl in danger, Cameron stabs audiences in the gut with an attack on their protective nature over children, saying that this little girl could be anyone’s sister or daughter and she can be killed any second by an alien. The threat could not be any closer, as Newt is snatched by the alien, leaving only Ripley to rescue her. Cameron takes the guns from the Marines and gives them to Ripley, because he trusts her maternal duty more than the aimless power of the Marines. When rescuing Newt, Ripley runs into her antithesis, the queen alien. This is the mother of all the creatures who have haunted her dreams and killed her friends. The final conflict between the two mothers is the last thread Cameron knits in his extremely successful film, Aliens.

The Maternal Savior: Ripley

Aliens is filled with stark symbolism, which Cameron mends together into a master tapestry that warns against what the powers of greed can unleash. The symbol for a maternal prophetic archetype is Ripley. At the start of the film, she is encased in a hibernation pod floating through the void of space. A salvage crew finds her derelict ship and she is awoken from her slumber. While she is asleep, Ripley’s peaceful face is juxtaposed over the contour of Earth as it fades to a new scene. Cameron is not only establishing Ripley as the heroine, but as a last hope for Earth. Her awakening is like a call from God. As she tells her story of survival, she is unrelenting. Ripley foretells of a fall, predicting the destruction wrought by the beast she previously encountered in the first Alien film.

RIPLEY: Look, I can see where this is going. But I'm telling you those things exist. Back on that planetoid is an alien ship and on that ship are thousands of eggs. Thousands. Do you understand? I suggest you find it, using the flight recorder's data. Find it and deal with it –before one of your survey teams comes back with a little surprise...
VAN LEUWEN: Thank you, Officer Ripley. That will be...

RIPLEY: ...because just one of those things managed to kill my entire crew, within twelve hours of hatching...
VAN LEUWEN: Thank you, that will be all.
RIPLEY: That's not all, Goddamnit! If those things get back here, that will be all. Then you can just kiss it good-bye, Jack! Just kiss it goodbye.[4]

Her foretelling and insight into the dangers of the aliens is equivalent to apocalyptic writers using their narrative to forecast a fall of the current system as a result of its own sin and ignorance. Ripley tells them they need to “deal with” the alien planet or “you can kiss” everything goodbye, which purports that they will “experience the consequences of their own sinful actions.”[5] Ripley’s words fall on closed ears because the corporate gurus have already colonized the planet. Instead of recognizing her bravery and learning from her experience, she is demoralized with the revocation of her status as a flight officer. Comparable to the plight of ancient prophets, the powers in control are often threatened by prophetic messages and as a result, prophets are persecuted. When Ripley’s foretelling is later solidified and the company loses contact with the colony, she is asked to return to the planet as a technical advisor.

At the colony, Ripley expresses her full potential when she is converted into the maternal figure for Newt. Cameron uses Newt as a strong symbol of human innocence to show what is at risk if the aliens are ever let loose on all of humanity. The scars on Newt’s innocence are already seen as she stares off into nothingness, while Ripley tries to clean her smudged and worn face. The dirt is fully cleansed upon the conclusion of the film when the aliens are dead and the corporate influence is defeated. Innocence is no longer polluted by those evil forces. However, it is not by the force of the brash Marines that good conquers. It is by the courage of Ripley who faces the beast alone.

Survival and Duty:

Cameron creates two types of soldiers in this film: the Marines, who are there as violent force, and Ripley, who fights to save an innocent girl. The Marines symbolize a type of violence that is strictly for violence’s sake. They are sent in for one reason: to destroy anything that moves. This does not separate the Marines from the aliens. The aliens are an infestation; they need hosts to perpetuate their species and survive. To acquire hosts, they violently steal human beings and cocoon them until they can be impregnated with an alien. The Marines are not as infectious, but their survival depends on raw firepower to destroy enemies. These men do not fight for duty or valor, but because they thrive on aggression and military carnage. Ripley, on the other hand, is a reluctant soldier. Her maternal duty sends her into hell against an alien queen and numerous beasts in order to save Newt. Ripley succeeds because Cameron believes that violence for the sake of force is always going to result in failure. Yet, when the fight is for the good, success is sure to come.

Burke: The Great Whore of Weyland Yutani

If Newt is a symbol of human innocence, then Burke is a symbol of human pollution. Cameron renders Burke the “great whore of aliens.” The imagery of a “whore” was used by Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic writers as a “graphic [metaphor] for spiritual unfaithfulness,” because whores tempt those around them into sin.[6] In every situation, Burke tries to persuade others into wrongdoing. He tempts them not to destroy the aliens, because of his desire to profit from the discovery of the alien. When Ripley suggests nuking the entire colony to exterminate the alien, Burke can only say, “this installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it… this is clearly an important species we are dealing with and I don’t think that you, or I, or anybody has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.” Burke’s true intentions come out when Ripley confronts him about trying to save alien specimens for the company. Burke argues, “[t]hose two specimens are worth millions to the bio-weapons division. Now if you’re smart, we can both come out of this as heroes and we will be set up for life.” Using the temptation of money, Burke cannot persuade Ripley because she understands the great threat of the alien falling into the hands of the Weyland Yutani Corporation. His treachery is revealed to be even deeper when the viewers find out he is responsible for purposely sending colonists to the derelict ship in order to be infected by the aliens. Burke defends his sins by claiming that he did not want to make a “security situation” out of dooming the colony, because when “administration steps in” there will be “no exclusive rights for anybody.” By acting out of greed to obtain the alien species for the “company,” he has unleashed a beast that is the potential downfall of all humanity. Simply put, greed unleashes an infestation upon humanity that takes people and turns them into a beast.

This beast is Burke’s demise. Just when he thinks he has escaped from the angry Marines, who have finally uncovered his sins, he meets his end. He runs away and locks everyone in a room with the aliens, only to put himself face to face with another alien. This parallels the demise of the great whore in Revelation, who is riding on a scarlet beast. The very scarlet beast she rides on “will strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her remains with fire.”[7] While Burke’s death is not as explicitly gruesome, the viewers are left to imagine his pain, learning that “evil has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.”[8]

A Beast for the 20th Century :

The fruits of Burke’s evil prove to be one of the most iconic horror images ever: the alien. The alien was designed by Swiss artist, H.R. Giger for the first film, and expanded on by Cameron in Aliens. Cameron wanted to maintain the creature that the director of the first film, Ridley Scott, described as“[c]radled between dead flesh and sexuality.”[9] The alien is a biomechanoid, which is a menacing blend of biology and machinery. By making a monster half biological and half mechanical, and by draping it in sexual imagery, Giger constructed an apocalyptic beast for the 20th century. The “Book of Daniel” explained one of four beasts “like a lion with eagles’ wings.”[10] Later, in John’s Revelation, he makes his beasts more menacing, because it “looked like a leopard, but had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion.”[11] To attack the sensibility of the modern mind, alien designers fused a post-Vietnam sexual obsession with a mechanically dead monster.

Cameron utilizes the imagery created by Giger to terrify the audience. When he juxtaposes a horrified child with the ominous figure of the alien, he uses this beast as a threatening symbol of the rotten fruit of greed. The alien’s life cycle also provides insight into what the filmmakers thought to be the nature of greed. The alien must find a human host, which it impregnates through the mouth, with a Facehugger. The gestated alien grows until it rips its way out of the host’s chest cavity. Eventually, the alien develops in size and must collect hosts to infect and to propagate its species. Cameron sees the products of greed such as materialism, selfishness, and anything that perpetuates insatiable hunger, as a beast. This beast is viral. It will lay an egg in the innocent person’s chest and replace their heart with a growing monster that will soon destroy its incubator. Cameron’s tapestry of symbolism is not easy to watch. When viewers see an alien ripping out of a woman’s chest that is cocooned to the wall, it is a disturbing sight. Cameron’s use of the beast to explain the nature of greed coats the film in a pessimistic tone.

Pessimism runs rampant in Aliens, much in part due to the time in which Cameron was writing. As child of Vietnam Era politics and the age of corporate growth, Cameron’s outlook on the forces in power throughout the world was distrustful. He explains:

If you look at places of major corporate culpability, let say the Bhopal disaster in India, where 3000 people were killed because a major international corporation cut corners on safety. There’s many many instances through history just by kind of negligence corporations have been responsible for many many deaths, but always kind of off the radar always in distant remote places. If it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen on a colony.[12] [sic]

This pessimism manifests into subtle symbols, such as the colony’s name. When the colony of LV. 426 is revealed, the viewers see a barren and ashen planet that seems to be in the belly of a storm. Soon the name of the colony, “Hadley’s Hope,” is revealed. Cameron illustrates that the only hope on the barren world is a small colony of terraformers. As the Marines enter the atmosphere, Private Hudson yells “[w]e're on an express elevator to hell; going down!” Cameron prepares the audience for the hellish planet that he introduces in his script as “godforsaken.”[13] Cameron is pointing out that a Godless environment invites the evil that soon ensues by the pens of corporate monsters and the claws of parasitic beasts.

A terraformer best explains how the aliens reached Hadley’s Hope: “[s]ome honch in a cushy office on Earth says go look at a grid reference in the middle of nowhere, we look. They don't say why, and I don't ask.” This “honch” is later revealed to be Burke. With the infestation of Hadley’s Hope, Cameron paints a desolate picture with two elements. The first element he sees as the destruction of the smallest strands of hope is greed, which is embodied by the Weyland Yutani Corporation. The corporation tries again to captures this nihilistic beast by destroying all hope on LV. 426. The second element that destroys hope is the byproduct of greed, the alien.

The cynical Marine, Lt. Hudson, embodies the pessimistic outrage of the audience. Gale Hurd, the film’s producer, says, “Hudson is the voice of the audience.”[14] Cameron wants the audience to be as outraged and pessimistic as Hudson. Every time a situation goes awry, Hudson’s glum comments make him the loudest of the Marines. When the drop ship crashes and the Marines are trapped, Hudson cries, “[t]hat's it man, game over man, game over!” This is not the end of Hudson’s ranting. He continues with famous one-liners such as, “[h]ey, maybe you haven't been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal,” and “[s]eventeen days?! Hey man, I don't wanna’ rain on your parade, but we're not gonna last seventeen hours.”[sic] The loudest voice among the Marines is the one of a coward. In fact, the only thing Hudson is optimistic about is nuking the planet and escaping.

Shaking the Foundations: “The only way to be sure”

In Aliens, most of the evil forces (save the queen) are destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion. The premise of shaking the foundations was used by apocalyptic writers, because they saw a world enveloped in evil. Cameron expressed a world where evil has infested and all hope is lost. Ripley draws the same conclusions that most people would, “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.” In fact, “It's the only way to be sure,” that the evil unleashed on LV. 426 is destroyed. As the colony is starting to explode, Cameron utilizes the film’s score as a countdown until the crescendos as the entire site erupts into flames. The scene not only shakes the foundation in the narrative but it leaves the viewer in a battle-fatigued state, asking “what just happened?” The film creates a climatic emotional catharsis for the audience, which leaves them wanting the experience to end. It does not end though; Ripley still must battle the queen.

Ripley’s function as a mother pitted against the queen’s motherly role is one of the many dualisms in Aliens. Dualism is a backbone of many apocalyptic stories, because it illustrates a storyline where good is an underdog and evil forces are in control. Ultimately, the good will overcome the evil. Cameron establishes the film’s dualisms without making them absolute. Human innocence overcomes human greed, when Burke is killed and Newt lives. Military violence fails against the aliens, but maternal duty defeats them. Ripley, the symbol of motherhood, fights the queen alien, who is the mother of all the beasts. In the end, Ripley prevails and saves Newt from one last peril. The epic battle concludes with Ripley tossing the queen alien into the endless black void of space. Cameron utilizes the dualistic storyline to show the audience that the forces of good are in constant peril, but in the end, they will overcome evil.


In Cameron’s Aliens, the forces of good are greater than those of evil. Because the piece is essentially pessimistic, the evil appears to dominate most of the film. It reflects upon an anti-military and anti-corporation sentiment that was held by many people during the decades after Vietnam. Cameron sees a world where a giant corporation can unleash a destructive force (aliens) so horrid that all of humanity (Newt) is at stake. LV. 426 is destroyed by this manifestation of evil and Cameron hints at Earth’s possible destruction as well. Cameron’s solution to the alien and the forces of greed is Ripley. Within the film’s framework of dualism, annihilation is Cameron’s choice of the method in which good overcomes evil. This can be seen when Ripley throws her antithesis, the queen alien, out of the ship’s airlock, successfully annihilating the entire alien race. Aliens proves to be an entertaining yet substantial film, filled with the apocalyptic themes that audiences have gravitated to since Biblical times.


Alien. Dir. Ridley Scott. 1979.

Aliens Special Edition. Dir. James Cameron. 1991.

Aliens Special Edition: Commentary Track. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. James Cameron and Gale Hurd.

Cameron, James. "Aliens Script by James Cameron." 28 May 1985. Daily Script. 10 11 2008

Cameron, James. Interview with James Cameron Don Shay. 1986.

Farmer, Ronald L. Revelation. Chalice Commentaries for Today. St. Loius: Chalice Press, 2005.

Giger, H. R. Giger's Alien. Beverly Hills: Big O Publishing, 1979.

Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.

Paulien, Jon. "The Lion/Lamb King: Reading the Apocalypse from Popular Culture." Ed. Barr, David L.

Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. 151-161.

Scott, Ridley. Alien Evolution Mark Kermode. 2001.

[1]Aliens Special Edition: Commentary Track. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. James Cameron and Gale Hurd. 1991.

[2] Cameron, James. Interview with James Cameron Don Shay. 1986.

[3] Paulien, Jon. "The Lion/Lamb King: Reading the Apocalypse from Popular Culture." Barr, David L. Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. 151-161. Pg. 152.

[4] Cameron, James. "Aliens Script by James Cameron." 28 May 1985. Daily Script. 10 11 2008 .

[5] Farmer, Ronald L. Revelation. Danvers: Chalice Press, 2005. Pg 82.

[6] Farmer, Ronald L. Revelation. Danvers: Chalice Press, 2005. Pg. 112.

[7] Revelation 17:16.

[8] Farmer, Ronald L. Revelation. Danvers: Chalice Press, 2005. Pg. 116.

[9] Scott, Ridley. Alien Evolution Mark Kermode. 2001.

[10] Daniel 7:4.

[11] Revelation 13:2.

[12] Aliens Special Edition: Commentary Track. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. James Cameron and Gale Hurd. 1991.

[13] Cameron, James. "Alien Script by James Cameron." 28 May 1985. Daily Script. 10 11 2008 .

[14] Aliens Special Edition: Commentary Track. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. James Cameron and Gale Hurd. 1991.