Sunday, May 25, 2014

They Live (1988)

Note:  This is a review that I've reposted from my Epinions account.

Sometimes, a premise sounds so ridiculous that I just have to watch the movie. When I came across They Live, I realized that I had found such a movie. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays Nada, a construction worker who drifts into town looking for a job. On the job that he gets, he meets Frank, who’s played by Keith David. Frank leads Nada back to an area with tents that a lot of the homeless people in the area live.

When strange things start happening at a church across the street, Nada becomes curious. He finds several boxes and an elaborate chemistry setup. Frank, who’s far less curious, advises Nada to simply leave things alone. When the church and homeless area are raided, Nada finds himself in a position to do just the opposite. After everything has calmed down, Nada goes back into the church and finds the boxes, which are full of sunglasses.

I know that you’re thinking that sunglasses don’t make for an interesting plot point, but these are no ordinary sunglasses. These sunglasses allow the wearer to see the world as it really is, at least in black and white. Every sign, billboard, magazine or other printed medium bears some subliminal message. Messages range from things like “Obey” and “Submit to authority” to “Marry and reproduce”. To make matters even more interesting, there are aliens living among us.

After a knockdown, drag-out fight, Nada convinces Frank to put on the glasses. The two then manage to find the group that made them, which happens to be a rebel group fighting the aliens. The aliens plan to take over humanity by making us passive. They then use us to mine our own planet. Most of the population is unaware of what’s going on, but there are a select few that are so lulled by the good life that they can be told what’s going on. Somebody has to do something about this and Nada is the man to do it.

This is one of those movies that I probably never would have found out about without the aid of NetFlix. I don’t recall ever hearing about it when it first came out. (Then again, I was only twelve at the time.) This is one of those movies that could have done with a lot more detail. I think that it could survive as a miniseries or even a regular TV series.

Very little is said as to why the aliens are here, other than for our resources and cheap labor. The resistance group was never really built up. Even the ending left something to be desired. The only part of the movie that lasted any length of time was a fight scene between Frank and Nada. (Speaking of which, why was frank so resistant to putting on those glasses?)

Ultimately, this is a three-star movie. Nothing about the movie is spectacular, but it is entertaining for an hour and a half. I’d recommend it to people who are just looking to watch something without thinking about it too much. From what I’ve read, it was supposed to be making fun of our consumer society, but I didn’t get that so much. Yeah, there were a few plot points that seemed to beg us to wake up, so to speak, but overall, the movie just seemed like a movie.

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