They Live – Throwback Thursday
Intro to… They Live
There has never been a time where political messages were so superficially hidden from the audience as during the 80s. The sci-fi genre was found to be especially suitable for blatantly obvious metaphors and in-your-face analogies.
Directors did not shy away from a bit of propaganda. Their political views strongly resounded through their movies. Some did so with great creativity, others not so much. They Live definitely falls under this category of politically inspired movies. But, is it good?
Nana (Roddy Piper), a drifter looking for work, strolls into town. He finds some at a construction site where he meets Frank (Keith David). At first Nana gives Frank the cold shoulder but they quickly bond over being victims of the hard economical climate.
Not able to afford housing Nana spends his nights in a slum. The underprivileged gather and work together and local charities come around to provide them with food. Life is tough but could be worse. And it does.
One night the police demolishes the slum in search of anti-government terrorists that were hiding in the nearby church. Nana escapes but feels things are not right. After things cooled down he breaks into the church and finds a box with sunglasses. He puts one on and his world falls apart. These glasses do more than filter light; they show the truth. And the truth is that aliens have taken over the world and that people have been brainwashed to live within a consumption-obsessed society.
Nana cannot except this and plans to stop it. He convinces Frank to join him on his mission to stop the aliens and save humankind.
Should I Watch It?
They Live is a classic 80s action film. There is fighting, there is shooting, and the protagonist sports a glorious blond mullet. The flow of the movie is classic 80s as well. It has a good balance between action and exposition, but the scenes last a lot longer than we are used to. The story is strong and takes some unexpected twists.
The acting is as good as you can expect from a WWF-wrestler. But what Piper lacks in acting he makes up for in both presence and one-liners. They Live has a strong script that includes the famous “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” line. As expected from a professional fighter the fight scenes look raw and real. John Carpenter was so impressed with Piper and David that their fight scene runs for over 5 minutes. The quality of the fighting, however, does not transfer to the rest of the action. In full A-Team glory, shooting is done by spraying automatic machine guns left and right. Unlike the A-Team a lot of aliens do get hit.
They Live might be John Carpenter’s thinly veiled protest against capitalism and the economical approach of former President Ronald Reagan. But at the same time it is a highly entertaining film filled with memorable quotes and an amazing fight scene.
Yes, watch it.