125 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2004
Wondering what you world would be like if it were run by aliens that were trying to control your minds through subliminal messaging? Well, look no further than John Carpenter's cult classic They Live. Wresting superstar Roddy Piper stars as Nada, a drifter that stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that show him the truth about his society and the world he inhabits. He discovers that humans are not the only beings to be living on the planet Earth. Nada also knows what he must do to save the human race from complete invasion of these creatures. Does he have enough time and manpower to stop these culprits of communication or will Nada only help them enslave the human race? It will all teeter on the amount of "bubblegum" that he carries with him!
Visionary director John Carpenter creates this world that is not unlike today's society. Glued to the television and void of independent thought, he shows us a human race that resembles cattle in the fields waiting for the farmer's next decision. Created well before The Matrix, Carpenter uses aliens to demonstrate the power of the media and the superpowers behind the scenes. In a world where we gather our truth from others and in the comfort of our own home, this film carries themes that are still relevant today. Carpenter shows us that we can live in a world, even a city, and not realize what is happening around us. How hidden are those subliminal messages in our culture? He also prods at the notion that only the wealthy can create the supposed truth, and that eventually the lines between wealthy and homeless with be much defined. There will be an elimination of the middle-class and humans would be at the bottom of the social order.
This was a beautiful film that carries with it a heavy burden of showing us the truth of our world. While we may giggle and laugh at this "created" society, there are some truths to what Carpenter is showing. He gives us warnings and answers if we choose to listen. I was not expecting such a high caliber of emotion to go into a film like this, and was utterly surprised by the experience. Perhaps it is the packaging, perhaps it is because our culture has not adapted well to the horror/sci-fi genre yet, but everyone should experience this film once. I recommend it for anyone that enjoyed The Matrix and want to see more about the structure of our society.
Grade: **** out of ****
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2004
After spending the last few months expanding my collection of John Carpenter DVDs to the best of my ability without plunging into bankruptcy, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that, despite his inactivity and supposed "downfall" over the last ten years, he is still one of our best (and unfortunately most underrated) directors. With a classic film like "Halloween" on his resume, it's easy to overlook the rest of his films like they could never possibly measure up. Truth be told, what could? "Halloween" was, is, and will forever be the alpha and omega of slasher film horror. That being said, "They Live" is probably one of the best corporate satires of the past twenty years. Made in the latter years of Reagan's eighties, John Carpenter's film, based off the short story titled "Eight in the Morning," is a fun action ride that moonlights as a biting satire of the stranglehold of greed in America.
Roddy Piper (how perfect is that?) stars as the man with no name (credited as "Nada" at the end), a drifter who finds work and friendship among a small habitat of homeless dwellers. He's also the man who eventually begins a quest for the truth behind a pair of special sunglasses that reveal the existence of alien lifeforms. Keith David plays the construction worker with a heart of gold who befriends Piper and they have some very interesting conversations.
"It's all a big game. The name of it is 'Getting Through Life.' Everybody's trying to finish first and do you in at the same time. They put you at the starting line and now, here we are: You do what you can, but remember, I wanna do my best, too... blow your a$$ away..."
Piper's laugh in response to David's diatribe about life in economic America might be simple in its form, but shattering in its true meaning. People do try and laugh it off when someone says something they may or may not agree with. Or suppose we just have a different point of view, we would rather laugh and pass it off as understanding than comment with our own opinion; just let the conversation end. Such is the attitude of people at the time. Heck, it still might be.
Half the power of "They Live" lies in its complete, focused attention on inattention. Or our inability to accept reasons for our plight that go outside our views. The fistfight between Piper and David around the one-hour mark in the film is one of the best in cinema (and it's real, I might add, minus the blows to the head). And while it is silly and over the top, there's an honest message in there about how we will fight to be blind to a painful truth. If ignorance is bliss, I will fight Roddy Piper to remain that way.
The aliens in "They Live" serve as a device for the satirical undertones to function. They are also responsible for triggering sequences of shocking intensity, such as when an entire Hooverville of peaceful people is bulldozed to the ground, its inhabitants beaten senseless. Nonetheless, they are the corporate leaders that we all feel like are aliens, peering out at us with their skeletal faces safely behind their podiums. Carpenter sees them as they are meant to be seen, and with some truly awesome matte-designs accompanied with black and white photography, shows us the true messages behind the endless bombardment of advertising we are subjected to each day.
Stay asleep, no independent thought, marry, reproduce, consume, and don't question authority. To quote another Carpenter film, "Welcome to the human race."
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
They Live was the last movie of the 80s made by John Carpenter; in many ways this was the end of an era. From 1976-1988 Carpenter had quite an impressive run of what are seen now as classics. The 76-88 era is very much Carpenter's golden era and he actually wrote or co-wrote most of these movies, which makes it even more impressive.
What I love about They Live is the movie is mindless entertainment that isn't so mindless at all. There is a heavy does of social commentary and it's not subtle at all. John Carpenter doesn't hide his feelings at all. He had something he wanted to say and he doesn't hold back. Every movie becomes dated, but some hold up well. They Live is probably one of those movies that will almost always remain current. Even to this day the message delivered in They Live holds up to what's going on in the world.
The screenplay was written by John Carpenter under the name Frank Armitage and overall the script was quite well done. What I love about Carpenter as a writer is his scripts have a simple idea and they work so well. Also I really love the characters in Carpenter's movies regardless if he wrote the script or not he really knows how to bring characters to life. They Live has a good script, though maybe weaker than some of his past ones, but overall it's quite well done. About the only real complaint I have is the first 30-minutes almost seem like fillers.
While there is character development you can actually lose the first 30-minutes and not lose any of the plot or any of the character development and the movie would still work and not feel like anything is missing. That's not to say the first 30-minutes were bad or boring. They do work, but I just feel like some of the scenes were sort of filler scenes.
As director John Carpenter creates a really fun movie. His scenes are well paced and like I said before he really knows how to bring characters to life. The action scenes are great and highly entertaining and the comedy in the movie also works quite well. When it comes to Carpenter's career he's always talked about how much he did for horror, which he did. But sometimes I feel people forget what a great action director he is.
As a kid I was a big wrestling fan and Roddy Piper was one of my very favorites. With really only a couple of exceptions most wrestlers that went into acting really didn't fair well. While some may have had a hit or two they weren't very good actors, while Piper may not be an Oscar worthy actor he does deliver a great performance here. He really knows how to entertain and the much underrated Keith David is great here as well. These two guys really work great together and help elevate this movie.
As I stated the first 30-minutes or so can be a little slow and you sort of get to that point and wonder ok where is this movie going? Once Piper puts on the sunglasses its non-stop excitement until the end of the movie; the biggest highlight of the movie is probably the fight scene between Roddy Piper's character and Keith David's character. The scene runs at about 5-minutes and some people complain it was too long. Ok, yeah I suppose it was on the long side, but I don't think I have ever been more entertained by a fight scene like I was in They Live.
They Live also features some of the best one liners; they are the type you can keep quoting over and over again. This really was an excellent movie, while again the first 30-minutes do sort of feel like filler scenes at times it's never boring and once it gets going the movie is just non-stop fun. I suppose this could sort of be seen as the last great Carpenter movie, but I do enjoy his 90s work; they may not be as solid as his 70s/80s work, but not as bad some people make it out to be, but They Live was probably his last great movie.
They Live is mindless entertainment that isn't so mindless; despite the heavy dose of social commentary They Live is a blast!
73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2002
Produced by Larry Franco and directed by John Carpenter in 1988, THEY LIVE never appears on the list of the best movies of the american master. I don't understand why. The carpenterian theme by excellence, the rebellion against the establishment, is the central theme of THEY LIVE, and, as far as it concerns action, the movie features one of the most impressing bare hand fights ever presented on screen.
Furthermore THEY LIVE presents a good sci-fi cliché à la Philip K. Dick - they're among us and I'm the only one who sees them -, a theme treated with intelligence by John Carpenter who does have a lot of fun to criticize our contemporary society. One will recognize some of the ideas of the movie in another Carpenter opus directed 10 years later : ESCAPE FROM L.A.
If you're a Carpenter fan, this DVD will soon be in your library but be aware that there isn't even a menu and that you're just allowed to surf into a scene access department. Shame on Image for their lack of respect. Great images and sound though.
A DVD zone rebellion.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2002
This is certainly the most discussed Carpenter's work today. And one of his best films. A homeless man, named John Nada - Nada for nothing, in Spanish - and played by wrestler Roddy Piper, comes to Los Angeles straight from Colorado and discovers, thanks to some special sunglasses (for once not used for showing around, like in "The Matrix") that the highest levels of our society (business, show-business, politics, army, police...) are ruled by infiltrated aliens who turned the world to their own law, the law of money and benefit, through the annihilation of any human conscience. After a unforgettable fighting sequence, he makes a big Black guy (Keith "The Thing", "Platoon" David) open his eyes about them, and they soon are the only ones to make something about the situation and give the world back to the human kind.
The most disturbing aspect of this tale, is less that fact than the attitude of many humans (including the main female character, the only real 'bad' one created by Carpenter in his career, along with "Christine", the living car with a girl name, able to have deadly feelings) who know about the presence and purpose of the aliens, and collaborate with them (sell their souls to the Devil) in order to make personal fortunes, with a complete despise for their own kind. So we can say that this movie is also a version of the Faust myth, as well as a hard, modern version of Jack Finney's "Body Snatchers" (the infiltrated aliens) and George Orwell's "1984" (the subliminal messages invisible to the human eye, that Big Brother'd have appreciated).
But finally, Carpenter has certainly made this movie to show his very pessimistic vision of the human being, only interested in making as much money as possible, no matter how (the hell with dignity), and to ask a big question: does this alien society really exist? Do we really live in a system ruled by strangers from outer space (assimilated by Carpenter to the Republicans) and encouraging non-stop consumption and race to money and fake happiness? Released eleven years before "The Matrix", "They Live" is much stronger and more interesting and, of course, very, very disturbing. Big John's anger at its top.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2003
This movie is a great metaphor of our common life. Roddy Piper (the main character) finds out that the world is being consumed by a whole bunch of aliens, which send subliminal messages using billboards or books and TV saying "SLEEP" "CONSUME" "NO FREE THOUGHTS" and so on. Now, how this relates to real life. I'm sure you will agree that products these days are using so much propaganda, it seems as if we are being forced to buy them. "They Live" points that out, for common people are being "tricked" into buying things. Also in the movie, money actually has printed on the phrase "THIS IS YOUR GOD". Money is the centre of our lives. How do we eat, have shelter, education, and everything we need that is vital to life without it? The answer is no way, unless you live in some primitive island in the middle of no where. Carpenter clearly makes that point with the film. There are other things too---how the aliens use little cameras to watch the humans (the U.S. currently does have cameras everywhere watching us), how the aliens are the "rich", etc..But there is one final point that Carpenter probably wanted to make. In the movie, they are aliens. The closest thing they are in real life though, is the government. Taking over. Almighty power. Taking over our lives and using us; must be things that were hinted. I do not know if that is really true myself...but it's definately something to think about.
But ofcourse, in the film, people can only see the aliens and subliminal messages with these special glasses...but in our world, it must be knowledge, a bit of common sense, and a trip to my office of critical thinking that will lead us to the truth.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2006
Well, I don't know about all the social, political, or artistic ideas here, and I was never a Rowdy Roddy Piper devotee. I just view this as a campy B movie that's not just so bad that it's good, it's so bad that it's absolutely excellent. Reminds of something you'd see in the pre-cable days on Chiller Theatre about 3 in the morning. Wonderfully over-the-top and highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2013
There's the skin of an action movie: Rowdy Roddy as the vagabond wandering from job to job in search of meaning & purpose, being tough, being real. That's all fine, but really beside the point.
The underlayer, the message at the core of this film demands attention & earnest consideration.
You won't quite look at your town the same again, likely to be disgusted by the maelstrom of consumerism and blind devotion to it surrounding you. Whatever happens with the plot in the movie, we have no Roddy Piper to subvert the powers that be, from imposing this superficial, artificial and disparate societal edifice we pulsate in. And that should frighten us.
If society were truly free, we'd screen "They Live" instead of Schindler's List or Forrest Gump during grade school lunchtimes. But we're not free, we're indoctrinated by an increasingly dense and suffocating social mechanism, the strings of which only the soulless class move by their design, for their own motives. Yea, the film is violent (with one fight scene lasting what feel like 10 minutes), but rebellions usually are--it's not to take away from the message: wake the F* up!!
The youth should see this movie to develop a healthly repudiation of consumer-culture and it's unerring influence on impressionable minds.
I would say 14-15 and up, mandatory viewing!!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2004
My jaw dropped when I saw this movie. It is the best literal explanation of what is going on in our world when it comes to mind control. I believe this movie is true word for word. I take it very seriously. I even believe aliens have taken over our planet and are "CHANGING OUR ATMOSPHERE INTO THEIR ATMOSPHERE". Reptilian looking aliens that pump mass media lies into our heads to make us stupid and obedient.
Look: Even if you don't believe in aliens, you can change everything into a metaphor - The Media is nothing but Illuminati Propaganda being pumped into our heads 24 hours a day. Lies lies lies. AND THEN WHEN YOU PRESENT THE TRUTH TO PEOPLE, THEY DON'T WANT IT! They turn the station and say "you're making my head hurt."
Some humans in the movie sell out to the aliens (corporations/government) for financial gain. (entertainers, politicians).
If you watch this movie .... get passed all of the 80's cheesiness. On the surface it is a cheesy 80's flick, I won't lie to you .... but if you pay attention to it, you'll appreciate the truth that it presents.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 1999
This movie works on a number of levels, it is an excellant satire of greed and the me me culture of the 80's, and on another level it is a great sci-fi movie including all the much used and much loved sci-fi standards of alien invaision and control and thanks to Roddy Piper who surprises all with the quality of his acting the fight scenes have an extra bite which helps alot.
This movie will appeal to anyone with a interest in politics as it is a classic example of the true nature of capitalism and the way in which its true goal is to set people against each other and to control the masses with consumerism.
Anyone who likes action movies, sci-fi and sharp satire will think this movie is a blast, miss it if you dare.