Watch: James Cameron's Short Film 'Xenogenesis' Is an Early Inspiration for 'Avatar'

Watch: James Cameron's Short Film 'Xenogenesis' Is an Early Inspiration for 'Avatar'

Dec 12, 2012

Xenogenesis Cameron

James Cameron has been forced to reveal lots of his unproduced projects as part of his defense in a lawsuit alleging he ripped off the idea for Avatar. To prove the idea was his, the filmmaker recently submitted a 45-page declaration explaining how pretty much everything in his life was building toward that film (and its subsequent sequels) – and while that’s disappointing for Cameron (no artist really wants to share the projects that didn’t come together as planned), it’s a treasure trove of material for movie geeks.

One of the projects Cameron talks about at length in his statement is his 1970s film project Xenogenesis – a title that would eventually become pretty integral in terms of what he envisioned for Avatar. Cameron describes Xenogenesis like this:

Xenogenesis is the saga of the voyage of Cosmos Kindred, a mile-long spaceship employing a fusion ramjet interstellar drive unit. In the face of destruction of the Earth, scientists engage in a last-ditch effort to preserve a nucleus of humanity by trying to find a new planet on which to live. Cosmos Kindred carries a cyber (artificial intelligence) that has cell samples, which, under the cyber’s direction, will be developed into cloned individuals once the spaceship finds a suitable new home planet.

The central section of the Xenogenesis story focuses on the human drama of the pilot dealing with a female stowaway who has been raised by the cyber. They experience exotic, danger-filled alien landscapes on different planets that I created, on which they see bizarre flora and fauna, and take samples.”

While that sounds cool, Slashfilm has stumbled upon a YouTube clip of demo footage Cameron shot to try and drum up funding back in 1978. This gives us a chance to see Cameron's vision in action.

The FX work is low-fi by today’s standards, and the concept art looks like it could have come from a period sci-fi mag, but the whole thing is still neat. The young lead actor runs into a giant robot who looks like Johnny 5’s father and is rescued by his female companion driving a giant spider mech that apparently uses a piece of Body By Jake workout equipment to control it. It’s totally cheesy, but in a really charming way, and gives us a glimpse of how Cameron was developing as a young filmmaker.

Check it out below, then head on over to Geek Tyrant for a lengthy breakdown of everything in the Cameron court statement. 

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