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.