“Game over, man. Game over.” A Retrospective of Bill Paxton’s Contributions to Cyberpunk

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Bill Paxton is best known within the cyberpunk community as the man who has been killed by a Terminator, Alien, and a Predator (an honor that he shares only with Lance Henriksen). Sadly, on Sunday, February 29th, 2017, Bill Paxton passed away at the age of 61 due, not to extra-terrestrial or extra-temporal beings but rather to complications from surgery. Within the cyberpunk canon, though, he will live on forever. Neon Dystopia takes a look at Paxton’s contributions to the genre.

Slipstream

In Slipstream, Paxton plays Matt Owens, a down on his luck outlaw. When Owens meets Tasker and Belitski, two bounty hunters, he decides to kidnap their bounty, a man named Byron. Byron is an android who killed a man and is now grappling with burgeoning humanity. Paxton plays his classical crude, but lovable character type in Slipstream. The big difference here is that Paxton is the protagonist, rather than a side character with this personality, and Paxton pulls it off. Mark Hamill steals the show as the bounty hunter Tasker, but Paxton really brings his A-game with the personality that made him famous.

You can purchase a copy of Slipstream here.

Aliens

In Aliens, Paxton also dons his crude, yet lovable persona (you’ll notice this is a pattern). This time, though, instead of an outlaw, Paxton is a cocky Marine that has been sent out in unforgiving space to fight an alien being that has wiped out a colony. Possibly Paxton’s most famous line is from Aliens, “Game over, man! Game over!” Private Hudson, Paxton’s character, plays a comedic foil to the rest of the cast. As a result of this, however, Paxton’s character arc has the largest fall from fun loving, to barley holding it together. This is easily one of Paxton’s most iconic roles. Oh, and yes Alien is cyberpunk.

You can get a copy of Aliens here.

Predator 2

In Predator 2, Paxton again reprises his classical archetype as Jerry Lambert. Lambert is a cocky cop who has just transferred to the most crime-ridden district in LA to make a name for himself. He doesn’t fare as well as Glover’s character, but he goes out fighting (we already spoiled this in the opener). Again, Lambert’s arc is more obvious for his comedic elements. Paxton shows how a character can go from wanting glory for the wrong reasons, to sacrificing himself for the right reason and really achieving glory. Predator 2 is the most cyberpunk of the Predator franchise, but really gets it’s cyberpunk cred by association.

You can get a copy of Predator 2 here.

Streets of Fire

Streets of Fire in an odd entry for a cyberpunk list. On its face, it has the punk elements, but not the cyber/high tech elements. It really isn’t even science fiction. Yet, it heavily inspired Bubblegum Crisis, one of the most cyberpunk anime out there, and this is apparent from the opening shots. Streets of Fire is also referenced in Cyberpunk 2020 and The Cyberpunk Handbook as required viewing and that’s good enough for me. Paxton plays a minor role in this one, but his character Clyde (a bartender that falls under Paxton’s type-casting) becomes pivotal in the final act.

You can get a copy of Streets of Fire here

The Terminator

Bill Paxton is credited as only “Punk Leader” in The Terminator. If this role weren’t so iconic, it would hardly be worth mentioning. Paxton is only on screen for a handful of minutes, but his presence dominates the screen while he is there. This punk character fits Paxton’s type-cast entirely, and somehow he manages to bring this to the fore with few lines and almost no time. This role really demonstrates how much Paxton can do on screen, for the virtue of simply being there. His stereotypical punk look doesn’t hurt either, and man, that tire track on his face is surprisingly flattering.

You can get a copy of The Terminator here.

Future Shock

Future Shock is an entirely different format from the previous movies on this list. It is an anthology movie, that tells three separate dystopic tales of the future. In one of these dark visions, Paxton plays Vince, a sleazy punk who drives his mad scientist roommate to murder. Paxton’s character almost comes off as sinister in this movie, although his naturally comedic traits prevent him from quite crossing this threshold. This is a strange one, and although each of the tales is interesting in its own right, Future Shock is by no means required viewing, but if you are looking for some Paxton you may not have seen, this is a good one to check out.

You can get a copy of Future Shock here.

The Circle

The Circle is an upcoming film about the insidious nature of a surveillance state apparatus run by a Google-like company called The Circle, and is also Paxton’s last film before his death. In the movie, Paxton plays the father of Emma Watson’s character Mae. Paxton’s character, credited as only Mae’s father, has Multiple Sclerosis and seems to be a motivation for Watson’s character. It seems like this role does not fall within the Paxton “type” but I have no doubt that the character will be interesting. The Circle will be hitting theaters on April 28th, 2017 and act as the capstone on Paxton’s career.

Bill Paxton brought a classic punk stereotype into the punk genre and made it his own. It became a kind of brand that followed him most of his career, until he broke out into some more serious roles outside of genre fiction, such as Titanic and Twister. What us your favorite role that Bill Paxton played?

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