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Review: THX-1138 (1971)

THX-1138 (1971)

Directed by: George Lucas

Premise: In a society where human emotions are controlled by the state, one man (Robert Duvall) breaks out of his daily routine and becomes aware of his humanity.

What Works: THX-1138 is a very influential piece that holds up well even today. What separates this film from many of its contemporaries is the film’s daring to face the themes of sex, public morality, and personal happiness. The film resists the urge to reduce itself to an action film with some intelligent concepts scattered throughout and keeps the thematic issues at the center of the dramatic drive. 

What Doesn’t: This is an abstract film and it has more in common with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey than Lucas’ Star Wars saga. It takes the theme of emotional atrophy very seriously and extends it into the camerawork. Viewers who are not prepared for this may be turned off.

DVD extras: Commentary track with George Lucas, sound effects only track, features on the making of the film and on the legacy of American Zoetrope, George Lucas’ original student film THX-1138 4EB.

Bottom Line: THX-1138 is worth viewing both as a milestone in the science fiction genre and as an interesting film in itself. The look and themes of the film have been revisited in the years since, but this film dealt with them in some of the most challenging ways both aesthetically and intellectually. A must for fans of Lucas and of 1970s independent films.

Episode: #62 (July 31, 2005)