THX 1138 Reviews
There's not much here as far as characters and the story is familiar, but what this film excels at is atmosphere. I love all these industrial sets in parking garages and factories. The color palate is dull and everything is uniform. You can see a lot of later movies (particularly YA movies) adopting this.
Unfortunately, the only version I could find of this was the director's cut. I thought it'd be just a longer version, but Lucas definitely pulled a "Special Edition" on this one. Awful CGI pops up a lot and completely takes you out of the movie. I mean CGI that looks like a 90's video game. It's a real shame because while the technology of the original film is dated, it still works and feels cohesive. But looking at what he's done to Star Wars, I guess it shouldn't surprise me.
Kind of a slow movie, but essential for any sci-fi or film junkie.
It looks iconic for the first time I've watched it.
It surely influenced Terry Gilliam, Spielberg, even Kubrick I bet. It goes hand in hand with 1984, Brazil and Equilibrium. The director`s cut hugely helps it because it`s already pretty bizarre - it provides much better world building and communication with the viewer.
I prefer sci-fi like 12 Monkeys and Oblivion but this is quite a classic similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien.
George Lucas's directorial debut THX 1138 proves one major thing in its concise, eighty-eight minute runtime, and that is that a science-fiction film doesn't need to extend past two hours in order to be thoughtful or contemplative. It's all about what a writer/director is willing to convey during its runtime, and whether or not he or she wants to leave the audience with a rich interpretation or a rather lean one. THX 1138 manages to eek out ideas of what it want kind of ideas and themes it wants to leave with its audience, and those ideas question how elaborate and unforeseen the consequences will be for a futuristic dystopia where any emotions that aren't computerized are prohibited, leaving humans and humanoids incapable, or worse, strictly forbidden, from thinking and feeling.
THX 1138 takes place in an undetermined time in the future where sex of any kind is prohibited, and a drug that alters the mind in ways that try to prevent sexual urges is distributed amongst society and made mandatory by the government. Emotions of any kind, as well as family identification are all taboos in this world, and everyone looks the same, boasting an all-white uniform with shaved heads. People are kept in line by a series of police humanoids that come cloaked in black and silver and unafraid to use blunt force on its people.
Social norms and conformity are enforced by two individuals, SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasence) and LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), who monitor a series of surveillance cameras on the city. LUH lives with a male roommate, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall), who works in a factory that creates the same police androids that are watching over the land. THX learns that his workplace is celebrating a record low 195 worker deaths in the last period, which is significantly lower than another factory's 242. It is then that we see what this world is really about: high productivity, few accidents, and a faux idea of happiness so the two former features can commence uninterrupted or with few snags.
Things start taking a turn for the worse for this futuristic land when THX and LUH become romantically involved, specifically when THX's drug dosage gets mixed up and his ability to feel aroused, empathetic, and passion are all restored in his mind. The two wind up carrying out a forbidden relationship that sends this society into a complete meltdown; as a result, the hunt is on for THX to force him to either comply with the lack of emotional tolerance in his community or simply be tried and eventually executed for his so-called crimes.
I'll be blunt and say that I had to thoroughly read the synopsis of THX 1138 upon finishing it. This is one of the few films that I can remember that had me almost completely and totally lost throughout the entire runtime that I needed secondary sources to inform me what was going on and what I had just witnessed. In the case of films by subversive directors, like Orson Welles, or in a modern sense, Christopher Nolan, that kind of narrative ambiguity is expected and welcomed. For Lucas's directorial debut, it comes off as murky and unclear, not necessarily because THX 1138 finds itself functioning largely as a stylistic exercise, but because it is so void of style and color.
Lucas favors backdrops that are whiter than porcelain, with characters in all-white jumpsuits that practically melt into the background, leaving only what appear to be scalps floating in the foreground. Dialog is written in a jumbled, jargon-heavy manner, making conversations between characters unclear and confusing most of the time, and characters are as bland and as non-existent as they come. Obviously, these were conscious decisions made on part of Lucas, who wanted to create this very broad, basic environment where everything we've come to know and accept as people was subtracted and replaced with eternal nothingness. This is an admirable concept, but the execution here leaves a lot to be desired and feels self-defeating.
When characters, thoughtful conversations, and major events are substituted for a lost of aimless wandering and conversing, regardless of the themes the picture is trying to convey, the act of watching such a thing inherently promotes a disconnect amongst the audience. When audiences feel disconnected or alienated, they generally lose interest or don't pay attention, and that is precisely what happened to me during most of THX 1138. I can admire the ambition in scope and idealism from a young Lucas, who would go and craft Star Wars just six years later and start another beast that was just waiting to be dissected and embraced by similar fans of THX 1138, but this is a film that almost entirely escaped me from start to finish.
Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, and Maggic McOmie. Directed by: George Lucas.