THX 1138 - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

THX 1138 Reviews

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May 10, 2019
George Lucas is now primarily known as the creative force behind Star Wars (1977), which would go on to produce one of the most popular media franchises of all time. Earlier in his career he had directed the wonderful American Graffiti (1973) and this influential science fiction film. It was at my father's urging that I watched this and I am glad I did. It's a concise inventive exploration of free will vs. determinism and the effects that environmental changes could have on our lives. Robert Duvall's presence as the lead actor was obviously a big draw and as expected he was great but the presence of other lesser known actors as the figures that populate the bizarre world that this film operates within. If you like science fiction films from the 1960s and 1970s this is a must-watch.

THX 1138, Robert Duvall, lives in a future in which everybody is drugged to prevent them from having sexual feelings about others and reproducing and to keep them under the control of the state who only want them to perform menial tasks. He falls in love with LUH 3417, Maggie McOmie, and they engage in sexual contact. He then makes the decision to stop taking the drugs which alerts him to the authorities and causes him to be imprisoned and then separated from LUH after it is discovered she is pregnant with their child.

The film engages with it's fascist allegory better than most science fiction films do as we see the influence of the state everywhere. Even religion is controlled by them as there are no priests available to offer consultancy but instead a pre-recorded message from a robot creepily intones that he will attain happiness by following the rules of the state. Everybody looks the same, they have shaved heads and wear white long sleeved shirts and pants, causing them to blend together and appear like human resources instead of individuals. Even the ending of the film, spoiler: The sun is far too close to the surface of the earth therefore society has moved underground, questions whether escaping from this society is better than being free. This way, THX is almost certainly barred from seeing his child or LUH ever again and will die of starvation, dehydration or radiation quickly.

The central point of the film then is that we should not harm our environment so much at this point that our ancestors live in a world where it is necessary to have them controlled. Overpopulation appears to be a major problem as even the prison is extremely overcrowded. The living quarters that every person lives in are as small and nondescript as everybody else and genders, races and body types blend together to prevent certain people from rising above others. The environment on the outside appears apocalyptic and it is clear that there is nowhere to go that will allow human life to flourish, what a dark vision.

Lucas' direction already shows stunning attention to visuals as the disturbing lack of bright colors and monotony of the life that THX lives is shown with an incandescent white present at all times. He creates a concise film that can be oddly entertaining despite containing characters who are subdued almost all the time and a very bleak scenario. He does not fall prey to clichà (C)s of the genre and his handling of the suffering of THX and LUH feels more subtle than say Logan's Run (1976). He had huge artistic abilities and it seems so strange that someone initially so opposed what was popular in the early 1970s would become a purveyor of mainstream cinema.

This is a great movie even as it doesn't contain the wacky, child-friendly supporting characters usually present in films directed, written or produced by Lucas, it feels like one of his most pure creative visions. If you are going to watch his non-Star Wars work I would urge you to watch American Graffiti first but this is a far more worthy effort than Howard the Duck (1986) or Strange Magic (2015). If you want a break from the mindless Avengers movies of today this is a film that works within it's genre but is far more interesting than you would initially be lead to believe.
March 28, 2019
Most Underrated George Lucas of all time
January 30, 2019
As a Sci-Fi fan THX-1138 is probably a movie I should have seen by now. To be honest, though, I hadn't really been all that interested in it for the most part. There isn't any malicious reason for it. The movie just never seemed to pique my interest. That is until I found a copy in the dollar bin because I am a poor man hiding behind a cheap suit.

As George "Red Tails" Lucas's first film, I have to say that I was equally impressed with visuals, and ideas, as I was unimpressed by the lifeless story, and dull execution of some scenes. That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself while watching, I just felt that as the movie went on it started to feel a bit empty. It was like the constant stream of information and conversation happening over the main parts of the film were a way to disguise that there really wasn't much going on with the plot. Sure, THX has some heavy-handed themes including lack of identity and government suppression. The lack of a leader figure beyond the religious view was also very prevalent, leading to organized chaos that mostly works, but isn't quite there for me. The stand out character hammers home this story lite idea, as Donald Pleasence is fantastic in this as another rule breaker who is a bit mentally tossed, and yet his motive is never known past, needing a new roommate. Still, some scenes were just cool. Watching them make some robots, the mindlock scene was really good, and the nerd in me enjoyed the fun but somewhat hokey chase at the end.

All in all, THX-1138 is a solid film and a really neat debut from Mr.Lucas. Just thinking of how this must have looked in the early 70's shows that he was ahead of his time. I wonder what happened.
½ December 24, 2018
Creepy sci fi world.
½ October 1, 2018
The strangest, most scatterbrained movie I have ever seen. At some point Lucas throws in a midget in a scene in jail. Guess the circus was in town. And, at the end of the movie, Lucas throws in some half-alien monkey to jump on Duvall's back where seemingly it doesn't make sense. Guess we know who wrote a lot of the latest "Indiana Jones" movie.
September 27, 2018
A disturbing sci-fi movie, a debut, from George Lucas, a cerebral movie clearly influenced by philosophical "Space Odyssey". I really wish Lucas had had focused more on doing this kind of sci-fi movies instead of crowd-pleasing "Star Wars". A true science-fiction movie should be of this quality: pondering on philosophical questions of human existence, of its aim and progress (or, more accurately, regress) into a bleak and terrifying future, post-modernism in its bright wrap.
½ December 31, 2017
A bit vague and sometimes boring in some situations, but overall a unique and visually stunning sci-fi thriller made and directed by the creator of Star Wars himself. Engaging near the end, which puts forth the interest of the film.
½ December 26, 2017


[George Lucas]
October 14, 2017
The life the people live in this movie is very closely related to what I think hell might be. I think if life ever became this sedated and robotic and automatized, I'd probably kill myself or be constantly trying to rebel or change things.

This is such a haunting and creepy look at what life could be if we let become this horrible. This movie was very uneasy to watch given it's nightmarish setting.

The soundtrack really helps propel the movie into utter creepiness and uneasiness, which is what it should do. The later-added CGI absolutely ruined parts of the movie for me. Why do you that George? Please tell me why you want to put CGI in every fucking move and destroy it?

Anyways, very well constructed movie and story and one hell of a nightmare to live in.
September 3, 2017
possibly, the best movie ever
August 23, 2017
At some point I wanted to see THX 1138, just so I could say that I?ve seen every feature film directed by George Lucas. Plus I thought it would be nice to go back to a more innocent time before Lucas became Public Enemy #1 for all Star Wars fans. In one way I feel like I succeeded at that, because THX 1138 is a small film with some very minimalist production values. However, I was watching a Director?s Cut of the film and in the climax I kept thinking ?These effects look too polished for 1971.? That?s when I realized, while I was watching something filmed from those more innocent times, it had been corrupted and revised by older Lucas in another ?Special Edition? move meant to improve something that probably didn?t need it. Luckily there are long stretches of the film where it appears untouched and I could see his original vision.

THX 1138 is kind of incomprehensible as presented. It shows this odd dystopian world which could be fascinating, but we are never clued into why things are this way, and they give almost zero exposition to help us understand the rules of this all-white world. There were elements that became clear, like the idea that society was sedated for some reason and sex was banned, but everything I figured out was from context clues or very brief throwaway lines. I think much of this would have been forgivable if the events that took place for the protagonist were more straightforward. But I didn?t feel there was any explanation given for why THX stopped taking his meds, and therefore fell prey to lust. He's put on some weird rambling trial that is tough to understand. Then when he?s on the run events seem to happen almost at random, with no clear sense of where he is or what his end goal will be.

Most of the normal qualities that I would use to judge a film are lacking in THX 1138. The acting is very robotic, but intentionally so, and therefore I have a hard time judging whether they did a good job or not. The sets/costumes/makeup/hair all were so minimalist, which is the idea, but it means those departments did nothing to impress me. In fact, the plain white of everything took away any sense of place that you?d normally have. It was impossible to tell where the characters were, or where they were going. They could have been running around in circles for all I know. It?s all up in the air and confusing. In fact the only thing that came across clearly for me in THX 1138 was the relationship between him and LUH 3417. That almost made an emotional connection for me in this stark flat film. The movie feels like many student films: an interesting concept that falls apart in the execution. It seems that Lucas is still only a one-hit-wonder for me (at least as a director.)
July 25, 2017
Disappointing. Poor pacing, little in the way of plot, and perpetually boring throughout.
½ June 16, 2017
Thank goodness, this movie is far more interesting than the original student film!
June 8, 2017
Creepy and minimalist George Lucas film that unravels at a snails pace but it does aesthetically recall the sterile perfection of Kubrick (particularly 2001 A Space Odyssey) while not necessarily generating the same sense of profundity. It is set in an Orwellian future society where a subterranean race are administered drugs to prevent them from 'feeling or expressing emotion'. One person decides to stop taking these drugs and is pursued by sinister looking robotic police. This is a 2004 restoration of the movie which I have watched and includes some tinkering with effects and filters but compared to Lucas's Star Wars 'digital touch ups', it is downright modest.
April 26, 2017
I liked this one more than star wars
½ March 15, 2017
Fairly good '1984' about government oppression. A lot of idea's in this were also used in Star Wars. I enjoyed it.
March 6, 2017
Bleak and somber dystopian sci-fi flick. There's some interesting (if a little cliche) ideas and design at play here, but the film drags to much to be truly great. Feels a little pretentious.
½ January 25, 2017
Very good movie, probably one of the best outlooks on what the future has installed for us quite enjoyed watching this movie when I was younger, George Lucas can really create something different and be great at the same time.
January 3, 2017
Yes,Lucas made a masterpiece before Star Wars.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2016
An excessively cold sci-fi that doesn't deserve credit for its plot (Lucas doesn't seem to care enough about exploring his ideas to come up with a consistent social commentary) as it does for its technical merits, with a great use of visual effects and nice sound design.
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