THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR’S CUT
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In 2004, George Lucas remastered a director’s cut of his 1971 dystopian science fiction film “THX 1138.” Based on his student film, “THX 1138” tells the story of a unit in a chilling future whose mind and body are controlled by the government. When THX attempts to escape to the outside world, he is restrained and punished by the establishment. However, he continues to dream of freedom and eventually takes his chance at it.
WHAT I LIKED
I’ve never thought “THX 1138” was that compelling of a film from a story standpoint. It’s pretty standard in terms of dystopian futures and government control. What I have always loved, however, about the film is its vision and design. Many years before Lucas redefined cinematic science fiction with the comparatively poppy “Star Wars,” “THX 1138” gave us a darker vision.
Lucas has always been about the full experience, often putting the story and characters in a secondary position. This is never more apparent than with “THX 1138” in which the characters are as much puppets of his world as they are puppets of their government.
Like “1984” and the relatively cheesy “Fahrenheit 451,” “THX 1138” reflects the general distrust of the artistic mainstream of its time. It’s pretty cool to watch, even if you’re not wild about the story. And while certain aspects of the director’s cut are overdone and look cheesy, some work quite well and are even better on Blu-ray. And even others – like the new CGI shell dwellers – look better than the dirty dwarves used in the original cut.
I can’t say I’d struggle to watch “THX 1138” again, but I recognize it as a piece of important sci-fi cinematic history.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Personally, I have always found “THX 1138” to be long and cumbersome from a storytelling perspective. Sure, it’s got a message about freedom and oppression, but Lucas works more to build atmosphere rather than tell a story. His work is more a mosaic of the experience than a character study. In a strange way, he relegates his actors to call signs and numbers as much as the characters are by the futuristic government.
Additionally, the movie is steeped in the 70s with some pretty silly styles and fashions. For the most part, the production design looks great, but the silver-faced robots look more at place at a David Bowie concert than in a feature film.
The features on this disc are brought over from the 2004 DVD release of the director’s cut. The original theatrical cut is not available on the disc, which isn’t a big surprise considering Lucas’s desire to keep things the way he later changes them.
These features include a commentary by Lucas and writer Walter Murch, an isolated sound effects track, master sessions of several scenes, Lucas’s original short film “Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB,” the vintage featurette “Bald” in which the 70s-era actors get their heads shaved and blubber like babies about it, theatrical trailers and two documentaries: “A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope” and “Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX 1138.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the film who are okay with the revised director’s cut.