Nov 27, 2009

[Movies] THX 1138 Director's Cut (1971/2004)

THX 1138 Director's CutIt's interesting how directors and pretty much anyone in the movie industry develop over time. As much as we always remember them for their landmark works that change the face cinema as we know it, you won't necessarily find similar styles, themes or techniques in their earlier works when they were still honing their craft. Thus it becomes quite the interesting experience to go back into their movie history to see how they were like before they hit it big and really started to define their art style or niche.

Now George Lucas remains a landmark director and filmmaker for many reasons. Of course he's best known for epic adventure franchises like Star Wars and the Indiana Jones series but it's interesting to note that he started out with a somewhat more serious style and tone to his films that seems somehow further away from his more mass market appeal movies that made him truly famous.

It just goes to show that you can never really figure out which film student is going to become the next big thing just based on how they were in their early years.

THX 1138Image via Wikipedia

THX 1138 was the first feature-length film that George Lucas ever directed and was based on his student film project, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 11384EB. The movie presents a dystopian future where the human population is controlled by a strict regiment of drug use that regulates all emotions and sexual desires and pretty much everyone just serves a small role in a much larger social machine.

In the movie, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) is another worker in an assembly line for nuclear-powered robots. His female roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) stops taking her drugs despite the seemingly omniscient observers all around them and then substitutes THX's pills for placebos, thus taking him off the same suppression regimen. This leads to an awakening of THX's passions and the two begin a relationship. Of course they are caught and arrested before they can escape and now THX is trapped with SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasence) and other prisoners in this white featureless plane until he can figure out a way out.

The movie can now be compared to other similar ventures like the all-controlling society of Logan's Run or the emotional control regimen featured in Equilibrium. It featured many of the classic themes of science fiction in a pretty cerebral (read: mind fuck) and coherent work that examines what really makes us human and what absolute control and potentially lead to. The answer is never suppressing our emotions but finding a way to better manage them.

The movie doesn't look at all low budget considering the technology of the day, although since I watched the Director's Cut, I know there was some cleaning up that happened as well. Still, the production value was definitely impressive for the time and one can truly see how Lucas was starting to toy with a lot of the concepts that would become mainstays in his later project, Star Wars.

One of the more interesting aspects of the movie was the presence of the android police force to enforce the harsh laws of the society. Instead of just painting people silver or using a harsh, boxy robot, Lucas went with giving the actors silver helmets that went all the way to the neck to complete the illusion. Thus the enforces remained featureless and as emotionless as the drug-controlled population and yet could move with a generous degree of motion. They truly helped establish how starkly different this society was compared to ours and yet kept it on a level that we could relate to things and even see all this potentially happening one day.

THX 1138 remains an interesting look into the mind of George Lucas and his then-developing film making style and artistry. There are a lot of elements you'll find in the movie that will definitely remind you of his later movies and to see them all here in some sort of proto-form of sorts is both intriguing and fascinating.

THX 1138 Director's Cut gets 4 nuclear rods out of a possible 5.

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