THX 1138 Review
THX, those three letters mean quite a lot to Home Cinema fans and cinema goers. DVD's are THX certified, as is the equipment reaching a certain standard and some of the worlds best cinema auditoriums also carry those letters of approval. Indeed George Lucas has put together a multi billion dollar business over the last 30 years where those letters mean so much, but it all started back in 1971 and the release of the motion picture THX 1138, the movie that started it all.
THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) is a core worker living with mate LUH 3417 and both take their drugs as the state insists. However when THX begins to feel ill LUH gives him the wrong medication in an attempt to free his mind. It is not long before the pair fall in love and the state begin to watch what they are doing. THX is arrested and placed with other like minded people in the white void, LUH goes missing and THX along with SEN 5241 try to leave the void. It's not long before the state come after them as they attempt to leave for the outside world.
THX is an exploration of a consumer society in the future, where all that matters are the fact you work hard and spend lots. Sexual activities are banned and the population must take their required drug dosage every day. Break these rules and you are prosecuted. The other snag is the fact your every move is covered on camera, big brother is watching you. Sound familiar? It is obvious where the young Lucas took his inspiration for his future world, George Orwell's "1984," or Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" seems to have provided much to the look and feel of the movie. Added to this appears to be the political undertones of 1960's America and Lucas' feeling towards corporations and the commercialisation of the time, and his views still ring true today, it is entirely possible that we, as a society may still end up living a future like this. Released in 1971 you must put yourself back to that time period as well as have a certain knowledge of what was happening in Hollywood then, to really appreciate the grandness of Lucas's visions and the fact the studios didn't understand what it was all about.
Now this doesn't mean that THX 1138 is a masterpiece in film making, in fact when you watch the movie you can't help but feel things are dragging along. The plot doesn't move with any pace or urgency, the subject matter could be dealt with in less screen time (like the 17 minutes of his Student film). The feature length movie appears to be stretched to fit it's time and doesn't have enough to say in between. Don't get me wrong, the framing of the image, the production design and the characters all look stunning in their realisation and technically THX was miles ahead in these terms, it's just the script treatment could have been better handled. I can see why the studio executives were baffled by this movie.
Lucas has taken the opportunity to add some new digital effects and back drops to the production and unlike Star Wars these are few and far between, in fact at only one point did I actually notice the use of CGI effects, the other scenes play well and don't stand out as effects laden add ons.
Overall THX 1138 stands up well given it's 30 year old vintage, there are certainly enough points to still cause confusion and the production quality is at times breathtaking, it just out stays it's welcome by 30 or so minutes.