For my first film in this Second Chance series, I focus on the debut feature of George Lucas, THX 1138. Released in 1971, this movie is a science fiction film that is also a look at a bleak and sterile future where inhabitants are drugged and any form of intimacy is outlawed. The movie has a kinda 1984/George Orwell vibe to it. The only humans you see are the inhabitants of this unnamed city. No humans are in control, but rather robots which also give it a spiritual connection to The Matrix.
The first time I saw this movie, as about 5 or 6 years ago. I was always a fan of George Lucas because of Star Wars and this was the only film he had directed that I had not seen yet. I knew the film had been released on DVD as a directors cut, but as one who is a completeist, I had to see his original version, if it was available. Knowing Lucas, I figured that would be difficult.
Thanks however to the power of the internet, I managed to find a pretty clear copy of the original version. After watching it, I thought, “well thank goodness Star Wars was better.” I thought this was a very bland, and soulless film. It sounds hypocritical because of the film’s overall theme and setting, but it just felt totally disconnected. Now a film of this nature doesn’t have a deep connection with its characters. So the connection has to be with the world or setting. There is no exposition on how the world came to be this way, so what draws us to be interested in this film? I know many people hate the fact that Lucas made changes to his Star Wars films, but in this instance, it was totally needed. The settings for this movie are minimal and so the special effects give the world a new look and feel. Lucas seems to hate when he doesn’t have the latest and greatest toys to make his movies with , but for this one he needed them. I feel if he could have done this in 1971, and the movie have this look to it, it could have had some modicum of success.
I know I have not spoken much about the acting from Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence, but in all honesty, the world they inhabit is the star of this film. Not to say they don’t do solid jobs, they certainly do.
When I first saw this movie, I thought it was terrible. Seeing the directors cut, improves the bland original and makes THX 1138 worthy of a second chance. If you are unsure, trust me “Everything will be alright.”