It is really interesting to see how this little sci-fi original film THX-1138 came to fruition. In the late 1960’s, the definition of an American film included the likes of films about young life, motorcycles, cars, and other experimental films. Two young filmmakers named Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas created their own company called American Zoetrope which would focus on making these kind of films. Unfortunately when American film changed to character films, their production company was left behind in the dust. THX-1138 was their first film and ultimately it wasn’t treated well by Warner Brothers. It eventually became a modest box office success and garnered a cult following.
But the big question is what I thought of THX-1138. I love science fiction films, especially if they are based on originality. This film is an original work directed by George Lucas (you know, the guy who created Star Wars). He originally had a short film based on this premise in the 1960’s, so it was a dream for him that he was able to create a full feature-length film. My blunt opinion is the film is not bad. It has some shortcomings, but I liked the picture on the whole. It features a simple storyline that is common in many sci-fi films, especially in more modern ones. I do like the concepts. Rising against the totalitarian government in order to feel love is a unique concept.
The film has such a simple storyline-in which I’ll describe in a moment, but the film is a visual wonder. I really liked the use of the color palette, but Lucas takes advantage of using white as his primary color. After the main character THX-1138 is captured, he is sent to a prison where he and the prisoners are embalmed in nothing but white. What’s the point of escaping from a prison that has no walls and is just a long, meandering white void? But even outside the prison-the hallways, living corridors, etc, white plays a huge role. It shows what a bleak, dystopian world the movie features. Also a high point of the film is the sound effects. The film was made on a very low budget, so the sound effects are admittedly rather cheap. But Lucas uses these effects in the right way. They add to the creepiness of the film as well as getting the audience to know what a bleak society these people are.
I do have some issues with the film. It has somewhat of a simple, maybe even derivative storyline but Lucas works with the story very well and creates an engaging one. However, I felt there were pacing issues. The movie is really short as it doesn’t even crack the 90-minute mark. But sometimes, I felt I was watching a three-hour movie. Maybe it was the lack of heavy action or that the first section was a bleak love story, but it somehow felt like a very long movie. Also, I had an issue with the looks of the characters. Every human in the movie is bald. I ask myself why they would do that. The story doesn’t really explain it very well. The women all looked ugly without hair and it was pretty distracting.
In this film, humans have been forced to live underground and the government controlling the people is a totalitarian government where all citizens are drugged to suppress their emotions. Their behaviors, especially love and sex, are a crime. The population is controlled by a robotic police force (not all too bright though). One day, a factory worker named THX-1138 (Robert Duvall) stops taking the drugs and a wave of emotions hit him when he discovers love as he falls in love with his roommate LUH-3417. After she is confirmed as pregnant, THX is arrested and sent to prison. With the help of another prisoner-a programmer named SEN-5241 (Donald Pleasance), he escapes from the prison in search for LUH and to escape from this underground city.
The performances are all solid ones. Robert Duvall draws some attention to his portrayal of THX-1138. Despite everything that goes on, Duvall does a good job at keeping his character rather calm and intact through the duration of the film. Another strong performance is that of Donald Pleasance. Pleasance does a serviceable job as THX’s fellow escapee.
THX-1138 was the beginning of the career of George Lucas. It shows he had a good directing style (though that will change many years later). The story was written by Francis Ford Coppola. It is a simple story, but an interesting one full of bleakness, despair, and everything you would want to see in such a dystopian film. The movie has some cool effects both visually and sound-wise, and they may be why people were interested in the film. The movie does have some good stunts. That chase at the end between THX and the police robots was fun to watch. The film isn’t a great film, but it’s an entertaining, serviceable science fiction film.
My Grade: B