Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my buddy Capone's look at THX-1138: The Director's Cut extravaganza!!! I missed the Austin screening earlier this week, but I missed it for good reason, I assure you... Let's just say I was in the Bay Area digging around certain effects houses... but more on that later. Capone's got a woody for this thing and I'm really looking forward to seeing it myself. Before he digs into the review, he states his opinion on Lucas' STAR WARS Special Editions and while I totally agree with his point about it being Lucas' right to do it... All I'm going to say on the matter is there would be no one yelling and screaming about anything he does in the Special Editions if he merely released the original trilogy as we know and love it on a stable format, like DVD. That cuts out any argument we have about his changes... That's how I see, anyway. But enough of this trash, you want to read about Capone's reaction to THX! Go get 'im!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. I’m a big fan of director’s cuts, deleted scenes, alternate ending and beginnings, and, to a certain degree, so-called “special editions.” I wasn’t completely against the enhancements made to the Star Wars trilogy (although when George Lucus decided to change a major plot point in STAR WARS by having Greedo shoot first, obviously I was outraged; if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry, go back to sleep). If the popularity of DVD has taught us nothing, it’s proven that a theatrical cut of the film is only the beginning for many restless directors. I don’t hear anyone crying about Peter Jackson adding hours of extra footage to the LORD OF THE RINGS films. Just because we hold the original STAR WARS trilogy in such high regard, doesn’t mean that Lucas was happy with every aspect of it. They’re his damn movies; let him futz with them. Do we have to like the changes? Hell no. But I’m not mad at him for feeling it’s his right to make the changes. Let the evil talkback demons have at me on this one. Having said that, I’ve just seen a lovely digitally projected screening of Lucus’ first major work as a writer and director, THX 1138. It’s coming to theatres next week, to DVD the week after, and it’s being billed as the “director’s cut.” You know what? Lucas has made a significantly better film with this special effects-enhanced version and taken nothing away from the elements of THX 1138 that I found so compelling and endearing.
I don’t possess as intimate a knowledge of the original version of this film as I do the STAR WARS films, it’s true, but it’s fairly easy to spot or guess where the changes have been made. In most cases, they are subtle alterations to architecture, the sizes of crowds grow, better-looking holograms, and crisper sound effects. In some cases, the changes are more substantial. The industrial accident in the beginning of the film is more disastrous. City scapes and elaborate transportation methods have been created. The factory where the characters work building robots is examined in more detail. The final chase sequence is much more exciting, more resembling (and sounding like) the racing scenes from THE PHANTOM MENACE than a low-rent car pursuit. But Lucas has wisely left the fundamental’s of THX alone. He hasn’t redesigned the clearly archaic control panels or made the robotic police officers look like the Terminator. They still look like dudes in black costumes with plastic masks on. I did notice at least one quick shot of a police dressing room that featured some CGI officers, which I believe was added to show us that their entire bodies are made of the same shiny, silver material as their faces.
Impossible to make better are the performances by Robert Duvall as THX 1138, Donald Pleasence as the slightly insane SEN 5241, and Maggie McOmie (in her only screen role, I believe) as THX’s mate LUH 3417. For those who don’t know the film’s story, the world has been reduced to a place of efficient manufacturing and consumption. If you aren’t producing a product, you should be buying one. Everyone is forced to dress the same, shave their head, and rather than have names, they are simply given an identification number. Emotion has effectively been eliminated from society with drugs and brainwashing, and every move you make is monitored. But LUH goes off her meds and begins to feel emotions toward THX. In a very Adam and Eve turn, THX is tempted by LUH’s need for physical contact and all hell breaks loose. Characters appear and disappear in THX’s world with a seeming randomness that throws off his simple life. Once captured for his consentual sex crimes, he is tortured to no end by the robot police and his captors. As strange as it may sound, I’d forgotten how much humor this film has at times. Listen carefully to the radio chatter that runs always constantly through the film. You may not understand what they’re talking about, but you’ll appreciate the tone.
I’ve always considered THX 1138 one of Lucus’ master strokes of simplicity, and he really hasn’t ruined the charm of the original work with his enhancements. Remember back when these types of CGI effects were in their earliest stages? Lucas spoke of altering landscapes and buildings, of adding cars or people to a street where once there were none. Small things that wouldn’t necessarily register consciously with the viewer. He never really spoke of replacing actors with other actors. THX fulfills Lucus’ original vision of both this film and of a new generation of special effects. I truly believe that if he’d had this technology when he was making THX in the early 1970s, the movie would have ended up looking pretty much like this. Maybe I’m being naive, but nothing about this director’s cut feels forced or like a violation of a much loved work. This is a great film made better.