A long time ago, in decades far far away, George Lucas was just a plaid wearing film student, who remade his student film into a full length feature. It flopped at the time, but found it’s way onto the 101 Sci-Fi Films list. Where his later work with the original Star Wars trilogy was a beaten up, dirty world, but filled with the hope of good triumphing over evil, and lots of rip-roaring adventure, THX 1138 is a sterile, cold look at a dystopian future where lives are regulated, people are sedated, cunsumerism is all, and emotions are outlawed. Everything is seen, and overseen.
Robert Duvall plays the title character, a worker drone, who works along the assembly line of the robotics factory, creating the silver-skinned, faceless police officers who patrol the state. Humanity seems broken, and enslaved to the state, who keeps them all bald, drugged, and looks after all their needs.
He is weaned of some of his medication, and emotions waken within. He realizes his attraction to his roommate, LUH (Maggie McOmie), and they experience emotions, and desire for one another, leading to a preganancy. Every single one of these things, is against the established laws of the State.
Captured and held in a detention center, THX meets up with SEN (Donald Pleasance), who he turned in previously. Within the detention center history, violence and humanity are all discussed, while THX simply sits, until he simply decides to leave in search of LUH, and walks out into the seemingly endless white world the detention center exists in, until he finds his way out. He is aided by SRT (Don Pedro Colley) and SEN, who becomes seperated from them.
SEN winds up alone, confronting the State religion, while THX and SRT are chased through the underbelly of the city stalked by the polite but faceless android pursuers, all in an attempt to find LUH.
Learning her fate THX runs, stealing a sweet looking patrol car, and the film kicks in with its final chase, combining two of Lucas’ favorite things, fast cars and speed. It also gives a look at the Lucas we can expect in 1977, rapid, visual storytelling, tight editing, and a great use of sound.
Lucas, who wrote, firected, and edited the film, uses an odd tonal soundscape, backed with voice trnsmissions and electronic images to keep the viewer completely off guard and ill at ease. It’s a very dark story, with it’s final moments being any indication of light and hope.
While I like a lot of the ideas seen in the film, I don’t think the future, even id such a thing came to pass, would look as clean and spartan as it does.
It shows a visual, experimental style that we don’t see in any of Lucas’ work since, it’s also more cerebral. It’s hard to believe that in just 6 years time, Lucas would create one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, and help to reshape the way we look at movies, not to mention the merchandising around it.
Did you see it?