Monday, October 12, 2015

Movie review - "THX-1138" (1971) **1/2 (warning: spoilers)

George Lucas' debut feature as director is a stunning visual achievement with many striking moments but is ultimately unsatisfactory. The set up is fine - its a dystopian future, 1984/Brave New World style, where everyone has a shaved head and wears white and lives these soul-less lives manufacturing something or other; rommates Robert Duvall and Maggie McOmie start a sexual relationship - basically she seduces him to have a baby. The authorities crack down and arrest them; the only option is escape.

Now that's actually a great idea - everyone can hiss at the authoritarian government, it's extremely relatable that two people want a Better Tomorrow, there's great themes of fighting injustice and wanting to escape. Duvall is always good and McOmie is a real find, with her big sad eyes she's instantly sympathetic. And the opening 15 minutes are brilliant - Lucas and his team create a genuinely powerful, evocative "world".

But the Lucas makes a massive mistake not making McOmie the protagonist. She starts off as such, being the one who goes off her drugs and seduces Duvall and clearly wants more - she's the one who gets pregnant. But then she gets carted off and killed off screen and her fetus gets shoved in a jar. Which is admittedly probably the most moving part of the film - but it means we're stuck with just Duvall. Duvall goes on to escape for the last third of the movie, but who cares? His woman and baby are gone. If McOmie had been alive and Duvall could have busted her pregnant arse out of jail I think you would have had a hit.

Or maybe not - because throughout the film Lucas displays a tendency to cut away from anything emotionally involving. We never see McOmie die, we don't see the fate of Donald Pleasance, we never get too excited during the final car chase scene, there are view point of view shots, the editing feels generally unsettling. So the viewer is disconnected. Lucas learned his lesson and then some on later movies.

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