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Thursday, November 07, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - THX-1138

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it, yadda yadda yadda.  This time out, I'm doing the George Lucas classic THX-1138.  This is in my notes at September 15, 2019.

Well, after watching Nineteen Eighty Four, may as well continue on the dystopia trend, and pull up THX-1138.  George Lucas's first film, released in 1971, and the source of Easter eggs in many a sci-fi film to come. 

THX-1138 is weird and trippy with very little exposition.  It's quite visually dazzling, though, especially for 1971.  To be fair, the version I have is the special edition, which Lucas put together and released in 2004, with all kinds of new digital effects.  The newer digital effects blend much more seamlessly than, say, Jabba in A New Hope.  In a way, this film is George Lucas in his purest form, as he's said over the years that THX-1138 is the kind of experimental film he'd love to be making, but then he made Star Wars and forever got pigeonholed as a special-effects-driven blockbuster guy. 

This dystopia, though, really owes a lot more to Brave New World than 1984.  Sometime in the distant future, humanity lives in a massive, underground complex.  No one has names, just numbers, and dresses in the same identical white robes.  Everyone is required by law to take drugs and exist in a permanently blissed out state.  The 1984 influence is there, though, as everyone is constantly monitored. 

Our hero is THX-1138, played by Robert Duvall.  He works in a factory, building the silver police androids who police this state.  He hasn't been feeling too well, lately.  He's been off his game.  The drugs aren't doing their thing, and he's starting to feel feelings.  His roommate LUH-3417 finally confesses to him.  She's been off her meds for quite some time, and has fallen in love with THX.  He's been swapping out his drugs with placebos in the hopes that he would snap out of it and reciprocate the feelings.  He does, and he and LUH soon begin an illegal love affair. 

Oh, I should have mentioned, as in all good dystopian tales, love and sex have been outlawed. 

One day, THX comes home from work, and discovers LUH is gone.  His new roommate is SEN-5247.  SEN's job is to actually watch the feeds that monitor everyone.  In doing so, he's developed a little man crush on THX and altered the computers so he'd be THX's new roommate.  SEN starts using his computer hacking to pretty much stalk THX, which creeps out THX and he eventually rats out SEN to the authorities.  Sadly, though, this sets off the chain reaction that eventually leads to the discovery that THX and LUH are off their meds and in love, and everyone gets sent to prison. 

In this world, prison is an endless white void.  THX and LUH are briefly reunited, but LUH gets dragged away when she reveals she's pregnant.  THX is eventually part of a colony of degenerates, where SEN tries to rally the people around him.  THX eventually gets fed up and just walks away.  SEN follows, and as they wander the void, they run into SRT, and together, the three find a door and escape.  They search for LUH, but find out that she's been executed, and her name re-assigned to a developing fetus in the growth chamber.  Our three then make their escape.  SEN makes it to the edge of the complex, but is scared off by how dirty the real world is, and turns himself back in.  THX and SRT find cars, but SRT doesn't know how to drive, and promptly wraps his car around a pole.  And then the rest of the film is one massive car chase as THX makes his break for freedom.  In a indictment of bureaucracy, THX makes his escape when the police exceed their budget to capture him. 

The film is very weird.  The plot is very simple.  There's very little exposition as to how this society works.  It's almost even a silent film, as there's very little dialogue, just the constant chatter over radios.  It's visually beautiful, though, as Lucas brings a certain flair to the labyrinthine hallways that make up this world.  And you can see the origins of the droids in Star Wars in the chrome android cops that patrol this state. 

It's tough to make sense of THX-1138, but it's fun to watch it to see where George Lucas came from.  I will say this one observation I made watching the film.  George Lucas loves cars.  In a film like this, he managed to work in a car chase.  American Graffiti is all about the cars.  And in the Star Wars films, he eventually gave us podracing to scratch his car chase itch. 

Star Wars came out the same year as Smokey and the Bandit, the film that kicked the car chase movie trend into high gear.  I'm starting to get the feeling that Star Wars robbed us of one kickass car chase movie directed by George Lucas. 

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