When people think of George Lucas, they immediately think of the Star Wars franchise he created in the late ‘70s. What most people forget is that most directors do not start their careers off with a blockbuster. This was the case for Lucas and his first film, THX 1138.
THX 1138 is a factory worker in an underground city of the future. His job is highly dangerous: he spends his days assembling android police officers. The world in which he lives is governed by the mandatory intake of mind-altering drugs which turn the population into virtually mindless automatons.
THX’s roommate, LUH 3417, works in surveillance and voluntarily decides to stop taking her drugs after realizing what they are doing to the citizens. Since she is the one who prepares THX’s drugs, she does the same for him. With the drugs no longer controlling their thoughts, THX and LUH quickly fall in love and develop a sexual relationship.
The two are arrested for their crimes and soon after, THX is convinced by another prisoner to find an exit from their underground lives.
THX 1138 was a commercial failure and it is easy to see why. This film is a borefest, but it should not be ignored. While the script could almost be considered pointless to the progression of the film, this movie is all about the visuals. THX 1138 was filmed in 1969, long before anything fancy came up in the world of visual effects, yet it still draws you in with the virtually blank canvas that is the underground city. Almost everything in their world is white and it truly helps the viewer understand the emptiness of their lives.
This film makes me wish that Lucasfilm never developed advanced CGI techniques. Everything in this movie was really happening in front of the lens (except for a few scenes where Lucas decided to add some CGI. Avoid the 2004 director’s cut if possible) and it makes for a much better viewing experience than what most films offered in the last decade.
No matter how many things I did not like about this film, I strongly recommend it to anyone who has any interest at all in film history. It is always fun to see how a writer/director started, especially when their followup movies changed the world of cinema.
Directed by George Lucas, 1971
Starring Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence and Maggie McOmie