Summary: Fascinating art but dull entertainment.
THX-1138 is one of the lesser known films by George Lucas, the
director of the phenomenally successful Star Wars trilogy.
The story is relatively simple, albeit a little hazy. Similar to
Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, the film is set in a dystopian
future where people are bred in order to work to make products and
buy those products. While the government doesn't seem particularly
evil per se, it is intent on keeping people efficient, even though
the cost of that efficiency is keeping them on antidepressants. The
protagonist understandably tries to escape from this society.
Rather than always directly seeing what's happening to the main
characters, a lot of the time you see CCTV footage of them being
watched by someone monitoring them. It's never made clear what's
going on, and it is up to the viewer to work the plot out from reading
the messages on people's consoles and listening to their inane chatter
as they carry out their mundane jobs.
This film oozes atmosphere, featuring a symphony of voices distorted
by being recorded and repeatedly played back or transmitted over the
radio. This is the only instance I can think of where a director
has made the audio of a film even more stylised than the video. As
a result, THX-1138 has been sampled on a lot of albums.
The problem with this film is that it tells a simple story in
an interesting way. Most people are used to watching interesting
stories told in a simple way. While there was nothing wrong with
George Lucas's approach to directing this film, it ensured that
THX-1138 will be studied by intellectuals and referenced in pop
culture instead of being enjoyed by people who want to be entertained.
If you want to soak up atmosphere, then the interesting use of detuned
radio communication and security footage can give even Blade Runner
a run for its money, but if you want to see someone rising up against
their oppressors in a dystopian future, you'd be better off watching
Equilibrium or The Island.
As art, THX-1138 is great for giving you a gimpse into another world,
but as entertainment, it's not well thought out. You'll either find
it fascinating or completely boring.