SPOILER ALERT… I’m giving away the end of a film here.

George Lucas’ post film-school sci-fi cult classic THX 1138 is much like 2013’s Gravity, in as much as story takes a back seat to eye candy. This movie was made in 1970 [!] but is as visually amazing today as it was then.

I saw it on the big screen in 1983 and it totally blew my hair back.

Seemingly unable to restrain himself, Lucas “restored” the movie in 2004… which meant adding a bunch of CGI; the same kind of tinkering he did with his original Star Wars trilogies.

One might argue that Lucas has done to the word “restored” here what the universe of THX 1138 did to the word “consumed”. However, the updates––though easily detectable––don’t change the narrative in any significant way.

There’s a Kubrick meets Orwell vibe going on that itself has been recycled many times since; but THX 1138 deserves its place as a work of remarkable ingenuity. If ever there was an Oscar for location scouting, this film would have clinched it.

But the thing about this movie that really resonates with me is the ending. Yes, it feels anticlimactic, but only by today’s standards. It’s just such a novel idea, and a brilliant bit of story logic. Not to mention a rarity for a movie to end with a concept; as opposed to merely gunfire, car chases and shit blowing up… a trope Lucas himself would help to establish.

Robert Duvall’s THX 1138 character is able to escape to freedom, simply because he (unknowingly) exceeds the budget allocated to capturing renegade citizens of the city. One minute the robocops are chasing him; the next minute, they are not…

Okay… all of that to say this… To me, THX 1138 has come to represent the cut-off point where an effort stops being worthy of pursuit.

The production of an ad, TV promo or movie trailer can breach THX 1138; by being fiddled with for so long––and have so many changes imposed upon it––that it completely blows the budget; thereby losing its potential to make any meaningful return on the investment of producing it.

Finally, it could be argued that the whole TV promo (McPromo) format is heading towards, or has already exceeded THX 1138. There are less and less people at the point of sale to watch them. Those who are there don’t pay them much attention. Eventually the bean counters must catch on.

Posted by Charley Holland

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