“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”
‘Star Wars’, directed by George Lucas in 1977, is an American science fiction/fantasy that is now most famous for its special effects, the cultural franchise that followed it, and for the line of toys that shaped the imaginations of children (myself included) throughout the 1980s, ‘90s and into the new millennium. It’s difficult to divorce my nostalgic fondness for the commercial aftereffects of this film, much as it’s difficult to divorce the negative impact Lucas’s 1990s prequels had on my regard for the original films – but here it goes. The film is only one month older than me, but the ground-breaking special effects are undeniably timeless and still hold up. According to interviews with the designers, Lucas was less interested in these at the time, but the sequences of space battles make the movie and cement its reputation. I watched the special edition with grafted on CGI and it’s interesting to note that these additions, masterminded by Lucas, have aged far worse than the original model effects. The script is appalling with excessive and clumsy exposition, creaky dialogue and overly ripe attempts at creating a mythic depth. The much lauded plot, which Lucas retrospectively claimed was influenced by the now ignored and discredited Joseph Campbell, is simple, straightforward and, despite the presence of the franchise that followed and Lucas’s labyrinthine preparation notes, not that open-ended. To his credit, though, the action sequences are directed with flair and the scenes have a kinetic energy. The editing is snappy, and the much discussed influence of Kurosawa is evident throughout. This raises these scenes to a different level and almost compensates for the script, but it’s clear, and is made most obvious with the sequels – and obversely with the prequels, that Lucas’s strength is as a producing figurehead rather than as a creative or literary force. The performances are also strong, particularly Peter Cushing whose role as the arch-villain is, for me, the highlight. Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness are also notable but act by stretching and manipulating, rather than simply reciting, the dialogue. It’s fun and frothy, and the movie occupied me when I was young, but it has very little depth whilst its cinematic influence, beyond the subsequent seismic shift in special effect technology, was really confined to its own universe and to how big budget films were marketed and commercialised.
Would I recommend it? I don’t really need to as most people will have already seen it, but maybe watch with a Kurosawa for both comparison and contrast.