Monday, 11 May 2009

Star Wars

1977 version screened, without all the revisionist jiggery pokery and A New Hope subtitle. Viewed for the first time in an age, it's almost alarming how much screen time is apportioned to two puppets bickering and struggling through a desert. Compared to the immediacy of the blockbusters Star Wars begot it's almost an art house move. George Lucas and his team manage to wring a sympathetic, childlike, performance out of a remote control bin and a couple of bleeps. The minutiae of this universe is so well composed that when R2 wanders down a dark sand crevice it's actually quite distressing.

Lucas' biggest coup is the pervasive used-universe planet dressing. Technology in Star Wars isn't brand new and Apple white, it's leaky trash, cobbled together by space pirates. It tells a story - a great civilisation has vanished, their whizz-tech now in the hands of simpletons and bushwhackers. The CG elements added along the years tend to undermine this distressed mood. It's impressive enough to see a Dewback sand monster sunbathing at the corner of a frame, we don't really need to see it capering in the foreground. The design work in Star Wars is imaginative enough to exist as the effect, without any need for hyper-mobile show reeling. It's a shame that Lucas doesn't seem to agree; the original cinema release is only available in a marginalised non-anamorphic pressing that requires zooming to fit a 16:9 set.

Enough griping. It's easy to see why Star Wars became such an immediate success. Lucas stages two equally exciting, successive, climaxes. The daring rescue of Princess Leia would be quite enough for any usual hero yarn, not Lucas' though. As soon as the rescue party dock they're being outfitted for dogfighting, blasting off in nimble X-Craft for a suicidal space war. The attack on the Death Star is still a thoroughly dazzling sequence. Aside from some incredible model work, it's refreshing to see so much absolute carnage. The tension ratchets up into the stratosphere as stereotypical cosmic pilots are zipped and zapped by faceless Reich robots until only The Chosen One is left. Use the Force Luke!

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