has just posted his review from the Autumn 1977 issue of Sight & Sound
, and it's got some interesting and/or eccentric bits, e.g.:
“Rather than do some angry, socially relevant film,” Lucas has said, “I realized there was another relevance that is even more important — dreams and fantasies, getting children to believe there is more to life than garbage and killing and all that real stuff like stealing hubcaps — that you could still sit and dream about exotic lands and strange creatures.” Although garbage and killing are anything but absent from STAR WARS, and stealing hubcaps is around in spirit if not in letter, Lucas’s aspiration is easy enough to comprehend, even after the social interests of his THX 1138 and AMERICAN GRAFFITI. The disconcerting thing for a good many critics about his latest box office monolith is that it doesn’t seem to mean anything other than what it unabashedly is: a well-crafted, dehumanized update of FLASH GORDON with better production values, no ironic overtones, and a battery of special effects.
Amazingly, even in 1977, critics like Rosenbaum were making comments about computer-programmed storylines:
Consider the plot, which any well-behaved computer fed with the right amount of pulp could probably regurgitate . . .
And I love the description of Grand Moff Tarkin here:
All this is very clean and bloodless. Vader crunches a few audible bones; aunt and uncle are burned to black cinders in homage to THE SEARCHERS; Kenobi executes a smooth forearm amputation with his saber in the Mos Eisley saloon, and meets his own saber death by vanishing into thin air, to be absorbed within the Force; the rest is mainly fireworks and pinball machines. The smirking idealism of Luke, the sullen cynicism of Han, the shrewish irritability of Leia, the growls and whines of Chewbacca, the fussy chattering of C-3PO, and the electronic chirping of R2-D2 are all set up as “cute” objects of delighted audience ridicule. Hamill, Ford, and Fisher are made to look like surfers at an s-f masquerade ball; Cushing, the only visibly human villain, comes off as a rather improbable blend of Ming the Merciless and Jean-Luc Godard, in physiognomy as well as emotional tone. And apart from the steadfast Alec Guinness, who is respectfully allowed to assume a vaguer and more benign flatness as archetypal father figure, nearly everyone else is a monster, whether lovable (domestic) or disgusting (threatening), with the borderline between human and nonhuman often indistinguishable. (The gibbering, scavaging Jawas on Tattooine are a striking case in point: brown-robed and black-gloved, their only visible features are firefly eyes.)
And remember that sexual analysis of Star Wars
posted on Metaphilm
several years ago? Rosenbaum doesn't get into anywhere near as much detail, but there's a hint of that in his review too:
The deliberate silliness of all this — like the intricate silliness that has always been part of Disney’s stock-in-trade — leaves the audience free to react from a safe voyeuristic distance, enjoying “pure” sensations that are unencumbered by any moral or emotional investments. Indeed, the cursory treatment of “romantic interest” (with Leia still prevaricating at the end between both male leads via bored winks) leaves the way open for a very different sort of titillation. In the exhilarating space battles, with their odorless ecstasies of annihilation, and the various space-gun skirmishes, with their fancy dismemberings and eliminations, this essentially becomes an occasion for sexual release devoid of any partner. Like the remote-control TV channel selectors that children love to play with, and the mechanical shooting games found in arcades, STAR WARS offers solitary, narcissistic pleasures more than communal or romantic myths to keep its audience cheering.
And remember how everyone complained that The Phantom Menace
lapsed into too many ethnic stereotypes? Rosenbaum was already sounding the alarm when the first film came out over 20 years earlier:
One would probably have to go back to the 40s, as Lucas did, to find such a guiltless celebration of unlimited warfare, but one needs to escape history entirely in order to set up oppositions of good and bad — reflected in black-and-white patternings of costume and decor — as unambiguous. On the level of racial ideology, this knowing mindlessness is even shrewder. While the original 1936 FLASH GORDON serial could allude to the “Yellow Peril” directly through Ming the Merciless without any sort of embarrassment, the styling of the Jawas as stingy Jewish merchants — “Munchkin Shylocks,” in Richard Corliss’s apt phrase — is much more oblique and subtle; one might even have to see the relationship of “Jawa” to the Hebrew “Yaweh” in order to catch the clue.
He also makes a compare-and-contrast with 2001: A Space Odyssey
that had never occurred to me before:
Following the fashion set by 2001 in some aspects of its design — robots programmed to be more “personable” than any of the actors, in-depth trajectories of slablike missiles entering the lower foreground of shots and sliding away diagonally (including the three long paragraphs preceding the action) — STAR WARS postulates itself as the anti-2001 in nearly every other respect, and not only because fantasy is systematically substituted for technology. If Kubrick’s central subject was intelligence, Lucas’s is predicated on blind instinct: Luke’s initiation into the Force, like the spectator’s into the film, is basically a matter of surrendering to conditioned reflexes and letting the cosmic mise en scène take over. And where 2001’s sense of spectacle was contemplative, STAR WARS’ is near-Pavlovian in its careful measurements of give-and-take, making it impossible on a practical level to isolate many of the special effects from the editing.
And of course, Rosenbaum was already comparing the success of this franchise to the Empire's domination of the galaxy even then:
For a film so devoid of any dialectic, one is tempted to speculate what its absolute antithesis might be. Would the recent films of Grand Moff Godard — low-budget, experimental, pleasurable to the mind rather than to the reflexes — be far off the mark? Yet if any parallel can be found between the film world and Lucas’s Manichaean universe, it is the blitzkrieg of media fanfare celebrating STAR WARS and its countless spinoff industries — not the trifling efforts to get Godard’s films seen or acknowledged anywhere — that corresponds to the Empire’s efforts to snuff out every form of resistance. And the consortium that is currently contriving to inundate everyone’s mind with a few profitable monoliths and assign the rebel forces of cinema to cheerful oblivion is not merely a group of big business men, but a movement composed of critics, editors, and media programmers and broadcasters — all of whom collaborate with other consumers in making STAR WARS (which is already threatening to topple JAWS as the all-time moneymaker) more than a simple movie, but an appreciable dent in the landscape.
And so on. Fascinating.