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Star Wars: An Intergalactic Joyride
Star Warsı is the highest grossing movie of all time. It is also one of my favorites. It was released in May 1977 and re-released in a restored and enhanced Special Edition just last month. There are many different criteria that can be used to describe Star Warsı appeal. Gary Arnold and Edward Rothstein, two movie critics who had the opportunity to review this great movie, explain its appeal in very much the same way. There is a difference though. Arnold reviewed the original Star Warsı twenty years ago and Rothstein reviewed the recent Special Edition. While they reviewed slightly different versions, they both came to the conclusion that Star Wars is a great movie based on similar criteria. They judged Star Warsı on its ability to draw on classic styles and timeless stories to create something new and absolutely original.
The main factor in both of their positive reviews is the skill of writer and director George Lucas to blend the old with the new. They were both impressed with his miraculously fresh configuration of many different themes from classic film and mythic origin into a cohesive and entertaining movie.
He has achieved a witty and exhilarating synthesis of themes and cliches from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comics and serials, plus such related but less expected sources as the western, the pirate melodrama, the aerial combat melodrama and the samurai epic. The movieıs irresistible stylistic charm derives from the fact that Lucas can draw upon a variety of action-movie sources with unfailing deftness and humor. He is in superlative command of his own movie-nurtured fantasy life.
Gary Arnold, Washington Post Staff Writer
Mr. Rothstein along the same lines as Mr. Arnold, mentions that the plot line of Star Wars follows the mythic archetechture outlined by Joseph Campbell in his study of myth, ³The Hero with a Thousand Faces,² which has influenced Mr. Lucas.ı
Another aspect, unique to Rothsteinıs review of the new Special Edition but not quite different from Arnoldıs assessment, is the way in which the movie celebrates the past and not the future. This aspect of Star Warsı, Rothstein says, is what screams out in opposition to the high-budget, high-tech, special-effect spectaculars that it (Star Wars) spawned.ı This is where, Rothstein says, that Star Warsı gets its authenticity.
The whimsical ramshackleness is actually meant to be a sign of the heroesı authenticity: what is older is more powerful... technology, when it appears in Star Wars,ı is evil, ghastly, massive and brutish...²advanced² invention is most evident in the space ships of the evil Empire.
Edward Rothstein, Movie Critic, New York Times
This ramshaklenessı that Rothstein speaks of keeps the movie afloat by not sacrificing the story for special effects. The special effects complement the movie, but do not carry it. This is where Rothstein says that so many recent movies have failed. Arnold, unable to see into the future, was unable to evaluate the movie in this way. He hadnıt the chance to see how badly Hollywood would try to imitate Star Warsı, thinking its appeal lay more in its effects and quick jolts, rather than from the mythic significance with which they were injected.ı
Hollywood never grasped fully the lesson taught by Star Warsı. Both Rothstein and Arnold believe that this lesson is what makes Star Warsı so great. They used the same criteria (the convincing story, admirable characters, and the writer/director Lucasıs skill as a storyteller) to come to a positive review of the movie. Arnold summed it up in his closing ³Lucası use of old time conventions and stories add to the movie in such a way as to create the unique and fresh fantasy world that is Star Warsı.²
Arnold, Gary. ³Star Wars: A Spectacular Intergalactic Joyride.²
The Washington Post. 25 May 1977.
Rothstein, Edward. ³ıStar Warsı Salutes a Brave Old World.²
The New York Times. 31 January 1997.
Category: Music and Movies
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20th Century Fox films, English-language films, Films using computer-generated imagery, Star Wars, George Lucas
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