Damn you, George Lucas. Stop ruining all your movies. If you’re not aware, in 2004, high off his “success” of the Star Wars special editions, Lucas turned his edition to redoing THX 1138 by reediting the story, beefing up the narrative and adding in all kinds of special effects. (Because if there’s one thing a smart, minimalist science fiction parable needs, it’s lots of CGI!) The director’s cut inserts newly filmed footage with digital actors that dispenses all the sci-fi ambiguity and subtlety of the story. There’s smaller edits and different dialogue that connect the characters earlier, making their motivations and reactions more obvious. If retooling the story wasn’t enough, Lucas also changes the visuals. They’ve recolored the entire movie, getting rid of the dull monotone and Apple-like white style for a bizarre gold theme. There’s CG backgrounds, explosions and even creatures to give the world a new look nobody wanted or asked for. And the thrilling climactic car chase at the end? It’s replaced in part by a CG monstrosity that looks like it belongs in a FAST AND THE FURIOUS movie.
It’s all a shame because the original THX 1138 is a trippy, futuristic cautionary tale that touches on interesting themes of emotion, sexuality, technology, religion, medication and self control. In some ways it’s a precursor to EQUILIBRIUM, if you’re a fan of that movie. Though aside from the aforementioned car chase, the film favors minimalist storytelling and dialogue almost like a stage play, filled with abstract ideas and commentary. There are also great performances by a young Robert Duvall (who's not afraid to bare all!) and future Loomis, Donald Pleasence.
If you’ve never seen THX 1138, you can probably still appreciate the basic story and major themes in the director’s cut. But if you can track down the original version, you can see it as it was meant to be seen.
Commentary by George Lucas and sound designer Walter Murch: Maybe it's because I was expecting more technical stuff from Murch, at least when it comes to creating sound, but I was a tad disappointed that Lucas spends most of the time chatting about the film's themes. Definitely could've been more focused.
Sound Effects Only Track: I can't imagine anyone actually watching the entire movie like this (without the aid of drugs at least), but it is a cool option and it does highlight some spectacular work.
Master Sessions: Walter Murch discusses the sound design for various portions of the movie, available via the menu or in a branching mode while the film plays. This is some of the technical stuff I wanted from the commentary.
Legacy of Filmmakers: Less about THX 1138 and more about the environment which produced it, this hour long documentary takes a look at the early days Francis Ford Coppola's studio, from the highs to the lows. For fans of classic cinema, this is a much watch.
Making of THX 1138: At half an hour, I feel like this BTS feature still barely scratches the surface. Some of it is standard PR stuff, but you also get access to some great old photos and interviews with the cast.
Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB: The original 15 minute short film Lucas made in film school that was the basis for THX 1138. It's really cool to see both how the story evolved and how Lucas started off as a filmmaker.
Bald: Some quick interviews with Coppola and Lucas and then you get to see all the actors shave their heads for the film. The reactions are priceless.
Extra Tidbit: Ironically, Lucas was famous for leading the cause against colorizing movies. In this director's cut, he re-colors the entire movie.