Originally created 01/30/97

Review - surrender to the Force

It's like a family reunion, only a heck of a lot more fun.

That's the feeling you get as you harness yourself into theater seats and blast off with Luke, Leia and Han Solo for "Star Wars."

Yes, we've all seen "Star Wars" on tape. But we haven't seen it like this - on the big screen with a fresh coat of paint splashed onto the special effects and sound system.

It just wasn't right seeing "Star Wars" on the tube. What was once so grandiose seemed dinky. Instead of being awed by its energy, we were gnawed by dopey dialogue and underdrawn characters.

Also troublesome were the technical aspects of the film as age eroded their luster. Colors were muted, the film quality a little scratchy and the music not nearly as triumphant as we remembered it. Even the Millennium Falcon was reduced to the size of a Hershey bar. Our once-treasured memories seemed as juvenile as our favorite blanket.

Not any longer.

What Lucas and Co. have managed to do is more than spit-polish this gem; they've done a tune-up that would make a Jaguar purr like a pussycat. Better yet, they managed to capture and bottle the exhilaration we felt after seeing "Star Wars" for the first time. Uncork it and prepare to cheer the screen.

As a bonus, we get a couple of new scenes (the lengthiest involving a meeting between the Godfather-like Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo) as well as the appearance of a few clever critters. And while these things don't exactly re-invent the "Star Wars" experience, they do enhance it, if only a bit.

As for the story, it's the classic tale of good vs. evil as a princess, a naive young man and a surly pilot-for-hire join forces to take on the dastardly Darth Vader and his evil Stormtroopers.

Much has been written and discussed about "Star Wars." And lately it's been dissected like a frog in biology class. We're told everything from Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" to the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz" has been a source of inspiration for Lucas. I wonder if "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is in there, too.

We've even heard that "Star Wars" has essentially killed the intelligent film experience by focusing on special effects rather than character development.

Horse pucky.

No point in analyzing "Star Wars" to death. Literary and film allusions utterly miss the point. "Star Wars" is not a great film - it's great filmmaking, and the ultimate in escapist entertainment.

This is the real adrenaline-pumping, feet-stomping goods. You can take all your "Twisters" and "Independence Days," cram them into one movie and still not come up with something remotely as crowd-rousing as "Star Wars."

The world, make that worlds, Lucas creates are so vividly imagined we can forgive "Stars Wars" its minor problems, namely the acting. Sure, Alec Guinness adds some dramatic prowess in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. But the rest of the cast - with the notable exceptions of Harrison Ford and Chewbacca - merely occupy their roles. And Mark Hamill could hardly be described as a budding thespian.

Really, though, the acting doesn't matter. What does matter are the quick feats of editing, the razzle-dazzle specials effects and the universal good vs. evil theme.

Combined, these elements make for terrific family entertainment - one that a new generation can enter into and enjoy.

May the Force live on.


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