Star Wars : Plotkin review

Andrew Plotkin

From: (Andrew Plotkin)
Date: 3 Feb 1997 15:51:56 GMT
Organization: Netcom On-Line Services

                       A film review by Andrew Plotkin
                        Copyright 1997 Andrew Plotkin

Finally -- the long-awaited new release of this classic! But, as I'm
sure you've heard, with a difference. The director, George Lucas, has
undertaken a bold experiment: a full, unabridged, four-hour-long version
of _Star Wars_.

It's just *terrific*.

We all know the story. Young Luke Skywalker lives in a remote desert
manor on Tattooine, with his aunt and uncle. But a mysterious message
from a ghostly apparition jars him out his everyday life; and soon he
learns of the dark figure that murdered his father Old Luke. And Luke
vows revenge. Thus is set the stage for a story of starships,
swordfights, vengeance, and plays within plays.

Luke quickly gathers around him a motley crew as familiar to modern
viewers as the Raskellar Gang. His old companions, Artoo Detoo and See
Threepenstern, are summoned to find out why he is suddenly so keen to
leave the moisture farm and go haring off across the galaxy. The old
adviser, Ben Kenobi, tutors Luke in the ways of the Force. Han Solo, a
disreputable smuggler and son of Kenobi, offers his battered old
freighter, the trusty Millennium Handsaw. And, of course, there is the
beautiful princess, Solo's sister, who has been kidnapped by the evil

The setting of the film is simply gorgeous. The looming, shadowy towers
of Elsinore were a special-effects marvel twenty years ago; they can
honestly be said to have created the modern science fiction movie. But
director Ken Lucas has completely redone the effects for this release.
An opulent European manor forms the stage for this tragedy, replete with
moldering libraries, secret passages, marble balustrades, and -- the
heart of the story -- the central hall, the hall of mirrors, where the
action returns to again and again. The Princess is imprisoned in a
padded cell behind these mirrors; the dark King and his Grand Moff
Norway conceal themselves there to spy on young Luke. When our heros are
about to be crushed in a pirate compactor, the robots, Artoo Denkrantz
and Guildenstepio, save them by interfacing with the program controls
behind these mirrors, and inverting the execution polarity.

It's an all-star cast, of course. Mark Hamill is the lead, partnered by
Robin Williams as Han Solo, Tim Roth and Gary Oldman as the robots, and
Ophelia (created by Jim Henson's Creature Workshop.) But there are any
number of excellent smaller roles, as well. Who can forget Frank Oz as
the aged councillor Kenobi, with his fractured syntax, squeaking,
"Wisdom, you seek? When Vader you have faced, then a Jedi, you will be.
To thine own self, be true!" Or Richard Attenborough as the leering
courtier, Osric the Wookiee?

And, even at four hours in length, the pacing doesn't flag for a moment.
Running gun-battles in the hallways, the fiery saber-duel at the climax,
and of course Luke's desperate run down the trench to pour poison into
the Death Star's ear. All underscored with Walter Jon Williams'
transcendent orchestral music. Shakespeare's literary jewel has never
had a more flamboyant setting than this one; director George Branagh has
achieved a five-star triumph.