Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just one day away from hitting theaters and the bulk of early reviews we’ve seen thus far have not only been encouraging, but overwhelmingly positive. Apparently, this J.J. Abrams character knows what he’s doing.
The Star Wars film canon is undeniably unique for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the films still resonate with and excite millions of fans around the world nearly four decades after the first installment’s initial release. This is nothing short of astounding, and certainly speaks to how beloved the entire franchise remains to this day.
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Now seeing as how the original Star Wars film was released all the way back in 1977, it’s only natural to wonder how the world’s first reacted to Star Wars upon its release. Sure, there are no shortage of stories from people who can fondly recall going to see the movie in theaters as kids and teenagers. That’s all well and good, but how did movie critics at the time take to the film?
Well, thanks to the power of the Internet, we thought we’d highlight some of the more notable and interesting Star Wars reviews from 1977. If there’s one common thread that permeates through all of the reviews listed below, it’s that everyone simply couldn’t get enough the film’s incredible special effects.
“The film, written and directed by George Lucas and produced by Gary Kurtz, is magnificent in scope, but the script and the engaging performances also add an effective human element to the totally believable technological aspects. Lucas combines excellent comedy and drama and progresses it with exciting action on tremendously effective space battles. Likeable heroes on noble missions and despicable villains capable of the most dastardly deeds are all wrapped up in some of the most spectacular special effects ever to illuminate a motion picture screen. The result is spellbinding and totally captivating on all levels.”
“Star Wars is a magnificent film. George Lucas set out to make the biggest possible adventure fantasy out of his memories of serials and older action epics, and he succeeded brilliantly. Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz assembled an enormous technical crew, drawn from the entire Hollywood production pool of talent, and the results equal the genius of Walt Disney, Willis O’Brien and other justifiably famous practitioners of what Irwin Allen calls “movie magic.” The 20th-Fox release is also loaded with boxoffice magic, with potent appeal across the entire audience spectrum.”
“Quite whether George Lucas, of American Graffiti fame, is also a genius is another matter. Viewed dispassionately – and of course that’s desperately difficult at this point in time – Star Wars is not an improvement on Mr Lucas’ previous work, except in box-office terms. It isn’t the best film of the year, it isn’t the best science fiction ever to be translated to the screen, it isn’t a number of other things either that sweating critics have tried to turn it into when faced with finding some plausible explanation for its huge and slightly sinister success considering a contracting market.
But it is, on the other hand, enormous and exhilarating fun for those who are prepared to settle down in their seats and let it all wash over them. Which, I firmly believe, with the extra benefit of hindsight, is more or less exactly what the vast majority of the cinema-going public want just now.”
“What makes the “Star Wars” experience unique, though, is that it happens on such an innocent and often funny level. It’s usually violence that draws me so deeply into a movie — violence ranging from the psychological torment of a Bergman character to the mindless crunch of a shark’s jaws. Maybe movies that scare us find the most direct route to our imaginations. But there’s hardly any violence at all in “Star Wars” (and even then it’s presented as essentially bloodless swashbuckling). Instead, there’s entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.
The movie relies on the strength of pure narrative, in the most basic storytelling form known to man, the Journey. All of the best tales we remember from our childhoods had to do with heroes setting out to travel down roads filled with danger, and hoping to find treasure or heroism at the journey’s end. In “Star Wars,” George Lucas takes this simple and powerful framework into outer space, and that is an inspired thing to do…”
“Not an animated movie, to be sure, but a movie inspired by comics and the old serials which were the comic strips of the cinema. That’s precisely what George Lucas’ currently released “Star Wars” is: a gigantic, lavish, brilliantly executive old-time movie comic strip.
Encased in pyrotechnical special effects (holograph projections, double-exposures, composite opticals), making use of a monumental mélange of machinery (robots of all sizes and shapes and an infinite variety of space ships), dressing up its figures in crazy animal masks and weird costumes intended to boggle the mind, and rendering all of its materials with a self-protective tongue-in-cheek tone, “Star Wars” is fun. But if the movie appeals to the child in all of us, it also may seem to the adult within a good deal less delightful.”
“‘Star Wars is like getting a box of Cracker Jacks which is all prizes. This is the writer-director George Lucas’s own film, subject to no business interference, yet it’s a film that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience. There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus. … It’s an epic without a dream.”
In “Star Wars,” the young filmmaker has brought all of the spectacle, humor, fun, adventure and innocence we found in classics ranging from the “Flash Gordon” sci-fi excitement, to “The Wizard of Oz” crowd and the chase scenes and predicaments of “Tom Jones.” And for the frosting on the cake, Lucas has assembled the most brilliant special effects and futuristic characters this side of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
If I sound excited, it is only because I am. “Star Wars” sweeps you off your feet, defies all sense of gravity, and takes you onto the most enjoyable, brilliant intergalactic journey ever.
“Star Wars” is an escape into fantasy land in grand scale. It is a film where you can take along the children–but it is by no means a “children’s movie.”
Star Wars, which opened yesterday at the Astor Plaza, Orpheum and other theaters, is the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made. It’s both an apotheosis of “Flash Gordon” serials and a witty critique that makes associations with a variety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic: “Quo Vadis?”, “Buck Rogers,” “Ivanhoe,” “Superman,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Gospel According to St. Matthew,” the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.
It’s difficult to judge the performances in a film like this. I suspect that much of the time the actors had to perform with special effects that were later added in the laboratory. Yet everyone treats his material with the proper combination of solemnity and good humor that avoids condescension. One of Mr. Lucas’s particular achievements is the manner in which he is able to recall the tackiness of the old comic strips and serials he loves without making a movie that is, itself, tacky. “Star Wars” is good enough to convince the most skeptical 8-year-old sci-fi buff, who is the toughest critic.
“George Lucas’s science fiction adventure is an exhilarating update of Flash Gordon, very much in the same half-jokey, half-earnest mood, but backed by special effects that, for once, really work and are intelligently integrated with the story. By this point, Lucas’s 1977 film has been accused of everything from hazy characterization to crypto-fascism (the finale is, indeed, a restaging of Triumph of the Will), and it has become painfully clear that the film’s apparent naivete is anything but—Lucas doesn’t make a move without the market research to back him up. But it remains the most appealing film in the subgenre it launched, with its finger on something basic and satisfying.”
“Star Wars is not without content, but reaches as well for an area as embraceable by children or teenagers as by us older folks. With the opening declaration, it stakes out its turf: It will be a wonderful adventure, a fairy tale, a contemporary “Star Trek,” a stylish “Space: 1999” that will whisk us on the magic carpet of our imagination and Lucas’ vision to a time and space where spaceships exceeding the speed of light are flown by anthropoids, where slavers deal in hot robots and where chess games are played with mini monsters instead of rooks and pawns.
The shooting schedule of the $8.5 million production was a relatively brief 12 weeks in locations like Tunisia, Guatemala and Death Valley, but the special effects work took a year and a half. Every dollar and every hour is on the screen, and if “Star Wars” doesn’t get at least half a dozen Oscar nominations, I will eat my Wookiee.”
“The story is unpretentious and pleasantly devoid of any “message.”
The special effects in this film may be something the screen has never seen before. The spaceship battles are imaginatively extrapolated from World War II, and the film team travelled to remote parts of the world to find convincing settings for alien planets.
The scriptwriter (George Lucas) wrote five separate drafts before he was satisfied (imagine one of those B-feature fellows doing that!), and the effect is to persuade us that there is little in this film which may not one day happen in real life.”