George Lucas Robert Hatch - Essay

Robert Hatch

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Star Wars belongs to the sub-basement, or interstellar comic-strip, school of science fiction; Terry and the Pirates with astro-drive. The main participants are a princess in mortal peril, a splendid young Four-H type who is fated to rescue her, an irreverent free enterpriser with a space ship for hire, an aged mystic possessed of "the Force," and a gaggle of villains who, when they are not entirely encased in elegantly fitted plastic armor, look very much like extras borrowed from scenes of the Wehrmacht general staff plotting Hitlerian strategies. The princess … is spunky and in both manner and hair style somewhat resembles the Gish sisters; the young knight … is not quite bright but adroit with machinery; the freebooter … talks with shocking cynicism out of the side of his mouth, but has an honest heart; and the old mystic, survivor of a chivalric order that combined stunning swordsmanship with the ability to transmit psychic force by telepathy….

These human actors are consistently upstaged by a pair of robots—one of them, an electronic improvement on the Tin Woodsman, seems to have derived his stilted vocabulary and obsequious manners from the servants' quarters of Upstairs, Downstairs; the other, shaped rather like a canister vacuum cleaner, but without the hose, is possessed (like the mind reader in The Thirty-Nine Steps) of the secret information that is causing all the fireworks, speaks in beeps, whistles and blinking lights and is as emotionally vulnerable as a motherless child.

This is the sort of thing that will leach one's brain, and I suspect that George Lukas … concocted the plot and personages deliberately to put us all in a slack-jawed state of mind suitable for maximum appreciation of his astonishing cinematic trickery….

Years from now, long after the last bucket of popcorn has been eaten at the last neighborhood showing of Star Wars, film buffs will be regaling one another with recollections of their favorite scenes and persons…. All in all, it is an outrageously successful, what will be called a "classic," compilation of nonsense, largely derived but thoroughly reconditioned. I doubt that anyone will ever match it, though the imitations must already be on the drawing boards.

Robert Hatch, "Films: 'Star Wars'," in The Nation (copyright 1977 The Nation Associates, Inc.), Vol. 224, No. 25, June 25, 1977, p. 794.