From: (Andrew Plotkin)

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 King.

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.

Footnote, June 2001:

A friend points out that IMDB has slurped this post into their database of movie reviews. Looky here.

Heh heh.

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