Cinema: Future Imperative

THX 1138 begins with a clip from the 1939 serial Buck Rogers, showing Buster Crabbe happily engaged in space exploration in the 25th century. But the real 25th century, says THX 1138 director George Lucas, is a denatured anthill where populations lead lives of quiet respiration. Every bodily function is mechanically analyzed; sexual relations are forbidden; food consists of ampuls and dehydrated protein bars.

The government—a wretched wedding of Mao Tse-tung and the Internal Revenue Service—treats each person as a consumer-producer who lives to enhance the glorious state. In a world of progressive monotony, Lucas flashes some bright signs of humor: when...

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