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How critics reacted to Star Wars 38 years ago

Friday, December 18, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

The new Star Wars movie, "The Force Awakens," opens tonight as perhaps the most hyped film of the year, if not the decade.
     The Star Wars franchise is so ingrained into America's cultural fabric that it's doubtful there's anyone of any age who doesn't know of it.
     The original “Star Wars” did not open widely across the U.S., but Seattle (Cinema 150) and Beaverton (Westgate) were among the original first-week venues on May 25, 1977.
     It's fun to look back to the summer of 1977 and revisit the first impressions that “Star Wars” made on movie critics. Sunday's Spokesman-Review reran its 38-year-old review of the first Han Solo saga. Among the observations:

  • “Star Wars,” playing at United Artists Cinema 1, perhaps more than any other movie in recent years accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: Provide escapist, nonsensical entertainment.
         “Star Wars” has no culturally or socially redeeming value, no hidden meaning, no moral message. But for the price of admission, it is a great way to escape the summer heat.
  • It combines everything we used to idealize back in the days before Hollywood discovered realism, blood, guts and explicit sex.
  • The comparison with “The Wizard of Oz” seems almost overwhelming. One of the movie’s robot heroes, See Threepio (Anthony Daniels), could be the tin woodsman with a David Niven accent. Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), the shaggy Wookie sidekick of maverick starship pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), could be the cowardly lion.

      Ted Mahar of The Oregonian wrote in 1977:

  • The special effects marvels of "2001: A Space Odyssey" have finally been surpassed. ... It is an adolescent fantasy for all ages. ... If you like it at all, one viewing just won't be enough.

     The Seattle Times’ John Hartl noted that “Star Wars” imitates the kind of space operas George Lucas liked as a child, adding:

  • “Star Wars” borrows from any number of fantasy films and stories, but it never fails to make the old stuff look exhilaratingly new.

     Not everyone was smitten. New York Magazine said in 1977:

  • Strip “Star Wars” of its often striking images and its high-falutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a "future" cast to them. ... O dull new world! As exciting as last year's weather reports.

     Despite Lucas nearly self-destructing the franchise with the preposterous and unnecessary Jar Jar Binks in “Attack of the Clones,” Star Wars has thrived. I can’t wait to see “The Force Awakens.”
     We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete.

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