Below is Newsday's original film review of "Star Wars," which ran Friday, May 27, 1977. The movie premiered in theaters May 25, 1977.
“Star Wars” is one of the greatest adventure movies ever made. It’s a masterpiece of entertainment.
I haven’t had as much fun at a movie in years. With its technical wizardry, high-velocity storytelling and spirited good humor, “Star Wars” dazzles the child in us.
Working with production designer John Barry and special effects supervisor John Dykstra, writer-director George Lucas makes escapist entertainment respectable again, and more – he turns it into art. He also reminds us what an exhilarating experience a movie-movie can be.
In 70mm (widescreen) and Dolby System six-track noise-reduced stereo sound, the film is at Hicksville’s Twin-South and Manhattan’s Astor Plaza and Orpheum.
“Star Wars” is dense, compressed like good poetry, without any wasted sound or motion. It is utterly simplistic and at the same time totally sophisticated. The two times I saw the film, the audiences responded spontaneously with applause, cheers and appreciative laughs.
“Star Wars” confirms what was recognizable in Lucas’ first two films, “THX 1138” and “American Graffiti.” Lucas, an artist and lifelong model builder, is without peer as a compleat designer of films among the younger generation of American directors. His unerring good taste and painstaking craftsmanship qualify him as a cinematic genius.
In “Star Wars,” Lucas has created a $9.5 million space-age fairy tale for the young at heart. “Star wars” is an exciting and stimulating amalgam of sci-fi hardware, spectacular special effects, bizarre creatures, ravishing images, mysticism, slapstick, wit, suspense and heroism. Inspired by the 1930’s “Flash Gordon” series, “Star Wars” adopts its moral code from samurai and cowboy movies.
The picture is about a galactic civil war. Rebels are challenging the tyrannical Imperial Empire. The Empire retaliates with a doomsday weapon, the Death Star – a killer space station with enough firepower to annihilate an entire plant in one burst. The Death Star is searching for the main rebel base, in order to atomize it.
The fate of the rebel Alliance (the good guys) is inadvertently placed in the hands of a band of mercenaries and idealists who collectively suggest the fabulous images of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is a fresh-faced space farm orphan obsessed by romantic yearnings for glory. He embarks on his mission against the Imperial Empire to avenge the deaths of members of his family and to rescue the rebel princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from her prison on the Imperial space station.
His spiritual guide (Alex Guiness) is an aged warrior knight belonging to the mystical order of The Force. The Force is a cosmic energy which binds the universe together and from which the samurai-like knights draw their power.
Their chartered space ship’s dashing, cynical captain (Harrison Ford) is a smuggler, a sort of space-age Errol Flynn, who carries his ray gun low on his hip. His sidekick and copilot (Peter Mayhew) is a seven-and-a-half-foot, 100-year-old Wookie, a fabulous furry beast with a monkey face who looks like the Cowardly Lion of Oz.
Two robots accompany the motley group. One, vaguely resembling the Tin Man of Oz, is a bronze-plated gleaming man-sized humanoid (Anthony Daniels) with a nervous 1930s movie butler voice. His partner is an endearing tripodal robot that communicates in whistling squeals and, in moments of panic, in scared whimpers.
The Imperial bad guys are the nerveless, hatchet-faced Peter Cushing and a six-and-a-half-foot renegade knight of The Force (David Prowse) who wears a black (what else?) uniform and cape and a predatory beaked black metal face mask.
“Star Wars” has a lot of shootouts with laser guns and a battle of supersonic fighters, but there’s no dwelling upon gore. This is an old-fashioned film about heroes, a positive, upbeat experience.
“Star Wars” is as beautiful as anything on a movie screen in a decade, and can hold its own in comparison to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
It is a film of great images, some of them visionary and nightmarish. A bronzed robot lost on a golden desert. Nomadic Sand People clambering aboard elephant-sized steeds. Luke zipping along in a jet-propelled air-cushioned hover car. A duel to the death with swords whose blades are beams of light energy. The dregs of a colonized universe, a malevolent riff raff of mutants and grotesque alien life forms consorting with whispers, hisses, snarls in a remote Babel of a planet.
“Star Wars” is a fast two hours of thrills and laughs.