Listener Magazine – 10-16 Dec 1977

Listener Magazine - 10-16 Dec 1977

Immediately prior to New Zealand’s December 1977 theatrical debut of ‘Star Wars’ (some months after the rest of the world), the Listener magazine had an issue (10-16 Dec, 1977) with a couple of features pertaining to the galactic blockbuster. Well before the rest of the Original Trilogy (let alone the Prequel Trilogy), well before official websites and online discussion, the content of such articles gives interesting insight into Star Wars’ reception and relative fanfare.

A sidebar article amongst wider discussion on the topic of the history of sci-fi starts:

Star Wars, the epic of struggle between pure of heart Republicans and evil dictators in a faraway galaxy, comes on-screen in New Zealand theatres this month.

Overseas, the film’s box-office receipts are already climbing towards the all-time champion, Jaws, which grossed $200 million. Star Wars has already won inclusion in the American Film Institutes list of 10 all-time greats.

Also discussed is the leading edge of the merchandising phenomenon that has now lasted over 3 decades:

In New Zealand, Hodder & Stoughton have stocks of Star Wars paperbacks totaling 50,000, which they are confident of off-loading when Star fever gets under way. That sales figure would far surpass New Zealand’s best selling science fiction book to date, Dune by Frank Herbert, which has sold 30,000 copies since 1965.

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Separately, in the cinema section, the Listener’s reviewer critiques the film that started it all; at times, the analysis hits on elements well ahead of its time. Star Wars garners a 3-star rating, out of a presumed possible 4:

Everything they say about Star Wars being great fun, enormous entertainment, full of spectacle and old-fashioned thrills, is all true… The immediate impact is stunning, but later reflection (a mistake, it is not the sort of movie which should be reflected on) reveals how contrived everything is… Everything, even the much praised special effects in this film, is subservient to giving the audience a simple good time.

The battles between the rebel spaceships and the imperial fighters are actually nonsense, but they sure look nice. The ships don’t even look right – though used for close-range fighting, at visual distances they have tiny little windows and obscuring panels, and they manoeuvre like aircraft rather than spaceships.

And I’m sure nobody except hardcore science fiction fans will give a hoot. It is fantasy, not science fiction, and if one should feel disappointed by this then it is only because our expectations have been incorrectly primed. The two genres are not identical, though they do have regions of overlap – thus it is possible to treat science fantasy as sloppy science fiction and compare films of the two types.

The review is realistic, but encourages film-goers to just sit back and have fun:

Hard SF fans looking for more than escapism will have to wait until someone decides to release that interesting home movie Dark Star, or perhaps until Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with luxuriating in the lavish visual effects and amusing incidents of Star Wars.


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