Close Encounters of the Third Kind-The Snobby Thinking Man's Star Wars
In 1977, Steven Spielberg began to solidify his position as a very serious player in Hollywood with the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The film, like so many other blockbusters, tackles a simple notion-mankind's first interpersonal contact with beings from another world. UFOs have sparked great fascination in the recent decades and what really makes Close Encounters most remarkable is the fact that we have not seen many more, highly successful films of this type. Thus, much of the success of the film is due to the fact that it tapped into a subject that was of keen interest to a great many people and continues to be even to this day.
Close Encounters character driven screenplay, also by Spielberg distinguishes itself from other popular science-fiction of the day. While the effects in the film are very good what ultimately makes Close Encounters so striking and such a standout film is that the screenplay focuses on the people involved in this close encounter of the third kind, and the process by which the characters are drawn to the same place at the same time. It is a plot device that has become increasingly common in films and television since 1977, take for example the television show Heroes, where all the characters are drawn to the same location.
The great screenplay is bolstered by some great acting performances by Richard Dreyfuss and Teri Garr in what may very well be the best roles of their careers. These strong acting performances heighten the heart and humanity of the film and thus leave the audience much more engaged in the story that unfolds.
Close Encounters is one of those rare films that is a bit bewildering in that it did not fill even more seats. With the hunger for good science-fiction, as witnessed by the release of Star Wars only months earlier, one would think that Close Encounters would have been even more successful. While there is an abundance of action and suspense in Close Encounters, it is a more thoughtful and intelligent story than Star Wars. The focus is not on explosions or alien invasion and as a result Close Encounters was more sophisticated and cerebral.
Along with Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind stand as some of the most intelligent science-fiction films that Hollywood has yet tackled. The message of both films is, in the end, less fear based, less militaristic and more knowledge and exploration based. Spielberg has no doubt created a large and varied body of work, but as both writer and director of Close Encounters, future generations will probably acknowledge Close Encounters of the Third Kind as one of his very best contributions.
Enjoyability Grade A
Home Theater/HD Factor A
Overall Grade A+ (An intelligent science-fiction film from beginning to end, Close Encounters was thought-provoking, especially when it was released. This is simply one of the best science-fiction movies ever made.)