Roy Neary sets out to investigate a power outage when his truck stalls and he is bathed in light from above. After this, strange visions and five musical notes keep running through his mind. Will he find the meaning of the visions, and who - or what - placed them in his mind? Written by
Colin Tinto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The small aliens in the film were played by local girls aged between 8 and 12 years old. Girls were used instead of boys because Steven Spielberg felt that they moved more gracefully. See more »
'Steven Spielberg (I)' and producers wanted Walter Cronkite as newsreader for the broadcast that Neary ignores in the "living room sculpture" scene. However, Cronkite's network would not allow him to take the role, so the producers settled on ABC's Howard K. Smith. Unfortunately, the news footage of the Wyoming reporter was filmed before this decision; as a result, the reporter says "Order your steak well-done, Walter." See more »
Overrated, disappointing sci-fi film that has become fondly remembered over the years...but why?
Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) is a genuinely silly, unfortunately outdated story. Its epic scope made it one of the highest-grossing films of 1977, nominated for two Academy Awards ® (it lost Best Visual Effects to George Lucas' "Star Wars"). Now, 27 years later, it just seems goofy and sickeningly sweet.
Spielberg adds a schmaltzy layer to most of his films that set his projects apart from the work of other directors. Arguably the most famous filmmaker since Hitchcock (in terms of public recognition), Spielberg is responsible for some of the greatest films ever made. Most critics consider "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" both films that deal with extra-terrestrial life to be some of his finest. For me, they are both rather disappointing. And unbearably sugar coated.
So, what is the primary problem with "Close Encounters"? Is it a bad movie? No, not really. But it's not a particularly memorable one, either. Apart from a few so-called "classic" sequences (the boy opening the door, the mashed potatoes, the alien arrival), the movie fails to spark much interest. Most of it to be completely blunt is quite stupid. Spielberg admits on the Special Edition DVD that he finds "Close Encounters" a bit too optimistic and unrealistic. When Spielberg made this movie, he believed in extra-terrestrial life, and was a young man with no children. In retrospect, Spielberg claims that the movie is a perfect snapshot of his youth, but as an adult, he would never make the movie the same way he did in '77.
One of the largest flaws is the fact that Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss fresh off the success of Spielberg's 1975 smash hit "JAWS") abandons his own family (wife and children) to embark on a crazy search for extra-terrestrial life. In a matter of thirty minutes of screen time he has packed up, traveled to Wyoming, broken past blocked off roads, found a new romantic interest, and by the end...well...let's just say that the conclusion is rather shameful on Spielberg's behalf. It is quite evident that he had no firm grasp of moral obligation in '77, and Roy's climactic decision is wholly unbelievable.
Then again, most of the film is like that, too.
Neary is an electrician who experiences a "close encounter" one night when a UFO seems to attack his car, and then flies off into the distance. Roy soon struggles with confusing mental images that have mysteriously implanted into his brain.
Hounded by the smart Dr. Lacombe (French director Francois Truffaut in his acting debut), Roy soon realizes that the extra-terrestrials plan to land on earth and he wants to be there, to see it all.
Roy's evolution is too fast in a matter of what seem to be few days he has turned into a complete loon, and because of Spielberg's lack of character arc, the sudden change is startling and worst of all cold. We lose all sense of empathy for Roy, primarily because we do not experience his pain we see him suffering, sure, and moping around like a "cry baby," as his son names him. But this happens so fast that we are left wanting more.
The movie's conclusion which lasts over forty minutes long is the most exciting part, but the abrupt change of pace (from being a slow-moving charming family film about "close encounters" to an oddball chase movie about the government covering up a dangerous conspiracy and hunting down escaped witnesses) hinders the lasting impact. Spielberg is constantly trying to find a groove for his movie, and never really finds one to stay the course.
Then, there's the long-awaited alien introduction (which lasts over twenty minutes long). Most people flocked to the theaters in order to see this sequence the special effects showcase of the year. This is proven by the fact that Spielberg purposely draws out the scene for such a lengthy period of time. Then, audiences savored the F/X because they were the best since Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (even the trailer advertisements claimed this was so, in order to entice viewers). Now, they're outdated, by almost all standards of special effects. Watching them for twenty minutes becomes tiring.
And of course, the annoying musical conversation between man and alien comes next something else that only makes the film more grating so many years later. "It's so '70s!" someone once said. I agree. (Many great masterpieces were made during the 1970s, but most people forget how many downright cheesy, forgettable movies were made, too.)
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" simply does not hold up after 27 years, which is quite unfortunate. The F/X are shoddy, the ideas are insane, the movie is long and boring, and the direction and acting are about the only two things that approach greatness. Spielberg shows talent behind the camera here, but it is vastly inferior to "JAWS." Even John Williams' score fails to leave the same impact as "JAWS," "Jurassic Park," etc.
Produced during a slew of "happy alien" movies (followed by another slew of "mean alien" movies during the '80s after Ridley Scott's "Alien" in 1979), "Close Encounters" is at times amusing, annoying, fast, long, and silly, all at once. The nation needed hope during the '70s, and they turned to the skies. Spielberg answered their calls, with a movie that set records, but is now nothing but a forgettable tale.
Many will disagree with me when I say that "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is an overrated, disappointing motion picture with few redeeming qualities. The harsh feedback should be interesting.
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