Close Encounters of the Third Kind Review
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss. It is in my opinion one of the best genre films of the decade and one of my favorite films from the director I am generally not a big fan of.
It follows a blue collar worker Roy played by Dreyfuss who encounters a UFO. He then along with a couple of others follows his vision to the place where the government chose to greet the aliens. The story is this movie’s biggest flaw as it is too simplistic. It never justifies its awfully long running time, clocking in at almost two and a half hours. The end result is then naturally an overly slow pace with a lot of dragged, pointless or just plain boring scenes. I dislike how tedious it can get in the first half with too much incorporated family drama. However, the later emphasis on the protagonist’s struggle with his vision is great as it lends to some character development as well as some personal drama. It also finally introduces you to the sci-fi elements in a film that surprisingly doesn’t have much of it for the genre that it claims to be.
But certainly the highlight is the last act which is absolutely terrific. It is visually stunning and perfectly executed with a lot of tension and awe-inspiring moments. But it is above all incredibly entertaining and vastly memorable and iconic. I adore its presentation of aliens as peaceful, friendly beings rather than vilifying them. That is the best choice from the filmmakers and the biggest reason why this movie works as it is very realistic. I also love the incorporation of music as a means of communication. It was a nice touch and a rather believable plot point. But it is so iconic, powerful and moving beyond words that makes it one of the best endings ever for the genre.
The effects are absolutely stunning, especially for the time. Yes, it is a bit dated nowadays because of its garish approach to colors, but it is much advanced in the ship’s structure and overall appearance. It in my opinion aged much better than ‘Star Wars‘ which was released the same year. And it is a better film than that famous movie, although I am in the minority in that opinion. It is definitely groundbreaking visually, but it is also very well directed and greatly shot with a polished feel to it. It also has its fair share of memorable scenery. The music is also superb, although not one of John Williams’ best works. I like its tone as well because it is very dramatic and at times quite moving and even powerful.
I would also say it is even poetic at times which is quite an accomplishment and in my opinion this is the finest directing from Spielberg, at least one of the best. I am usually not a fan of his works, but this is one of my favorites from him along with ‘Minority Report‘. I also like how original and authentic it is with the aliens’ peaceful nature. However, not the same can be said with the design as they look way too typical for the time and their ships are very cliched too. And the dialogue I felt should have been better. The editing is of course too drawn-out, but the emotional investment is evident in its final moments, although lacking before.
The characters are so-so. Roy is quite solid as the main character and he is realistically portrayed. But I disliked his decision in the end to go with the aliens as it was way too selfish to leave his family behind like that. Speaking of his family, both the mother and the kids never get much development. And Jillian I was not a fan of and I did not like that the two had to kiss in the end. That was quite unnecessary. The acting is solid, but nothing too extraordinary, although Richard Dreyfuss did a very good job in his role.
It has so-so characterization and it is very slow and way too long for such a simplistic story, but Close Encounters of the Third Kind largely does succeed mostly thanks to its stunning visual effects for the time, aliens’ peaceful nature which was very original (if the design is anything but), very good directing, fine music and one of the most memorable, powerful and iconic endings for the genre. It is very flawed, but it is still an entertaining and even moving film that is one of my favorite movies from the director I am usually not a big fan of.
My Rating – 4