Review: The Magic of Spielberg: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

27 April 2023

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a timeless masterpiece of science fiction cinema. The film's exploration of human curiosity and fascination with the unknown, combined with Spielberg's exceptional direction, create a captivating and unforgettable experience for viewers. Through stunning visual effects, a gripping story, and a cast of talented actors, Close Encounters has remained a staple in the world of science fiction for over four decades.


It frankly terrified me when I watched it as a kid at my Great Aunt's house many moons ago.

Steven Spielberg, known for films such as Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park, is the creative force behind Close Encounters. The film's screenplay was written by Spielberg and Paul Schrader, known for his work on Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. The film's visual effects were created by Douglas Trumbull, known for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. Together, this team created a film that is visually stunning and emotionally resonant:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind,

Richard Dreyfuss stars as Roy Neary, an ordinary man who becomes obsessed with a close encounter with a UFO. Melinda Dillon plays Jillian Guiler, a woman whose son is abducted by aliens. The two lead actors deliver standout performances that bring the emotional core of the film to life. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind follows Roy Neary, a cable worker in Indiana, who experiences a close encounter with a UFO one night. After the encounter, Roy becomes obsessed with the image of a mountain in his mind and is compelled to discover its significance. Meanwhile, Jillian Guiler's son is abducted by aliens, and she too becomes obsessed with finding answers. The two characters' paths cross as they discover a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of aliens on Earth. The film's climax is a breathtaking visual and musical spectacle that explores humanity's fascination with the unknown. 

Close Encounters explores themes of curiosity, obsession, and the human need for connection. The film also explores the idea of communication, both between humans and aliens and among humans themselves. One of the most memorable scenes in the film involves the use of music as a means of communication between humans and aliens. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a critical and commercial success upon its release in 1977. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, and won for Best Cinematography. The film's box office performance was also impressive, grossing over $337 million worldwide. 

Some viewers may find the pacing of the film to be slow at times, particularly in the first act. Additionally, the film's ending has been criticized for being ambiguous and leaving some loose ends unresolved. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a classic of science fiction cinema that has stood the test of time. With its stunning visual effects, emotionally resonant story, and memorable performances, the film continues to captivate audiences over four decades after its release. Whether you're a fan of science fiction or simply appreciate great filmmaking, Close Encounters is a must-see.

The points swap Speilberg did with George Lucas and Star Wars

During the production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg made a bet with his friend and fellow filmmaker, George Lucas, who was also working on a science fiction film at the time, Star Wars. The bet was that each filmmaker would receive 2.5% of the other's film's profits in addition to their own profits. 

However, as the production of both films progressed, Spielberg began to have doubts about the success of Close Encounters and approached Lucas to propose a change in their bet. Spielberg offered to give Lucas 2.5% of his own film's profits in exchange for 2.5% of Lucas's film profits, believing that Star Wars would be a huge success and Close Encounters might not be. Lucas agreed to the swap, and it turned out to be a very lucrative move for Spielberg.

Star Wars became a massive box office success, grossing over $775 million worldwide and launching a media franchise that continues to this day. Close Encounters was also successful, but it did not achieve the same level of commercial success as Star Wars, grossing approximately $338 million worldwide. However, thanks to the bet with Lucas, Spielberg ended up receiving a significant percentage of the profits from Star Wars in addition to the profits from Close Encounters.

The bet and subsequent swap between Spielberg and Lucas have become an interesting footnote in film history, demonstrating the close relationship between the two filmmakers and their faith in each other's work. It also highlights the unpredictability of the film industry and the importance of taking calculated risks in order to achieve success.

Here's 10 production-related trivia about Close Encounters of the Third Kind

1. The production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind faced several delays due to casting difficulties. Initially, Steven Spielberg wanted Steve McQueen to play the lead role of Roy Neary, but McQueen turned it down. The role eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss, who had previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws.

2. The famous five-note musical motif from the film was created by composer John Williams, who had also worked on the music for Jaws. Spielberg gave Williams a set of tones and asked him to come up with a simple melody that could be used to communicate with the alien visitors in the film.

3. The climactic scene of the film, where the alien mothership lands and the extraterrestrial beings emerge, was shot on a specially-built set at Mobile, Alabama. The set measured 500 feet in diameter and was surrounded by 10,000 tons of dirt, which was brought in by train.

4. One of the challenges the production team faced during the filming of the climactic scene was creating the fog that surrounds the mothership. They used a combination of dry ice and water to create the effect.

5. The interior of the mothership was designed by production designer Joe Alves, who had also worked on Jaws. The set was built at Pinewood Studios in the UK and measured 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. It was made to look like a massive cathedral, with rows of seats for the alien visitors.

6. The film was shot on location in several states across the US, including Indiana, California, and Wyoming. The Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming, which serves as a key location in the film, was actually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 due to its cultural significance in the movie.

7. Spielberg originally wanted to use real UFO sightings as the basis for the film's story, but he was unable to get access to classified government files on the subject. Instead, he used his imagination to create a story that blended fact and fiction.

8. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Roy Neary sculpts a replica of Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes. The idea for the scene came from Spielberg's own childhood, where he would play with his food at the dinner table and create sculptures out of mashed potatoes.

9. The film's special effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas. The company had previously worked on Star Wars and would later work on the Indiana Jones films and other major Hollywood productions.

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Director for Steven Spielberg and Best Supporting Actress for Melinda Dillon. It won two awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Effects Editing.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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