Quick Hit: Earth shatteringly good.
Mankind has always been fascinated with the idea of others out in the cosmos. Whereas many people channel that obsession into fear, others give us stories of aliens that do good in our world (aka, Kal-el). But very few people gave us such pure joy in the discovery as Steven Spielberg in his 1977 classic about first contact with extraterrestrials.
I think some of the things that make this movie so good are Spielberg’s portrayal of the aliens throughout the movie. We are extremely unsure of the aliens at first – I mean when you consider the fact that in the beginning of the film, the only contact that people have with the aliens is when they are literally being burned by them – sunburnt, but still. When Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) first is visited, his truck is shaken and stirred. And when the little boy is abducted, the entire screen is shot in red colors, which don’t exactly give you the warm and fuzzies. We have no idea whether the aliens are benevolent or, well, the Independence Day aliens.
As the movie goes on, it becomes clear there is something special about Roy Neary. He’s being given some visions, all of a mountain. And you know what? Dreyfuss knocks it completely out of the park here. Very few people could have maintained the Everyman role as well as he did, while watching his character’s life erode around him. Melinda Dillon, who plays Jillian in the film, matches him nearly punch for punch in her portrayal of a mother who has lost her son.
There are two things that make the film truly fantastic though, and that’s the score first. John Williams became a star in this year, as Star Wars also hit the theaters this year. And while the score from Star Wars is far more recognizable, the score here is terrific. It carries some easily noted tones that catch the spirit of what it would be like to be among the first to meet benevolent aliens. It’s beautiful and uplifting.
But the effects in this movie are just outrageous in how good they are. For being in the late seventies, you can see the influence of the big three 2001, Star Wars, and this one on almost all future science fiction. I especially like the design of the aliens, which is both typical and new.
I know I’m not saying anything that’s new when talking about this film, but I’m glad I got to add my review to the void. For one of the classics of science fiction, I would check this one out.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"