Close Encounters of the Third Kind (PG-13)
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Caution: total spoilers, I guess.
This came out in 1977 (two years after I was born), but I didn't see it until 2013. I've been wanting to watch it for a very, very long time, because it is widely considered one of, if not the greatest science fiction films ever made. Anyway, I have a box set of the movie that contains three versions: original theatrical, special edition, and director's cut. For the purposes of this review, I'm watching the original version, but someday I might get around to watching the other two versions. Or not.
It starts with some old planes being discovered in the Sonoran Desert, planes which had disappeared in 1945. After that there are some seemingly random scenes of weird stuff happening (because of as-yet-unseen UFOs), which mostly I found kind of boring. But all that really matters is some 3-year-old boy leaving his house in the middle of the night, and his mother, Jillian, running out after him. And a guy named Roy being sent to deal with some power outages. And... some weird stuff happens to his truck. And a UFO goes by. And then he follows it. Actually there were a few UFOs. And he meets Jillian, after nearly running over her son. And later, he wants his wife, Ronnie, to come see the UFOs, but by then they were gone. Still, the next night there are a bunch of people out at the spot where the UFOs had been seen. And um, Jillian's son gets abducted. And both Jillian and Roy start seeing a mountain-like shape everywhere, which they know means something, but they don't know what. And Roy starts acting obsessively, which eventually leads Ronnie to take their kids and leave him.
Meanwhile, there's a team of scientists investigating the UFOs. Mainly we get to see a French guy named Lacombe, and an American named Laughlin, who translates for him. And they apparently figure out where to find the UFOs, so the government fakes a nerve gas scare to evacuate people from the area, which happens to be the location of a mountain that looks just like the one Jillian and Roy (and apparently numerous other people) have been seeing. So the two of them both figure out that they need to go there, though of course the government doesn't want them there. And in the end, there are some UFOs that the scientists figure out how to communicate with, using musical tones and lights. And a mothership shows up, and releases people who had been abducted over the years (but who hadn't aged). And then some aliens come out of the ship. And Roy goes in. And the ship leaves. The end.
Sigh. I like to think of myself as someone who can appreciate subtle themes in movies, at least sometimes. (Other times I can be pretty oblivious, I'm sure.) I can even enjoy things that a lot of people would consider boring. But... I just did not get this movie at all. It had some decent visual effects. And I do like the idea of aliens not being portrayed as hostile, but even if that concept was considered somewhat revolutionary in 1977, for me it's just a matter of course. And I need some kind of answers, which as far as I can see, this movie doesn't provide. At all. A lot of fans seem to see allegories and stuff in it, but I don't. It all just seems totally random and boring and pointless. I have no idea why the aliens abducted people. I have no idea why they returned them. I have no idea why they chose to "invite" people like Roy and Jillian, specifically. I have no idea what they were "communicating" with the sounds and lights, and I'm fairly sure the scientists don't know, either. It seems to be accepted by fans that the movie means humanity had become ready to join the interstellar community, or whatever, but I just don't see it. It's a nice thought, but I feel like if aliens wanted that, they could make it a hell of a lot clearer. I hate to say it, but I just didn't like the movie. I feel like I must be a very bad science fiction fan for feeling that way, but I can't help it. I'm sorry. (And I'd say I'm sorry for spoiling the whole plot, except that, IMHO, there is no plot.)