Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be an impossible movie to make in modern day America.

I recently purchased my tickets for Ready Player One and Pacific Rim 2. These are two movies that I'm excited to see, but for very different reasons. I want to see Pacific Rim 2, because I like big monsters and robots, and it looks like the movie went in a very intriguing direction when it was apparent that Charlie Hunnam would not be back to reprise his role as a Jaeger pilot that saved the world. The fact that they are going with Idris Elba's son is (I think) even better than another show with Charlie Hunnam's "hot shot" character in the pilot seat.

As for Ready Player One? Well, I read the book and reviewed it in a blog post three years ago. If you want to read the review, it's posted HERE. However, the biggest reason I'm looking forward to it is to see if Steven Spielberg (who got back into the director's chair from his semi-retirement) still has the magic. I've said it before HERE, but I think Steven is the G.O.A.T. And I've been educating some teenagers by showing them Spielberg movies at my house about once a month (the teens in question are named David and Moira, which is really nerdy considering that these names are both X-Men characters). Yes, the mom is a huge nerd.

Anyway, the next movie I have scheduled to show these two teens is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's a movie that I really liked as I was growing up. However, in thinking about the film, I suddenly realized that this is not a movie that could be filmed today. To clarify, I'm saying it would be impossible to put to film in today's climate.

For one, it glamorizes a deadbeat dad. Richard Dreyfuss is clearly disenchanted with his own family because they don't want to participate in his alien-driven mania. Does he love his kids? Maybe on some level? But he's not even done with his marriage before he's making moves on a woman who shares his mania for the location of Devil's Tower, and who has lost her son to an alien abduction. Sure, the story offers convenient excuses for Dreyfuss's behavior, but there's no way that wouldn't all get panned to death by reviewers and (I think) there is no way it could even get greenlit today for any kind of budget (whether or not someone like Steven Spielberg was behind it).

Close Encounters also has stellar reviews. However, there's no way people would review the movie the same in today's climate. It would get so many one star reviews it'd make the director's head spin as people trashed it and created negative hashtags on social media for a movie that clearly glorifies all the awful stereotypes of deadbeat dads.

I suppose that what I'm saying is that Close Encounters is an anachronism. It's a masterpiece for the time and place in which it appeared, but to remove it from that period would be to destroy it utterly because the things that made it great would be overwhelmed by its underlying social message. 


  1. Spielberg is the reason I'm excited to see Ready Player One. That and early reviews say it's spectacular.
    Never thought of the deadbeat dad aspect. I saw it in theaters as a young teen and thought it was amazing, but it didn't occur to me that he was anything more than a little nutty-obsessed. I think the fact we have so much technology would make the film more difficult to believe today.
    And funny how it came out the same year as Star Wars but if you watch them back to back, Encounters still holds up while Star Wars and its effects look really bad.

    1. Actually, the more I think about it, the less I think that would be a problem. Society is less sensitive to family than ever before. However, it is more sensitive to mental illness, which is probably how his character would be perceived.

  2. I haven't seen that movie for a while. I suppose that would be a tough sell to have a jerk main character.

  3. Actually, the movie is very dated looking, and the special effects look like crap. Except for the mashed potato mountain. That still looks real.

    But, no, the movie could not be made today but only because so many more more compelling first contact movies have been made since then.

  4. Interesting. Times change. Mores change. Is this a good or bad thing?

  5. So much about that movie would not work today. But I enjoyed it when it first came out. I'm hoping to see Pacific Rim 2 also. I will miss Charlie though :(

  6. Sorry I'm so late in commenting on this post -- I've been missing too many blogs lately.

    Anyway, I'm so glad you love Close Encounters because I think it was a brilliant break-through movie. BTW, did you know Spielberg also wrote it? When it was re-released a couple months ago for a one-week showing on the big screen, I made a point of catching it again. I still consider the opening scenes and the scene with Dreyfus in the pickup truck when he gets blasted to be stunning film making. Sure, some of it might look dated now, but people have to bear in mind that when it first came out absolutely NOTHING like this story had ever been made.