Last year was the first time I ever watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind; It was required viewing for a research paper on the evolution of the Sci-fy genre. Considering my assignment was to compare the film with Forbidden Planet (1956), I really liked it. But Forbidden Planet was honestly sooooo fucking bad. 10/10 would NOT recommend. Now that I am comparing it with the rest of Spielberg's works, and not the monstrosity that is Forbidden Planet, I've found that the film's resolution leaves a lot of unanswered questions in its wake. LOL.
SUPER DUPER CONDENSED SUMMARY
Close Encounters opens on a strange desert, wind-storm thing and its initial conflict is a communication struggle. There's a French guy, a Spanish guy, and a cartographer who just so happens to be multilingual--he becomes their translator. One of the Spanish guys has a sunburn covering half of his face. Then some astronauty, science things happen and BAM, we cut to Muncie, Indiana:
The earth shakes and a little boy wanders outside his house. His mother finds him.
Jillian and Roy cross paths at, essentially, an alien viewing party.
Half of Roy's face is burnt--he's had a close encounter.
Little boy is taken by aliens.
Roy goes crazy, starts sculpting a random structure out of anything he sees, scares his family away, and fills his home with dirt and trash.
He sees an exact image of what he'd been sculpting appear on his television.
He and Jillian roadtrip to the place she'd been painting and he'd been sculpting.
Jillian and Roy are told to wear gas masks because the area is poisoned, but that is a lie to keep people away from the top secret sight.
Through the use of color and sound, the aliens and humans have a peaceful interaction.
Jillian gets her son back.
Roy joins the aliens.
While I can totally recognize that Spielberg is responsible for introducing benevolent extra-terrestrial life, the development of Ray is something that totally confounds me. I think the reason it's so unsettling to me is that he and his family never get closure; they don't really say goodbye--his wife just up and leaves with the children thinking Roy's absolutely mad and Roy literally leaves planet earth.
At first, I considered his storyline as a plot-hole, but now I see it differently. Spielberg's father left him and his family when he was little. His parents were divorced and he became estranged from his father due to understandable feelings of abandonment. Roy abandons his family just like Spielberg believed his father did. When Spielberg made Close Encounters, he and his dad were still estranged, but the notion that Spielberg prescribes magnanimity to Roy assumes that he was on the path to forgive his father. It gave Roy and--by extension--Spielberg's dad a reason for leaving; a larger, grander purpose beyond a disinterest in raising children.
All in all, Close Encounters is colorful, wonderous, and fun. It's an incredibly enjoyable film and its genuine popcorn-worthiness is so quintessentially Spielberg.