Close Encounters of the Third Kind 4K Blu-ray
By Chris Heinonen on
After an encounter with U.F.O.s, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen. Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws), Teri Garr (Tootsie), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story) and acclaimed French film director François Truffaut star in the story of a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Nominated for eight Academy Awards®, including Best Director (Spielberg) and Best Supporting Actress (Dillon), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND won for Best Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond) with Frank E. Warner taking home a Special Achievement Award for sound effects editing.
Of all the classic Spielberg films, Close Encounters is the one that has always grabbed me the least. Perhaps it is a bit more a product of its time than his other films, but I’ve never felt a sense of awe from it, or curiosity that it seems meant to imply. It’s a good film, but not one that I’ve felt the desire to come back to again and again. I’ve also made sure never to watch the Special Edition that includes the since lamented shots of inside the alien spaceship since it seems no one was a fan of making those.
Spielberg has also come to say that when he made the film, he didn’t have a family at the time. Going back and having a family, he likely wouldn’t have had Roy Neary get on the ship, so eager to abandon them. During the film he is obsessed with the spaceship but does so at the expense of his family, unable to focus on them at all or seemingly care about what they want. This contrasts completely with Jillian, who wants nothing more than to have her son back and obsessed with the aliens because of her family. Perhaps this is how Spielberg saw parents at the time, that the mom is more likely to obsess over the child while the dad still focuses on other things, but it feels misplaced as a father myself.
I’m more likely to sit down and watch Close Encounters with my own kids in a couple years, once they’re old enough to watch it without being bored too quickly, and see if they’re filled with more of a sense of wonder that I was by watching it when they’re younger. I hope they are, and that it will make them wonder about what else is out there.
Close Encounters was shot on 35mm film, using 65mm film for many of the VFX shots, and here it utilizes an all-new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. Close Encounters won an Oscar for cinematography, and here it is presented as good as it has been seen at home. For better or worse, all of the issues from the original negative are present. Some scenes offer a good amount of film grain while others are very clean. Darker scenes can be murky and hazy when compared to brighter scenes, and sometimes you’ll see a shot that is a bit out of focus.
When the film moves outside to the drive to Devils Tower, the palette becomes much more bright and vivid for a few scenes. The extra resolution of the new scan is very apparent here, and the colors are rich and fantastic. Another area of some concern is the use of HDR for the VFX. As with most other film to HDR conversions, the HDR can be present as a halo around the brighter areas of the image, since you don’t have computer models to go back to and specifically address individual pixels. Some of the HDR scenes are near flawless in how they integrate the extra brightness, while others show more of that halo than I would like. This is the best the film has looked, but it isn’t a title you will be using to show off your system probably.
The soundtrack is the same 5.1 that has been used before and did not get an Atmos or DTS:X upgrade for this 40th Anniversary release. The surrounds are used mostly in scenes with the aliens, but not as aggressively as they could be. Dialogue is relatively easy to understand, but the level of immersion that could be there just isn’t. It’s a fine soundtrack, but one you wish that they had upgraded along with the video.
- All three versions of the film: 1977 Theatrical Version, 1980 Special Edition & 1997 Director’s Cut
- ALL-NEW: “Three Kinds of Close Encounters” Featurette
- New interview with Director Steven Spielberg on the legacy of the film, as well as new interviews with directors J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) about the impact of Close Encounters.
- ALL-NEW: “Steven’s Home Movies & Outtakes”
- Rare never-before-seen home movies & gags from the set of Close Encounters.
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind Making-of Documentary
- “Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters” Featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- 1977 Featurette “Watch the Skies”
- Storyboard to Scene Comparisons
- Extensive Photo Gallery
- “A View From Above”
- Theatrical Trailers
Sony A1E OLED, Sony UBP-X800 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, KEF Ci5160RL-THX Fronts, Ci3160RL-THX Center, 2x Ci200RR-THX Surrounds, 4x CI200RR-THX Atmos Speakers, Power Sound Audio XS30se Subwoofer, Anthem MRX 1120 Receiver.
The new 4K transfer looks as good as this film ever has, WCG and HDR offer good benefits, all three cuts of the film on a single disc.
Still the same 5.1 soundtrack from before, image varies in quality on the original elements and HDR can sometimes look forced.
This is as good as Close Encounters of the Third Kind has ever looked at home, and is well worth picking up for fans of the film.