Granted, after years of peer pressure, and long explanations of how great the sound effects for the tie fighters were, and how the Millennium Falcon was like a suped up hot rod in space with burn marks and everything, I eventually came around. By the time Return of the Jedi came out, I was lined up at the mall on opening day.
But Close Encounters had all this stuff I could immediately relate to - human characters (for the most part), set on earth, and what seemed like a highly plausible first contact scenario. Star Wars was fun, thrilling. Close Encounters was magic.
The intro for Close Encounters made a bigger impact on me too. Star Wars: big ship goes past the camera with spaceships flying around, shooting lasers. Okay, special effects. We're in space. This is indeed some "war" in the "stars". Close Encounters: black screen. Some strange sounding music fades in. Flash to pure, blinding white. Then fades back until we realize we're in a sandstorm. Then a voice, shouting above the storm: "Are we the first?" You bet dude - you're the first movie to knock me on my ass right off the bat. Heck, it already feels more futuristic, without having any sci-fi elements. Why? Because the story blended realistic dialogue, actors and environmental effects to make you feel like you're there. Something the drive-in experience of Star Wars never did for me.
The other thing was that Spielberg's directorial style stuck with me a lot longer. To this day, watching that movie makes me feel all cozy and warm, wishing I could move into the screen and live there. Star Wars films are neat and cool and all, but I could take em or leave em. I'll probably see III in the theatre, unless everyone says it's even worse than I and II.
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