The Films of Steven Spielberg
I think I remember hearing about Steven Spielberg in 1982 when ET: The Extra Terrestrial came out in 1982. If my memory serves me, and this is an iffy statement, I seem to recall that back in the 70s it was the producers of the movie that got a lot of the publicity. I remember the remake of King Kong being advertised as by producer Dino De Laurentiis and the ship disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure from producer Irwin Allen. I think it was in the 80s when that trend was reversed to now where the director received a lot of then buzz and publicity for their movies. Indeed, today directors such as Spielberg, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Zemeckis and on and on are as famous as their movies and the actors that play in them. It wasn’t until many years after the releases of such movies as Jaws and Close Encounter of the Third Kind did I know who Steven Spielberg was.
I always believed that Spielberg’s film were universally liked for the most part. However, I have come to realize that is not the case. He has some people out there that do not like his work at all. There are some who have mixed feelings for his work. I am one of those that greatly enjoys the vast majority of his work and think he is the best director working today. There are those, usually in the “I don’t like him” camp feel his best work is behind him. I strongly disagree with that position. As I sit at my computer typing away I am eagerly anticipating his bio-pic about Lincoln. I have been waiting with excitement and anticipation since this project was announced. Viewing the fist trailer, and haven seen pictures of Daniel Day-Lewis transformed into the 16th president of the US, my desire to see this picture has greatly increased.
One of the aspects of his films that I like is the ambiance or tone of his movies. This might be due to his cinematography but my overall point is when I see a Spielberg film I can tell it is by him just by the way that it looks. Even films not directed by him, where he has worn the hat of executive producer, such as Poltergeist in the 80s and the most recent JJ. Abrams movie, Super 8, all have that classic Spielberg look to them. It is hard to define or put my finger on just how to describe that look, but it is one that evokes a feeling of familiarity and connection that enables me to be absorbed into the movie. I worked with a guy, who wanted to be a director himself, and he didn’t care for Spielberg’s work calling it “too commercial.” I understood what he meant. Commercialism is viewed as something that is polished and appeals to the masses. There are some pretentious artistic types that come off as snobs feeling that gritty realism or abstract expression is far superior to works that are more appealing to the general movie goer. The older I get I find myself not having too much tolerance for snobs whether they be films snobs, art snobs, music snobs, or social snobs. I won’t go off on too much of a tangent on this and I will file my zeal away and discuss this in another blog post all together. For me his commercial appeal is part of the charm of his films.
Since this is a blog dedicated to science fiction and fantasy films and although Spielberg has done some great work outside of this genre, such as the classic Schindler’s List for example, but for the remained of this blog post I will concentrate on his science fiction and fantasy films. I have said that alien invasion movies are one of my favorite topics in this genre and Spielberg has three great movies that deal with this topic in different ways. The first alien invasion movie is Close Encounter of the Third Kind released in 1977 and reunited Spielberg with his Jaws actor, Richard Dryfuss. This movie effectively uses the backdrop of government cover up and mystery to the alien invasion. These aliens are friendly, a new concept for the movies after the cold war type films of the 50s, and the great focus is on the character development and the obsession Dryfuss’s character is experiencing amidst these strange phenomenon. The special effects are spectacular and have not aged a bit since the 70s. The moment we see the massive mother ship behind Devil’s Tower is still breathtaking. The final encounter with the aliens and the musical attempts to communicate with them are awe inspiring and still fills me with as sense of wonder.
His next alien invasion movie was ET: The Extra Terrestrial. This movie really is about childhood and I have always seen ET as a metaphor for the child within us all. The movie is told from a child’s perspective, which is why the faces governmental authorities are not initially shown, and the lesson is about keeping alive that child aspect of ourselves. For me that child like aspect of myself is what gives me joy and makes life meaningful. Sorry to get preacher here for a moment but we live in a fast passed stressful consumerist driven culture and those aspect of the inner child, joy and wonder and mystery are cut off for many adults. This movie reminds me not to let that happen. When ET touches Elliot’s forehead and says “I’ll be right here,” meaning that child like aspect of Elliot, which ET represented, will always be inside of him. I admit by the time those lines are spoken I am a puddle of tears.
The other alien invasion movie Spielberg tackled was the remake of the Sci-Fi classis The War of the Worlds. HG. Wells short story was set in the 19th century. Both George Pal’s and Spielberg’s version update the story to the current time period in which each was filmed. I have already reviewed this movie on this blog so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say I was glad to see Spielberg tackle an alien invasion movie where the aliens are not warm and friendly like his previous films. No, these aliens are coming to take over the planet and desire our extermination. Ah, good old fashioned angry alien invasion movie. I enjoy the aspect of a dead beat dad who really becomes a father amidst this tragedy. The story is gripping and the special effects are out of this world.
I have only scratched the surface of the Steven Spielberg movies that I like. So I will have part 2 ready for next Tuesday.
Posted on October 1, 2012, in Captain's Log... and tagged Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Daniel Day Lewis, ET: The Extra Terrestrial, George Lucas, George Pal, HG Wells, James Cameron, Kevin Smith and Robert Zemeckis, Lincoln, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, Schindler's List, Spielberg, Steven Spielberg. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.