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REVIEW: ‘Close Encounters’ requires us to ask: What does Scripture say about alien life?

REVIEW: ‘Close Encounters’ requires us to ask: What does Scripture say about alien life?Roy Neary is a husband and father of three young children who knows he’s been acting a little strange lately. But he just can’t help it.

It all started late one night when an other-worldly flying saucer briefly hovered over his car at a railroad crossing. He was terrified – yes – but also was forever changed. No longer does he wish to hold down a job and support his family. Instead, he wants to hunt for UFOs. That is, if he isn’t first admitted to a mental institution.

Ever since that wild night, he has had visions of a large butte protruding from the Earth. He draws pictures of it. He sculpts models of it.

“I can’t describe what I’m feeling,” Roy tells his family. “… This means something.”

He built his latest butte replica using dirt, bricks and shrubbery, combined with some chicken wire he stole from the neighbor. He piled it all over the kitchen during a mad-scientist-like escapade that scared his wife and kids. They left him.

Soon, though, Roy connects the dots. The butte is Devil’s Tower (Wyo.), a middle-of-nowhere landmark that he thinks will host another UFO visit. And he’s going.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (PG) was released 40 years ago but is being re-released in about 900 theaters this weekend as part of a commemorative anniversary edition. It was nominated for eight Oscars (winning one) and still ranks in the Top 100 grossing movies of all time (No. 77) when adjusted for inflation.

It stars Richard Dreyfuss as Roy; Teri Garr as his wife, Ronnie; and Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler, who also experiences a UFO encounter.

Warning: Major spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing

No violence. But the aliens’ encounters with people take place at night and are the stuff of nightmares. Roy sees a UFO at a railroad crossing; it shakes everything violently – the mailboxes, the car, the railroad signs. Later, a UFO abducts a young boy, ripping him from his terrified mother. Yet when we finally do see the aliens, they are calm, peaceful (albeit weird-looking) creatures.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. A man kisses a woman who isn’t his wife (more on that below). A woman, after she gets a red burn from a UFO, wears a slightly revealing shirt.

Coarse Language

Moderate. I counted 23 coarse words: h-ll (6), misuse of “God” (4), d—n (3), misuse of “Jesus” (2), a—(2), GD (2), s—t (1), ba—rd (1), misuse of “Lord” (1), misuse of “Christ” (1).

Positive Elements

Ronnie is devoted to her children, as is another woman whose child is abducted. We also see a Catholic priest pray for a group of people who are scheduled to board a UFO.

Other Negative Elements

Stop reading now if you don’t like spoilers. (OK … you’ve been warned.) Close Encounters is an entertaining movie, but at its heart it’s about a man who abandons his wife and three children to board a UFO. Granted, he wasbrainwashed, but he also left behind a family who missed him.

Life Lessons

It is painful to watch Roy’s family suffer as he chases his UFO dream. Once a fine husband and father, he becomes a lunatic. True, it is only science fiction, but it nevertheless can serve as a warning to parents who have placed the world ahead of their families.

Worldview

It’s impossible to discuss the worldview of Close Encounters without asking: Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Scripture does not provide a definitive answer, although it strongly implies that the answer is “no.”

First, consider the Genesis order of creation. Mankind was created last and was the pinnacle of creation. It wasn’t until God made humans that He proclaimed His creation was not just “good,” but “very good.” Where would aliens fit in the creation account?

Second, consider the size of the universe – and its purpose. Mainstream scientists posit that it would be virtually impossible for intelligent life not to have evolved elsewhere in such a vast space. But the Bible tells us the universe has one purpose: to declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). In other words, it appears God made a universe with billions of galaxies and trillions of stars simply to give us an idea of His size and glory – and to lead us to worship. It’s as if He said: See that universe? I made it. And I’m bigger than that.

Third, consider the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus was born on Earth. He died on Earth. He was resurrected on Earth. That was God’s plan before He even created the universe (1 Peter 1:19-21). He didn’t do any of that on another planet.

Family-Friendly?

Close Encounters has too many disturbing elements and too much language for young children.

What I Liked

It has everything that made the 1970s (and previous decades) so cool: Paper maps. Sideburns. Gigantic cars. Rotary phones. Cameras with film. Huge TV sets. Additionally, the special effects – despite being filmed in 1977 – have held up well for 40 years.

What I Didn’t Like

The kiss between Roy and a woman who is not his wife.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

For pure entertainment value, thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe?
  2. Why are humans so enamored with the thought of alien life?
  3. Did you like the ending? Why or why not?
  4. Did you ever feel sorry for Roy’s children? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is rated PG for some intense sci-fi action, mild language and thematic elements.

– Michael Foust

Michael Foust View All

I blog about fatherhood and have an awesome family. I also really like popcorn.

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