PictureClose Encounters always demanded a large screen so it's no surprise that this has retained its original wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio, encoded with the almost standard BluRay MPEG-4/AVC at 1080p. On film and on a multitude of discs and combined disc releases CE3K has always been a somewhat grainy film and the transfer to BluRay this still holds true; dark scenes in particular still exhibit this quality and unfortunately some noise is also appaarent here also. It's never distracting though and the grain enhances the almost documentary portrayal of the events.
The print is very good, considering its age, but that's not to say it's perfect. Slight drops can be noticed and some flecks apparent for the briefest of times. Like the grain before it it never really takes your mind off what you're watching.
Blacks hold up remarkably well, deep and foreboding and obviously for a film where a lot of the action occurs at night this is definitely good to hear. Shadow detail is excellent throughout especially in the traffic control room, during the first encounter on the roads and the final scenes shot at Devils Tower. The upper end of the video scale is glorious, no blooming and whites tightly defined in the light sun drenched skies.
Colour fidelity throughout spot on. In comparison to my region 2 collectors edition it's almost like night and day. Strong bold primaries and deep swathes of colour permeate CE3K whereas on the standard DVD release they always appeared a little under-saturated and definitely exhibiting bleed. None of that here, perfectly contained within their borders and with no apparent streaks in the fine gradients of colour, look at the deep orange in Gillian's house just before Barry is abducted for instance. Depth is more than apparent, with all outdoor scenes brilliantly sharp from the finest objects up close to the furthest trees in the escape scenes. If I had to raise some criticism about the transfer itself it would unfortunately be near the end where the fine details on the mother-ship is clouded by some bloom from the deep blues themselves.
SoundThere are a variety of tracks on offer, Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD in English as well as the former being offered in French and Spanish. I chose the DTS track for this review, although a slight comparison between the two lossless tracks shows that either will suffice for viewing pleasure, neither really taking a strong lead over the other. Originally filmed for stereo you would expect not too much activity from that multiple setup, however you'd been wrong! There's excellent work of the surrounds when the alien ships appear on screen and steerage is handled perfectly, you can close your eyes and track the flight of the crafts as they float in from the left, spin and depart similarly on through the left surround. Equally the closing scenes with the helicopters and smaller alien ships dart from speaker to speaker at will, never though straying into distracting territory.
LFE is tremendous and at times hang onto your seat because it goes very low indeed. The shots of Roy in his truck when he first encounters an alien ship overhead will take your sub lower than most films would attempt, it's deep and very heavy. Similarly at the end when the mother-ship appears your sub once again kicks into overdrive and you can almost feel the ground shake as it would have during such a scene.
Dialogue is always perfectly catered for through the centre channel and you'll be able to make out all of the spoken word through this feature. The score by John Williams, like most other scores composed by this giant of film soundtracks, flows naturally from the fronts with little exposure to the surrounds and whilst a detailed presentation, unfortunately it comes across as a rather narrow sound field.
ExtrasOn my region 2 disc there is a detailed 'making of' documentary which fortunately has found its way onto this disc. Not only that though, here we are faced with a comprehensive set of additional material to check out.
- Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters - 0:21:22
Spielberg's comments on the writing of CE3K before and during production of Jaws. He acknowledges that he was naive in his early years and this transposed its way onto the films he made including this. As he has grown older he feels he's a little more sceptical these days and doesn't necessarily believe in little green men. He discusses financing, the negotiations for the special edition, E.T. and how he and John Williams came up with those, now legendary, five little notes.
- Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1:41:38
The definitive documentary of this ground breaking feature. Spielberg himself is interviewed on what seems to be an outdoor location for Saving Private Ryan. He tells us of when his father took him out in the middle of the night to see a meteor shower, how Dr. J. Allen Hynek kept him on track and added a scientific weight. Other cast members are interviewed throughout and they all have positive contributions. Richard Dreyfuss comes across particularly well more or less offering Spielberg no option but to choose him when Spielberg's other main contenders had to politely refuse the part of Roy.
- Watch the Skies - 0:05:54
More or less an extended trailer which would have been shown on televisions throughout the world in the pre release marketing campaign for CE3K.
- Deleted Scenes
9 Deleted scenes. Most of the ones on show here are on the cutting room floor for a reason. However there is one where the passengers on the flight which witnessed one of the initial alien crafts are asked for all photo material after they have landed. I felt this could have been included and it would have added a little more meat to that particular encounter.
3 trailers are included, the original 1970s one, one for the re-release when the Special Edition hit the cinemas and now this for the final Ultimate Edition.
- Storyboard Comparisons.
5 comparisons between storyboard and live action. This is presented in split screen mode with the storyboard taking up most of the screen real estate.
Lastly we have an extensive set of static galleries. They cover shots of storyboards, locations, Ralph McQuarrie drawings, opening night, pre-production, cast, crew marketing and additions for the Special Edition.
Sony have pulled the stops out with this premier release. On the main disc all 3 versions of the film can be seen; the original, the Special Edition and a final directors cut which Spielberg himself would have liked to have made in the early 80s only to have the studio request additional scenes. All of these are watched seamlessly as the film branches from one edition to the next. As well as the definitive making of featurette there is a personal interview with Spielberg himself and whilst not really adding anything to the mix it's good to have it in there.
Also included are an enormous number of still images and whilst it was a little boring wading through the entire amount I do know some people who quite enjoy these additions. All the extras are presented on a second disc and these two discs come in a fold out container, housed in a very sturdy cardboard sleeve. The disc container itself contains a pocket for an A5 poster detailing the differences between the individual editions and the cardboard sleeve also houses a superb A5 30th anniversary collector's edition booklet. This high quality glossy addition contains 32 pages of cast and crew biographies as well as a number of high quality photographs.
One gripe about the structuring of these extras though; most are contained as sub-headings under a main title and within these subheadings there is no option to 'Play All' The deleted scenes for instance have to be played individually and that's just a bit of a pain.
VerdictAt the time CE3K was well received from both critics and audiences alike, throughout the years this praise has never diminished, only grown as newer generations have been brought into its fold. A wonderful story, at times uplifting, funny and without a doubt at times full of dread and suspense; the result leaves you feeling that you've watched a master ply his trade, and of course you have.
Effects blend in seamlessly to create a sense that these aliens are actually visiting our planet. Never straying into the 'they're out to get us' territory, for the first time aliens were represented with an almost 'human' face. Gracious and guiding, leading the responsible organisations by the hand towards their first step to a larger world.
It's got Spielberg written all over it, right down to the little cute alien ship he manages to squeeze in there. This is no bad thing, after all at this time in his life he was a master of bringing adventure to the big screen and there's no larger adventure than what's on offer here. In terms of the disc set itself, it's the best there ever has been. It's difficult to say how the picture itself could be improved merely due to the filming techniques chosen at the time. Sonically it never has been better and that in itself is a wonder like the aliens themselves. Recommended? Most certainly!
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.
- Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters - 0:21:22