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Close Encounters of the Third Kind$
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Jon Towlson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781911325079

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781911325079.001.0001

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Close Encounters: Genre and Context

Close Encounters: Genre and Context

(p.17) 1. Close Encounters: Genre and Context
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Jon Towlson

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses the genre and context of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). It begins by tracing the emergence of science fiction in literature and in cinema. The chapter then looks at how film serials popularised pulp science-fiction cinema in the form of rocketships, ray guns, alien invaders, evil intergalactic emperors, and damsels in distress. One can see them as the inspiration for the likes of Star Wars and the myriad superhero blockbuster movies that continue to dominate Hollywood today. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey returned science fiction to its origins in Greek mythology. It is perhaps the first example of ‘transcendent’ science-fiction cinema, exploring the human need to place trust in a force larger than ourselves. In the early 1970s, science-fiction films were more overtly concerned with identity and environment, and how both were increasingly shaped or misshapen by technology. Meanwhile, post-9/11 has seen a move towards intelligent science fiction as a bankable commodity within Hollywood. Part of the genre's continuing appeal is, of course, the showcasing of state-of-the-art cinema technology within the sci-fi narrative. Special-effects technology has evolved in line with cinema's own development.

Keywords:   Steven Spielberg, science fiction, pulp science-fiction cinema, Star Wars, Stanley Kubrick, transcendent science-fiction cinema, science-fiction films, intelligent science fiction, cinema technology, special-effects technology

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