Watch the skies!

Two Spielberg classics on 4K Ultra HD in as many weeks? We’re being spoiled! While you can read our thoughts on E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’s journey onto the format here, it’s time to look upwards at different aliens – those in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which has just had a brief cinema run in all of its remastered 4K glory to celebrate its 40th year. Does its 4K Ultra HD release mean something, or is it just another hoax?

The story: Strange things are afoot. From missing warplanes returning some 30 years on from their disappearance – and looking as if they hadn’t aged a day – to airliners encountering unidentified objects buzzing them. In Indiana, a little boy delights as all of his toys come to life, while linesman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) comes into direct contact with a UFO – and has the “sunburn” to prove it. Roy is haunted by the experience and, becomingly increasingly unhinged, sees visions of some sort of mountain. It definitely means something, so he seeks answers…

4K Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The 4K disc: There were three distinct releases of Close Encounters – the original 1977 theatrical, the 1980 Special Edition and a 1997 director’s cut – and, in a very welcome move, they all feature here. The restoration project was apparently quite an arduous one, due to such hassles as the Special Edition having been cut from the original film negative, so parts went missing. Most were found, however, and everything was painstakingly sticky-taped together digitally to create a 4K master. Spielberg himself approved the HDR, aiming not to change the look, but harnessing the visual oomph of the process for the film’s good. While not quite as visually “wow!” as the astonishing Blade Runner 4K Ultra HD release, and despite varying levels of grain throughout, this is undoubtedly the best that Close Encounters has ever looked.

Sonically, we get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. We were a bit surprised (and a little disappointed) that with all the love lavished on the vision that no DTS:X or Dolby Atmos track was created, but being positive this mix is lightyears ahead of the original two-channel affair. The serious subwoofer thrums that signify the presence of visitors had us fearing retribution from our neighbours at times, but there are so many sounds that could have been flung gloriously about above us.

The package: A chunky three-disc set, the 4K disc is accompanied by two Blu-rays. These contain the HDR-free remastered movie for those who aren’t 4Ked up as yet, and a plethora of extra features. Bonus stuff includes several featurettes, outtakes, a documentary on 30 years of Close Encounters, trailers, a photo gallery and more.

4K Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Summing up: An impressive package, Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 4K Ultra HD truly is an experience. Only two things in particular really date it – John Williams’ unrestrained score, and rampant product replacement. Not that the latter had any effect on us. Now excuse us, please, while we grab a burger, cola, ice cream and some beer for later… Ahem. Anyway, while this isn’t quite reference quality, it’s still an amazing watch, especially when you consider the extensive work that went into making it even happen at all.

Release date: October 4, 2017
Format: 4K Ultra HD
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Want to know what to get next? Check out STACK‘s 4K Ultra HD specifications guide.