Jake had been reveling in the extra time that lockdown had given him for watching movies. He decided to embark on a Steven Spielberg marathon, approaching his massive, alphabetically-organized DVD collection, and pulling out every title directed by the filmmaker, placing them on his coffee table in chronological order based on release date. And, yes, he counted “Duel,” originally made for television but released in theaters internationally and, in any case, Spielberg’s first professional feature-length film.
From there to “The Sugarland Express.” Then “Jaws” with the discomfort of its governmental leader wanting to keep businesses open to make money, against the recommendations of scientists and level-headed civil servants, and despite the increasing death toll of the non-human human-killer. Onto “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “1941,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
He had probably never watched “Close Encounters” and “Raiders” so close together in time ever before. Between that and being primed by the themes in “Jaws,” Jake couldn’t help but notice something.
In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Belloq leads a ceremony to evoke the power of the Ark of the Covenant for the Nazis. Indiana Jones, a well-educated and worldly professor, warns Marion Ravenwood to keep her eyes shut. Angels of death emerge from the Ark. Nazi solders are killed by energy bolts.
Dietrich’s head shrivels.
Toht’s face melts.
Belloq’s head explodes.
Flames engulf and vaporize the remains of the assembly, except for Indy and Marion, who survive because they alone had the wisdom, and humility, to protect themselves against the all too real deadly airborne agents.
In “Close Encounters,” Roy Neary, a blue collar worker from the Midwest, is one of a small number of people specially chosen by powerful beings from above to be present for their visit to Earth. The government employs tactics to keep people away, including faking an epidemic. Roy is rounded up with others forced to wear gas masks, about to be carted away. He is convinced, though, that there is no disease. He rips off his mask and escapes to the outdoors.
Eventually, he finds his way to the forefront of the gathering in which a mass of people experience something amazing that they never would have wanted to miss by staying home.
At the meeting between people and the great beings from above, Roy is vindicated in his beliefs — that he was chosen to be a guest of highest honor, and that there were no real deadly airborne agents.
In their own stories, both Indy and Roy were right, were heroes. Jake wondered, though, why, in the real world, so many people were betting on themselves being more like Roy than Indy, especially when Indy was the one honoring Judeo-Christian theology, while even entertaining the existence of the beings Roy connected with would be considered heresy to many religious people.
Of course, all these movies took shots at governments being too authoritarian. Curious.
Ah, well, onto “E.T.”