Show Business: A City in the Sky

Both Star Wars and Close Encounters are triumphs of special effects—of very different kinds. In Star Wars, the spaceships, robots and aircars were made to look so hard-edged, so real and on occasion so dented and dirty that audiences felt they could reach out and touch them. In Close Encounters, the flying saucers, the giant mother ship and the extraterrestrial creatures are meant to look alien and so formless that the imagination is forced to fill in the details. "We went for a style that is nebulous but with brilliant light," explains Special Effects Chief Douglas Trumbull, who also created the...

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