The Progression of Spielberg as an artist.


Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
Apr 1, 2004
Reaction score
I have been on a bit of a Spielberg binge as of late. Watching Jaws I noticed how ballsy the young Spielberg was was. There is a scene where a young boy takes his yellow raft out into the ocean. In my opinion, this is the key scene that makes Jaws such a terrifying film to expirence. Spielberg kills the kid. The boy on his yellow raft is pulled under in a boiling maelstrom of crimson red. The image of a young boy dying raises emotion in all of us. The innocence of a child is sacred and protected at all costs almost universally in societies. This scene taps into that and creates a terrifying image for us all. With Spielberg killing an innocent child, the film takes on a new tone. Suddenly, nobody is safe. When Brody's son falls into the pond, we are afraid for him. I just think Spielberg used to have balls. Use this same tactic in Close Encounters, when a child is abducted by aliens. I raise this point because I think he copped out in War of the Worlds by tricking us into believing Robby was dead. I feel the ending would have held a greater emotional impact if Robby remained dead. This is all I have time for. But, this thread is talk about how Spielberg as progressed (or degressed) as an artist. I think, in his early years (Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T) he was truely a master storyteller. I think E.T. is one of the most magical films every made. Anyway, discuss.
I think the difference between the little boy in "Jaws" and the son in "Wotw" is that the son is an established character, as opposed to someone who exists solely to get killed to do just what you described, frighten people into believing that nobody was safe. Part of the tension of "War of the Worlds" after Robby runs off is not knowing what becomes of him, and seeing him alive in the end is probably meant to end the film on as high a note as possible, which is the only place that Spielberg stumbled in that movie. One of the great things about the story, the way it's always been told, is the incredible feeling of relief just as it seems that there is no hope left to save the planet, and that could have been handled better in this.

That being said, I still think "Jaws" is a better movie.
the ending of wotw was so bad, i felt really cheated. the son shouldve died, not only taht. but every building in thewolrd was either destroyed or almost oblirated and we saw video taht there was alot of how the hell is the buildings in themother's neighborhood not even touched? everything was in prefect condition and so were the mom and herparents while the rest of them (robby,father and daughter) all look like hell? boooooooooo
The biggest thing in Spielberg's career is Schindler's List. Look at all his work up to Schindler, and all his work since, and you'll seen a huge change of tone- and not a positive one. His work since SL has largely been dark, grim, and very murky. You can't imagine the Spielberg of Raiders and Hook making Minority Report or War of the Worlds, or vice versa.

Heck, just watch Jurassic Park (pre-SL) and The Lost World (post-SL) to see the change.
Kevin Roegele said:
The biggest thing in Spielberg's career is Schindler's List. Look at all his work up to Schindler, and all his work since, and you'll seen a huge change of tone- and not a positive one. His work since SL has largely been dark, grim, and very murky. You can't imagine the Spielberg of Raiders and Hook making Minority Report or War of the Worlds, or vice versa.

Heck, just watch Jurassic Park (pre-SL) and The Lost World (post-SL) to see the change.

Hitler causes Holocaust. Holocaust causes Schindler's List.

Damn that Hitler, he strikes again! :mad:
The Lost World was SPielberg not caring about anything...I think it is the low point of his career.
Then you obviously haven't seen 1941. Personally, I think, War of the Worlds aside, Speilberg has been growing as an artist rather than blockbuster filmmaker. Look at The Terminal. He never could have made a film that personal before Schindler's List.
I think Speilberg is a very interesting artist because his work has changed much more than say Hitchcock or Scorcesse ever did (not to say that Al and Marty never changed, there are big differences between Rebecca and Frenzy and differences between Mean Streets and The Aviator, however they have the same mark of the same artist).

I think Speilberg's mass audience work has taken a dip in this decade, as I think many will agree that WOTW and AI are no Jaws, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. However, I agree with Kevin that his work has gotten darker.

He may have been more ballsy in his youth, but he has become more mature with time. I think it actually started with Empire of the Sun. This was a very heartfelt movie set during WWII (his most vested time period, really) and was very moving. He reached his high point as an artist with Schindler's List. This was when he felt he reached the point to try something like this. Since then his movies had a darker tone (compare The Lost World to Jurassic Park and AI to Hook or ET), but I think the real change in his filmmaking making it more cynical was 9/11.

I think 9/11 had a huge impact on Speilberg because before it, his darkest work was still optomistic and even hopeful (the ending of Schindler's List is a very moving one, with the silver lining in the cloud). Take Amistad which tackles the depressing issue of slavery, it is still a very uplifting movie even if the last note is remorseful (as much of the film is). AI is bittersweet.

Yet, the only real movie that I would say is "happy" since 9/11 is the cat and mouse Catch Me if You Can (which I consider one of his more underrated movies at is immensly entertaining and well made/acted).

But Minority Report is far more condescending of the world we live in and the corruption that surrounds it. Minority Report ends "happily" but not hopeful and is far removed from Raiders of the Lost Ark. War of the Worlds evokes imagery of the Holocaust but also a lot of 9/11. I feel that someone twisted their arm into that ending (as there is an alternate ending out there somewhere Speilber mentioned, hopefully with a dead Robbie) to make the Tom Cruise summer movie happy in its conclusion. However, the whole movie is the grimmest look at life one can have and far removed from Close Encounters. How many summer movies has the hero beat to death a fellow survivor who saved the hero's life earlier while his daughter is in the next room?

Munich is a film I think that tackles the issues Speilberg has been wrestling with since 9/11 and ends far more pessmistically and much more ambiguously than any film he has ever made. Because there is no answer. While just as violent and gut wrenching in the superior Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan....he was hopeful in both and gave a better view of the overall world and humanity. That view is almost entirely absent in Munich.

It has been fascinating that as his crowd pleasers have gone down hill (though when he can still produce Minority Report and Catch Me if You Can and the action scenes of WOTW, I'd hardly say he has lost his brilliance in that department) his more intimate projects have grown more complex and darker (including his opinion of the world it would seem).

I think after his time has ended Speilberg will be much more appreciated as an artist than he is now (many say he relies on computers and puppets, which is complete bull **** in my opinion).
I think a lot of 'film snobs' dismiss Spielberg because of his commercial success. I agree with most of your points. Crowe. Your post was executed very well and I can tell you put some thought into it. I have never really thought about the 9/11 connections, but I did notice how dark Minority Report was in comparison to his other films. It is very cynical about society in a Kubrickian kind of way. Where Kubrick hinted at the infiltration of corporations into our lives in 2001, Spielberg took it to the next level with Minority Report. I found the film to be very frightening because it all seemed very plausabile, if not inevitible. Catch Me If You Can is a very low key film and is obvious that it was a heartfelt film for him. I am curious about what his next adventure film is going to be, hopefully not Indy 4.
spielberg is great director, his best movie was SL because it was probably his most personal film. Recently he has lost his touch but he does experiment; imho i think he's not really in the same league as kubrick, scorsese they make fewer films but they are filled with their love while speiberg does more commercial
Once you become overated you know you've made it or made some difference usually. I don't think it's as clear cut as being over or underated. One of my fav things Spielberg ackowledged was that he said had he made Close Encounters after he had a family the ending or whole outcome would have been completely different. Much of Steven's personal life reflects his work, as it should. I don't mean ppl not liing WOTW because of Tom Cruise or the ending etc. I just think Steven has very strong points to make with most of his films, whether everyone gets it or agrees with it or not is a different story.

Spielberg IMO deserves the recognition and has truly given us plenty of great cinema and helped shape modern pop culture in so many ways.
He's overrated IMO.
Thanks for a wonderfully blunt and easily dismissable assesment.
For me watching Steven Speilberg films when I was younger defined how films should be made. When watching his films I've always felt like I was on a journey, whether it was dinasours or aliens.

I can see where the tone of his films has gone darker but IMO they aren't less enjoyable. He seamlessy moves from epic blockbusters to personal recounts, an incredible director.
Stewie Griffin said:
I think a lot of 'film snobs' dismiss Spielberg because of his commercial success.

One of the truest statements I've read in a long time.

When I read a lot of great filmmakers list, I always am shocked to see Spielberg completely dissed. Sure, he's made some flicks that were rather mediocre and popcorn-only, but when you start taking in this man's body of work (SL, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Jaws, E.T.) you can't help but appreciate how much he has contributed to the art of cinema, and not just the wallets of the studios.

I appreciate him greatly for his work since SL to preserve World War II. Not only do I admire the act, but I admire how well he has preserved them. He didn't try to pull the "rake em' in" bulls*** we got from Pearl Harbor. He had the balls to say, "I'm going to save the memories of World War II in the most true and honest way possible". Not just in SL and Saving Private Ryan, but also in Band of Brothers. The man doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves, simply because of the fact that he's "Steven Spielberg", and most film snobs (as you so well put) find it easier to dub someone else great, and dismiss "Captain Blockbuster", because the other is "sexier" to dub great.

Users who are viewing this thread

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Latest member