It is hard to express the power of this. I would start with the landscape of the 70s, being of the 'rebel'. Here the rebel was chosen by the aliens. We get the love of the outsider why such a weird counterculture-fusion-fantasia resonated en masse, which works as a little relic for modern audiences, sure, but are they really getting the full power of why it's Dreyfuss?
Second is the craft. We see Spielberg is no perfectionist, and yet incredibly precise. That gives incredible freedom for the mechanics, where there's two scripts, one of visual and one of plotting, and those hippies went loose, letting the director be the conductor between them.
Spielberg does the Welles thing where every shot, every single moment is some kind of symphony or movement. Which is exhausting in parts, as the craft can only take you so far. (Basically the skinner box of visual layers addicts the audience to your film. That is micro-excellence here.)
The macro is what makes an artist, then so the rest is pure ‘it’ which is almost a human phenomenon how he rose the ranks. The system is in place for mediocrity to ascend, for all the typical reasons, and for how mediocrity speaks to mediocrity.
And Spielberg is so far along the other end that he speaks the masses, through sheer amounts of humanity.
I was so enmeshed in the humanity and goodness of his spirit, that I tangibly felt like a better person afterward. Do you know what a huge statement that is, speaking to the power of the arts?
He certainly got more polished and professional and became the living legend; but those Jaws and CE3K were not in any sense a kind of cinema we ever had before or ever will again. He was restless and uncontrolled, and not a brand in any sense; and that process of discovery unfolds on screen.
But what really aches, to conclude, is before Spielberg was the culture, he was of that attitude of the counterculture. The same phenomenon of Stephen King, who wrote losers.
And film always was a gypsy thing, to use a metaphor; it was made by gypsies, it was a freakshow for outsiders, even while being a medium for the world, film was covertly just well-dressed eccentrics.
Isn't that funny? The 50s produced such a healthy counterculture who rose the 70s, went against the 'greatest generation', that even their geniuses were losers. Today, Dreyfuss would be shot the moment he passed the mountain.