With the re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind in theaters, movie fans got a reminder of what a Spielberg movie used to feel like. He showed us a world where aliens visit the earth—initially terrifying, but ultimately wondrous.

Now in the new millennium, some of the most talky and nuanced American political dramas come from an unlikely source: A director who built his empire in contrast to that very type of film. He’s the most successful filmmaker in Hollywood history. But everything that made Spielberg movies magical seems to have vanished from his director’s toolbox. He instead shifts focus from his vivid imagination towards the complexity of being a responsible citizen. But how different is 21st Century Spielberg, really?

In my video essay, I take a look at the career arc of Steven Spielberg. Films like The Post, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies all point to the director’s mature direction; where civic responsibility takes precedence over the fantastical imagination.