Greg Cox wrote:
Meanwhile, while discussing those long SFX shots, it may be that that real influence was not 2001, but Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which had been a huge hit just a year before. That movie's entire climax is basically one long SFX light show, not unlike the V'Ger scenes, so that may have encouraged the filmmakers or the studio or whomever to include similar "Whoa! Look at the pretty SFX" shots into TMP . . . .
The climax of CE3K (original version), from when Roy is put in a red jumpsuit straight on through the end credits, is one my favorite pieces of film to watch, and listen to. There's really nothing important said in dialog there either. It's a moving nonverbal experience, set to glorious music.
It's true it's a light show, but it's one in the hands of a master, and the climax of Roy's story on Earth is occurring within that light show. We see character interaction between Roy and Jillian, and Barry, and Claude and the Lead Alien, telling a story of hellos and goodbyes, of journeys completed and just beginning, so there's really a lot going on besides just the light show.