I have never seen “E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial” before.
“E.T.” has become one of those classic science-fiction films and a landmark Steven Speilberg movie, highly regarded as one of the quintessential works of the 1980s. So why have I never watched it before today?
It didn’t interest me.
A little bit of backstory: “E.T.” came out seven years before I was born. My parents initially saw the film upon its release in 1982 and they did not like it. When you are growing up with your parents deciding which movies to show you, they tend to avoid movies that they don’t like. As such, I was never shown “E.T.” as a kid.
However, after many years of working around the film, I felt it was finally time to give it a fair chance to impress me and to see what all the commotion is about.
Now I can certainly understand why it has so much staying power and has touched the hearts of millions.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past thirty years (like me apparently) and don’t know the plot of this one, here’s the basic jist. A group of aliens arrive on Earth to supposedly survey for various forms of plant life. When the aliens must leave in hurry, they leave behind one of their own to fend for himself.
The alien later comes across a suburban California house and the children living within, especially little Elliot (Henry Thomas). While the two are initially scared of one another, the candy and curiosity gets the best of the alien and the two become fast friends. As Elliot introduces the alien, nicknamed E.T., to his brother and sister, they begin to formulate a plan for E.T. to phone home.
What really worked best for “E.T.” was that it treated its audience like adults. This film is clearly targeted towards a young audience, but it never talks down or spoon feeds information to the audience. A lot of the biology and powers of E.T. are left up to interpretation. We’re never told what E.T. can or can’t do, but we see it happen before our eyes.
When E.T. collapses and turns white, we can assume that our atmosphere is harmful to him. Or we can see that E.T. had developed a psychic link with Elliot, even though it is never said the two are connected.
The film lets the audience put these pieces together, rather than telling us and ruining some of the mystery.
Like many others before me have said, the special effects work on E.T. is wonderful. Not once in the film does it feel like a puppet or CG creature, and has natural reactions to events, including the flash on a camera or an umbrella opening unexpectedly. This makes the relationship between Elliot and E.T. much more believable and relatable. To see these two interacting and seeing their relationship blossom is the highlight of the movie.
Their camaraderie is akin to a boy and his dog. Confusion and puzzlement turns to mutual respect which becomes love. The film keeps this as bare bones as possible and that it where it truly shines.
Where it doesn’t shine is with the scenes involving the agency out to capture E.T. For most of the film, they remain in the shadows, observing Elliot and his family and waiting for the right moment to strike.
It’s a pity that they do eventually strike.
The problem is not that these exist, because they’re handled just fine. It is that they add something that didn’t necessarily need to be there. The film is at its best when Elliot is trying to handle both real life and dealing with an alien, while also trying to get said alien back home. The agency just adds an unnecessary conflict that mostly serves as a distraction from the better parts of the film.
We’ve seen this kind of agency and government operatives a million times in others films. It has become predictable and cliche to have someone who wants to bring the alien in and study it, even though they know nothing about it and are paranoid about what it could do.
It is like having a school bully who bullies the protagonist for vague and undisclosed reasons. They have no character or depth to them and exist only add more conflict. The agency in “E.T.” falls into the same category.
There was enough conflict and drama without the government butting in. So whenever they show their faces, it is met with a groan.
Overall, “E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial” was a simple idea with incredible execution and special effects work. This is an accomplishment for Spielberg, not just for his work to make E.T. believable, but also for his directing of so many child actors. This could have easily fallen apart with children who couldn’t emote, but through Spielberg’s direction, these kids excel at being emotional and relatable.
So, do I regret not seeing “E.T.” sooner? Not really. I could see hating this film as a kid, because not much action is going on so my attention span would be rather short with this one. This one works as an adult because of the simple joys of growing up and growing to love those around you.
I’m confused. Who is the alien in this photo?
Final Grade: B+