E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I can't believe that it has taken me this long to see this film, judging by its reputation and the fact that it was Steven Spielberg's most financially successful film for eleven years until Jurassic Park came along. It also remains one of his most beloved films even to this day and after seeing the film, it's not that hard to guess why. E.T. is one of the cornerstone movies of the 1980's, like Jurassic Park was for the 90's, and although it has many of the similar logic flaws that Jurassic Park had, it is still an inherently likeable movie and a thoroughly entertaining one at that. It is also a genuinely moving story, although flawed, and it has some extreme awe-inducing moments alongside awesome special effects and one of John Williams' best scores. I will admit that the ending had me crying like a baby, crying tears of happiness.
The story of E.T. is a rather simple one. It is about a little boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) who lives in California with his mother, older brother Michael (Robert McNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (a very young Drew Barrymore). Elliot is made fun of by Michael and his friends, and one day, when he is kicked out to wait for the pizza they ordered, he spots a strange light accompanied with several strange noises coming out of the garage. In one of the film's most iconic scenes, he throws a baseball to the strange thing in the garage and the thing tosses it back. Elliot tells his family but they don't believe him, so he leaves out a trail of Reese's Pieces for whatever the mysterious creature is to find.
This little creature turns out to be E.T., the titular extraterrestrial of the film. E.T. came to Earth with a bunch of other aliens to collect plant samples and after being chased by government agents, E.T. is stranded. Elliot takes the poor little alien in and tries to hide it from his mother to comedic effect. He does show the alien to Michael and Gertie, and together, they decide to protect it. This improves the characters of Michael and Gertie, turning Michael into more of a protector and less of a tormentor. It also turns Gertie from an annoying and sarcastic little sister into a downright adorable kid who grows to love the alien.
Elliot fakes sick from school one day to play with E.T, and over the course of the film, he and Elliot develop a psychic bond. While Elliot is at school, E.T. explores around the house and takes a couple of sips of beer, which causes Elliot to appear drunk at school. This is in my opinion the most stupid scene in an otherwise brilliant movie and it is the one thing that prevented me from giving the film a perfect score. The scene involves drunken Elliot freeing all of the frogs that were going to be dissected and general chaos, and it is monumentally idiotic. First of all, I didn't know they did dissections with live frogs in high schools, let alone grade schools. I mean, cutting open dead frogs is freaky enough for some let alone live ones. I could go on and on forever about how awful that scene is, but we'll talk about some more good stuff the movie has to offer.
After seeing a show on television, E.T. is inspired to make a telephone-like object out of a Speak-and-Spell toy to phone home and have his ship come back to get him. What follows through until the end of the movie is a string of iconic scenes. These scenes would include the Halloween scene where the kids dress E.T. up as a ghost to sneak him out of the house, the government agents catching up with E.T. and blocking off Elliot's house, and of course, the two separate scenes with the flying bicycles, one in the film's climax when Elliot, Michael, and his friends are trying to get E.T. to safety. The iconic image of Elliot and E.T. flying on the bicycle remains the logo of Spielberg's production company, and the image has graced most of the film's promotional material. It is still a striking moment watching this now, so much that I can't imagine what it would have been like seeing the film for the first time thirty years ago.
The story of E.T. is a simple one, and it doesn't need to be complex due to the nature of the film. It is a story that audiences have heard several times, the story of a boy and his pet (in this case, a boy and his alien). E.T. might be the crowning version of that story arc. The relationship between Elliot and E.T. is adorable as well as touching considering the character of Elliot, how he is a lonely little boy affected by the separation of his parents and how E.T. is his only friend. The character of Elliot (as well as that of Michael) represents a part of Spielberg himself, who was inspired to create E.T. out of an imaginary friend he created for himself during his parents' divorce. As kid actors go, Henry Thomas did a decent job, especially considering that E.T. was his first movie role.
The other kids are decently acted as well, and considering that it was this film that made Drew Barrymore famous, she did a great job as Elliot's little sister Gertie. She was also utterly adorable, which is sad considering the fact that she may have started drinking soon after this film. However, that's more Jade Barrymore's fault than Drew's. Regardless of Barrymore's stage mother and personal demons, she gave an excellent performance as Gertie. Robert McNaughton played the part of Michael brilliantly. I personally find Michael the most interesting human character in the film, as he transforms into the stock big brother who picks on his little brother into the protector of his younger siblings and the guardian of E.T, even enlisting his friends to help get E.T. to safety. The character is also influenced by Spielberg himself, like how he made fun of his younger sisters but later became their protector after their dad left. McNaughton didn't go on to do much after this film, which is a shame, because he was pretty good. Dee Wallace did an okay job as the kids' mother, but her character wasn't that deep outside mentions of the separation from her husband. She wasn't bad, but the kids were much better.
Now, we'll move on to the star of the show, the extra-terrestrial himself, E.T. This little alien has to be one of the ugliest and yet most adorable creatures I have ever seen, and the design of E.T. is one of the most interesting character designs that I have seen in any alien movie. I saw the 2002 edition with the refurbished effects and the CG walkie-talkies, but I have seen pictures of the original E.T. and both instances of special effects are amazing. I know E.T. was quite revolutionary for being made in the 1980's, and it even won the Oscar for special effects the year it came out. In fact, it was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture, winning four, but those it lost were often lost to Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (who would go on to work with Spielberg 11 years later in Jurassic Park). The rest of the visuals are rather basic, but there is some really cool cinematography, especially the shots in the forest. The script is pretty good as well, featuring some iconic and adorable lines. Some of the best scenes were with minimal dialogue though, like the ending (which I will talk about) and the scene with Elliot and E.T. traveling to the forest on a flying bike. Just goes to say that there are some events in movies where nothing needs to be said, and that sometimes, silence truly is golden.
SPOILERS BE PRESENT IN THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH
The last thing I'd like to mention is the ending, which is so happy and yet so sad that it had me bawling like a baby. You grow to care for Elliot and E.T. and seeing them depart is utterly heartbreaking, like seeing two friends that will never meet again say goodbye. The sad part of the ending was that Elliot was losing his only friend, but the good part is that E.T. can finally go home and he with his family. When E.T. points to Elliot and says he will always be in his heart, it pushed me over the edge and it was then where I started to cry. This is from someone who doesn't often cry at movies, so the fact that I did means something.
END OF SPOILERS
Spielberg has always been known as a grand sentimentalist, and E.T. is probably the grand example. Cynics be damned, I love this movie now that I've seen it in full, and it is a movie that I hope to see many times. E.T. is an instant classic and a cornerstone of many a childhood. It has one of John Williams' best scores, it has some awesome special effects, and it serves as both an entertaining sci-fi film and a touching story of both a boy and his alien and a little alien trying to get back home. It is definitely a must-see and it can definitely warm the hearts of many cynics. In short, all that haven't seen E.T. should see it as soon as possible, as it is definitely worth at least one viewing in one's lifetime. I definitely want to see more of Spielberg's works, hopefully with Jaws tomorrow. Even if I don't, I have to say that this has been a damn great Christmas vacation thus far.
9.5/10- Must-See, Instant Classic
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