E. T. The Extra Terrestrial

Director: Steven Spielberg

1982

“A sci-fi adventure for the whole family, this was Spielberg’s homage to childhood.” (676, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

I always forget how much I enjoy E.T. I came home last night from a long day at work and actually got stupidly excited when I realized it was on! I know, I know but Joanna Berry sums it up wonderfully when she says “E. T. works as a delightful adventure that appeals to the child in all of us, also delivering enough sentimental moments to have the hardest viewer reduced to a blubbering mess before the credits end.” (676) The film captures the willingness to believe that we all have as a child but gradually lose as we grow up unless you have that special ability to retain it like Spielberg.

E. T. has such an inquisitive and peaceful nature – he’s left behind because he is exploring – a rare thing to see in alien movies. You can certainly see where Pixar got their inspiration for Wall-e (2008, Andrew Stanton) … they look similar, produce the same sort of noises and gently collect a plant sample. And of course the Reece’s Pieces moment is replicated in another Pixar film, Monsters Inc. (2001, Pete Doctor) with Boo. My best friend is deathly afraid of E. T. (which has provided some hilarious moments I can tell you) and I can’t understand it. I’ve always found him adorable which ultimately makes the film so sad.

The relationship between Elliot and E. T. is incredibly touching and most definitely the heart of the film. They develop a symbiotic relationship – their health and well-being mimic each other resulting in some of the most upsetting scenes in the entire film. The government men are menacing but not overly so. It’s more like they become the thing trying to split Elliot and E. T. up. They’re faceless as well for the most part and move slowly and methodically all of which adds to the sense of unease that surrounds them. The scenes with the scientists have the sound muted – a representation of the deteriorating health of Elliot and E. T. but also the way all the protective barriers muffle everything.

“Thomas – as the lucky boy whose imaginary friend is actually real – virtually carries the film on his own small shoulders, while Robert MacNaughton (as older brother Michael) and seven-year-old Drew Barrymore give terrific turns as the initially hesitant siblings won over by E. T.’s considerable charm.” (676) The cast are excellent especially the kids – they all give such strong performances in their own way. Drew Barrymore is so talented even as a seven-year-old. And she is still instantly recognizable. Drew’s reaction to E. T.’s death is as opposite to Elliot’s as can be and yet equally as intensely moving. Her’s is a quiet and disbelieving grief as opposed to Elliot’s heartbreaking anguished cries.

So many iconic images come from E. T. not least the silhouette on the moon but also the afore-mentioned trail of Reece’s Pieces and E. T. dressed as a ghost for Halloween (I love his instant connection with the kid dressed as Yoda and the fact he connects that as home). Drunk E. T. is hysterically funny and I think it’s my favourite moment throughout. The special effects are excellent and cleverly done. I particularly like when E. T. is levitating the parts for his machine. The music is provided by John Williams – once again at an impeccable standard. you can hear elements that will go on to become the iconic title music for the Harry Potter series.

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