- Produced and Directed by Steven Spielberg
- May 26, 1982 (Cannes) / June 11, 1982 (US)
A child helps a friendly alien return to his people.
As a whole E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is simple and sweet with plenty of heart. There are themes of friendship and loneliness and of growing up as well as the prevalent Spielberg theme of communication. The young Elliot (Henry Thomas) is dealing with his father being gone and bonds with an alien that missed the bus back home.
This came out after Star Wars became a thing and without the former this would not be here. This much like Close encounters of the Third Kind was not about battles in space or invading aliens but rather the story of a boy and his dog with the dog being replaced by an alien with a glowing finger and glowing heart. Seriously. Does E.T. ever use anything that sounds like it might be a language or is it all random noises?
Spielberg crafted a tail of wonder and amazement and joy. Without too many special effects he did some amazing science-fiction work. E.T. was an impressive bit of practical effects and I’m not sure if any CGI touch ups were really necessary but we got them now. Still disagree with that. I do not mind smoothing things out in a way not possible at the time but alterations like removing guns or making E.T.’s face more expressive come close to if not entirely cross a line.
Something that occurred to me, and I am curious if others feel this way, but does anybody else think the government in this story might have been a little justified in their concern over E.T.? After all E.T. randomly forms a psychic bond with the first child he comes across to the point they share an experience. And what exactly was the point of that anyway? Not only from the standpoint of E.T. but of a standpoint of the story other than to get a laugh in biology class. It seems more than a little parasitic on the part of the friendly alien.
As much as you may dislike the government officials for wanting to capture and study E.T., I don’t think they were necessarily the villains here either. They were certainly the heavies of the story but not the out and out bad guys. Keys (Peter Coyote) in one line explains his motivation and that is because he’s been waiting his whole life to meet a space alien. He wants to study E.T. in a curiosity sense without ghoulish motivations and honestly I think E.T. would’ve been in the best hands with Keys if E.T. had been stuck on the planet.
There is one thing I need to talk about. Even as a kid I found it weird to be in a movie and that is the number of crotch shots which were in the beginning of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. First when E.T. gets left behind and that is followed after Elliot encounters E.T. for the first time and the government men are looking for him. It’s just weird. Why focus on the balls of the government agents? “Yes. I said put the camera on their groin. Focus on the zipper zone!”
Elliot is the de facto hero of the story but as a child I exceedingly identified with Gertie (Drew Barrymore) for some reason. Perhaps because Drew Barrymore and I are about the same age and some of the things her character experienced I felt. In the movie Gertie was the young child easily dismissed by the others and I felt the same at that age.
And one thing I appreciate today that I didn’t quite get when I saw this movie (in a theater that is no longer opened that they converted into apartments for seniors) is that they do not go on about the absent dad. There is no dad in this movie and that’s fine. Too often movies must go on about a parent that is not present in excruciating detail. Talking about a character that had no impact in the story would’ve been counterproductive to the flow of the narrative.
While I was watching this I was struck by the similarity between E.T.’s ship and the spherical centers of the Separatist vessels in the Star Wars prequels. Anybody else think about that? Spielberg and Lucas are friends and they have had collaborations over the years in one form or another. At this point I’m wondering if the similarity in the later work was some kind of personal joke between the two. Reportedly the E.T. species appears in the Republic Senate Chambers.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a good family friendly film with great direction from Spielberg. He invokes wonder and amazement. This is a sharp script with an enduring message about the power of friendship. If you haven’t experienced this yet you should!