Often considered one of the finest science fiction movies ever made, I tend to think E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a little overrated. Nevertheless, it’s one of those timeless friendship stories that captured people’s hearts much more than another alien film The Thing, which was released the same month.
The majority of films in general feel like simply a paycheck for the filmmakers, but E.T. is one of those in which director Spielberg’s palpable affection for the material is obvious. Inspired by his own childhood imaginary friend, E.T. himself is a wonder of practical effects. Nowadays he would have been a CGI creation (and was for a few scenes of the 2002 re-release), but the use of puppetry gives him a more realistic presence, aided by the amalgamation of sounds and voices Ben Burtt used for his vocalizing.
There have been plenty of critical deconstructions of the film, with analysts comparing it to Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and even the story of Jesus. I believe there’s a point where one can dig too deep, though some of these ideas are interesting, such as both E.T. and Elliot being “alienated” in different ways, E.T. by his abandonment and Elliot by the absence of his father. The film doesn’t actually say some familiar wildlife clichés, such as “He’s as scared of you as you are of him” and “He must be free to live,” but it obliquely applies them in an alien pet context. Along with these potentially deep themes, the film throws in a good deal of humor, such as some sly Star Wars references and Elliot’s drunken reaction when E.T. drinks a beer. Henry Thomas as Elliot and a young Drew Barrymore as Gertie got most of the praise, but I very much liked Robert MacNaughton as older brother Michael, who delivers some of the funniest lines.
It’s not quite perfect: Peter Coyote’s involvement is never fully explained, nor is why he went out to the forest at the beginning or why he began surveillance of Elliot’s house. Also, the space suit invasion scene has got to be one of the cheesiest sequences in an otherwise sterling film. Even so, with an iconic, high-flying John Williams score and a number of classic scenes (the moon scene even became Spielberg’s logo for Amblin Entertainment), E.T. is a time-honored heart-tugger that successfully pulled off the he’s-dead-no-wait-never-mind cliché and reminded audiences that not all visitors from space are unfriendly.Best line: (Elliot) “He’s a man from outer space, and we’re taking him to his spaceship.” (Greg, one of Michael’s friends) “Well, can’t he just beam up?” (Elliot) “This is reality, Greg.”
Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 9 Watchability: 8 TOTAL: 50 out of 60
Next: #117 – The Mask of Zorro
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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