E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is the tale of a little lost alien and his quest to get back home. Matched with an adorable young companion, Elliot, he tries to evade pursuers and reunite with his kind.
This movie is pretty close to perfect, so a review is difficult. Still, I probably haven’t sat down and watched this film in a decade, and I was stunned by how much I had missed as a kid. Back then, a novice media consumer and jumpy movie viewer, this movie genuinely scared me. I remember hiding behind the couch because I thought they were experimenting on E.T. in the final scenes but now I realize they were trying to revive him. I was terrified of how he spoke. It was a mess, so now being older I can finally appreciate what well-acted, visually stunning, and impressive film it is.
Still, to this day I am stunned at the acting chops of the main children. If you want an easy cry, watch Henry Thomas’ audition tape for Elliot and you’ll understand. E.T. itself is an amazing work of special effects. If this was remade, he would be some kind of CGI creature thing, but it would lose so much what made it so memorable. I miss this kind of practical effects mixed with special effects, it feels more palpable, and you believe that people are interacting with this alien. The alien puppetry itself is amazing. It breathes, the face is incredibly expressive, and even the pupils dilate when the light sources change.
They also don’t cram you with backstory for once. You really don’t know anything about E.T. or the galaxy that he and his kind come from. It’s a mystery, and this mystery works for the storytelling’s benefit. Elliot doesn’t badger E.T. for answers, or want anything from him. He just found a friend and blindly trusts him, which makes their connection so much more powerful.
My favorite choice Spielberg made was the way he hid E.T.’s pursuers using only camera angles and lighting. You don’t even see the pursuers until the final thirty minutes. And the first face you see is Keys, who comforts Elliot, and accompanies him to the spaceship at the end. When all of the medical staff takes off their masks, you realize that they aren’t bad guys and they did try to save E.T. When they believe they failed, they all take off their masks and genuinely look upset. Prior to this unveiling, the pursuers are shown in shadow or looking away. They even first interact with the family donning massive spacesuits, which was such a brilliant scare, and made them seem so much more imposing.
This film combines the same two essential components that Spielberg later harnessed to pull off another masterpiece, Jurassic Park. These components are a brilliant score and practical effects. John Williams composed the scores for both Jurassic Park and E.T. and both are timeless and work to complete the film. That scene where Elliot and E.T. fly across the moon or the one that shows the spaceship close on E.T as he is backlit by the ship’s interior are made magical and emotional moments by the score.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is a timeless story and deserves an immediate re-watch. I notice something new with each viewing. It’s a beautiful tale of friendship, family, and the incredible bond between a boy and his alien. It’s a stunning film and it never hurts to play “Try and Find All the Things Stranger Things Referenced from This Movie”, because it’s a lot. Happy Viewing.
Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10