“E.T. The Extraterrestrial” Movie Review

First of all, the thank yous. I just hit over 100 blog posts after two and a half years of slamming down letters on a keyboard! Thank you all so much for coming on this ride with me, and I will keep the reviews coming. Now in honor, let’s review a childhood favorite. This science-fiction coming-of-age classic from Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg briefly became the highest grossing film of all time after it’s release in June of 1982. One of the best-reviewed movies of its decade, many modern day sci-fi stories still take influence from it, including Stranger Things. Set in a small California town, Elliot is a lonely boy who one day discovers an extraterrestrial, affectionately called “E.T.,” who has been stranded on Earth. With the help of his friends and siblings, Elliot tries to find a way to get E.T. back to his people while also avoiding the interest of government officials. And from there we have an ageless adventure that is memorable until the day mankind is wiped out. I just recently watched this film for the first time in eons. I hadn’t seen it since I was a little kid until a few hours ago. How timeless can a movie get? E.T. is in the same league with Back to the Future, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and The Fly. None of these movies from the 1980’s should EVER get remade in the modern era, or get a sequel of any kind. The Thing prequel from 2011 is admissible, but nothing else. At age 10, Henry Thomas convincingly delivers a tearful performance as Elliot. It’s really interesting to see him grow from this really shy kid to a devoted friend and little grown up. In that, his relationship with the E.T. carries much of the 114-minute narrative. If you didn’t empathize with them or buy their bond, then this whole movie really would have crumbled. Luckily, it totally works, bringing to life the wonderfully universal themes of friendship and growing up. The titular alien was also surprisingly compelling and lovable, despite his apparent inhuman stature. He has no familiarity with the culture or system of planet Earth, which make his scenes involving Elliot’s personal life very funny and amusing to watch. For a majority of the film, his limited knowledge only allows him to say three words: “E.T., phone, home.” Not to mention that the special effects from Amblin Entertainment still look amazing to this day. Remember, this was made back in an era where everything took time and heart before you could easily flood the screen with CGI crap. As I watched the movie recently, I thought to myself, “I have seen worse effects in movies this year alone.” And as much as I absolutely will profess the relationship between Elliot and E.T. is completely believable, the supporting cast is great as well. Robert MacNaughton contrasts Thomas as the latter’s apprehensive older brother, Dee Wallace is supportive and nurturing as his mother Mary, Peter Coyote is mysterious as a single-named government agent, and Spielberg’s own goddaughter Drew Barrymore, in a time right before she lost her innocence, was cute and thoughtful as Elliot’s little sister. And while their subsequent career choices weren’t quite so memorable, each character is a relevant piece that fits into this puzzle. And in case I haven’t already made light of it, E.T. The Extraterrestrial is a deeply emotional movie, more so than you would expect. The absolutely brilliant screenplay from Melissa Mathison is a whirlwind of different feelings, showing a true range of humanity. Throughout the entire runtime, I had teared up three separate times, and by the end I was sobbing. That’s right, you got shirtless Ryan Gosling in The Notebook? Nothing; I’m unaffected. Watching a little boy bonding with an alien being for the course of two hours as the latter’s chances of getting off of Earth are dwindling? That’s enough to make even the toughest man on Earth to soften up and cry a little, and that’s okay; everyone’s doing it. And the music; legendary composer John Williams’ Oscar-winning score for E.T. is both beautiful and magical, but not quite ethereal. Using polytonality on coloristic instruments such as the harp, piano and percussion, the soundtrack brings to life E.T. childlike nature and innocence. The scene most often associated with this music is when Elliot and E.T. are riding a bicycle through the night sky and become encompassed by the moon. Easily one of the most iconic shots in the history of American cinema, it’s a moment that succeeding directors would attempt (and usually fail) to recreate. And to the joy of ardent film fans around the world, a sequel was promptly cancelled after the film exceeded expectations. It was to be titled E.T. II: The Nocturnal Fears, and revolved around an older Elliot getting kidnapped and experimented on by invading aliens. Luckily, Steven Spielberg saw how this would have betrayed the majesty of the original, and the script treatment never made it past the preliminary stages. In the end, E.T. The Extraterrestrial is a timeless 80’s classic if ever there was one. It’s a movie that subverts the science fiction genre and extends to the reaches of family, human drama, and escapist adventure. One of the few movies that has united the whole world together in appraisal, Steven Spielberg has created a perfect, flawless masterpiece that will live on for ages.

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