The magical time period of the early 1980s boasts a handful of legendary movies – perhaps none more iconic and unforgettable than Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
The perfectly crafted family film won 4 Academy Awards, taking humor, fun, and science-fiction, itself a burgeoning genre for the era, and weaves a masterpiece that decades later is easily recalled by its scenes (one of which is widely regarded as the greatest moment in movie history), marketing, and memorable titular character.
“E.T” is the nickname given to an alien creature that is accidentally left behind as the movie opens. The puppet itself boasts an authentic presence of its own, in the time before CGI and high gadgetry special effects, it’s brought to life in a way present day films simply can’t do. The viewer understands ET’s fear through his facial expressions and sounds (voiced by Pat Welsh) as he watches in terror as his ship blasts off for space and he is left on Earth alone and scared. Just try to imagine yourself in the same situation. The reclusive alien wanders into the home of a single mother who is struggling to raise her three children, and quickly encounters middle child Elliott (Henry Thomas), forging one of the most endearing and genuine friendships in movie history.
If you’re a fan of 80s era nostalgia, and I don’t know how anyone can’t be, “ET” has it all. Rotary phones, remote control box television sets, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars references, and a character wearing an enviable Space Invaders tee shirt are all present and accounted for. The acting has its shortcomings but for a movie that features children as its primary cast, it manages to successfully pull off the unbelievable.
Elliott is the typical annoying little brother and he and ET form a bond that’s just as genuine as any other cinematic pairing. We experience through Elliott’s eyes his caring nature as he teaches, feeds, and protects ET from the perils of the outside world. I don’t think one can find a better onscreen friendship that this unusual pair.
It’s interesting to note that Steven Spielberg hatched the concept for “ET” when he was just 14 years old and his parents got divorced. The character of Elliott is a clear representation of what many children experience when parents split up, and the writing is done in in such a way that the stress and burdens are clearly displayed.
The cast is rounded out well with Dee Wallace, in her seemingly typical role as an 80s mother, Robert MacNaughton as older brother and Elliott tormentor Michael, and an adorable Drew Barrymore as baby sister Gertie. Antagonists are present in the form of ominous government agents led by Peter Coyote, who are tracking ET.
Where this movie remains truly magnificent is its handful of touchy and memorable scenes. Iconic images like bicycles flying past the moon, an unforgettable Halloween night, and a tear jerking ending are partnered with a breathtaking score composed by master maestro John Williams. The tones of the film, the relationship between Elliott and ET, and the score itself make the film emotionally charged from beginning to end.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is a movie you may have watched as a kid and surely filed away in your memory. Believe me that its well worth a present day viewing. It manages to hold its luster and appeal still today. Its a perfect watch for all ages, offering today’s movie buffs a peak into the wonders and magic of the films from the previous generation.
by – Matt DeCristo