Escapist Friday: E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

13 05 2011

Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic is a timeless tale of friendship, love and loss. It stars Henry Thomas as Elliot, a young boy picked on by his brother and annoyed by his little sister. Although his family is close, he still finds himself very alone. Enter E.T., an alien who had been collecting plants on Earth before being stranded here when his ship was forced take off in escape of the government. E.T. runs off and stumbles his way into Elliot’s yard where they soon become friends but it isn’t too long before E.T. has to go home and Elliot has to come to terms with what is best for E.T. will mean the loss of the closest friend. “E.T.” is a children’s film but the humor is never childish, it deals with very real themes that those in adolescence go through, and has a very magical feel to it thanks to John Williams’ score.

“The man from the moon”

Many film-makers have the downfall of giving the audience too much information. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but when dealing with the science-fiction or fantasy genre, the bare minimum will always be best. It allows the viewers own imagination to ignite and not only form our own opinions on the matter, but gives the movie a greater air of mystery and wonder. Spielberg takes this stance in “E.T.” and doesn’t tell us everything about our titular alien. By plopping the audience right in the middle of things, we never really have time to get our bearings on E.T. and his species. Slowly pieces are revealed about him but we never know the major points like where he is exactly from or what he was exactly doing on Earth among other things. This unknown gives E.T the sense of wonder that a science-fiction movie needs, especially one set in the modern suburbs. Of course John Williams once again produces a masterful score which aids tremendously in this area as well.

“You could be happy here, I could take care of you. I wouldn’t let anybody hurt you. We could grow up together, E.T.”

What truly separates E.T as a classic instead of one of many children’s movies are the characters, stakes, and dynamics. One thing I believe about E.T. is that none of the characters go through any character arcs, they are all roughly the same people at the end of the film as the beginning but with just different traits showing. Elliot doesn’t go from being scared to being brave and his brother doesn’t go from hating his him to wanting to help him, the circumstances they are put it allow us to see the different sides of these already fleshed out characters. I find this very appropriate since children of their age never go through epiphanies or drastically change as they are still just figuring the world out themselves. The fact the characters are so real make the drama that much more significant, especially at the climax.

“E.T.” is an example that family movies can still be great movies. There is humor (not to mention a few good movie references), lots of heart, and the wonder to make it one of the best in the genre.

Score 88/100

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