I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is another movie on the Battleship Pretension top 100 list that I grew up watching, but I am so glad I got to rewatch this film because I think it has been close to twenty years since I last watched it. It isn’t surprising, but I still absolutely love it but I also got a lot more out of it during this viewing.
When I was young, I didn’t really pick up on or pay attention to the adults. I never realized that Elliot’s mom was dealing with a recent separation from her husband and wrestling with her new identity as a single parent. I also didn’t really get what a menacing force Peter Coyote and his team represent throughout the film. Watching it this time and noticing those additional themes with the grown-up characters added a lot of depth to the film for me. It also makes the kids’ behavior more logical. They were trying to protect their mom when she was trying to be strong for her kids.
If you will forgive a millennial expression, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial hit me right in the ‘feels’. The ending when E.T. and Elliot hug and have their final good-bye had me in tears. I have to give Steven Spielberg credit, he knows how push your emotional buttons. But the film isn’t overly sentimental. There are moments of real threat in the film. As a child I found the section of the film when the government comes in and tests Elliot and E.T. disturbing and scary. It is still disturbing to watch now; if anything, I feel like I have a better idea of the power of the government, so I knew the real danger in their involvement. While Peter Coyote seems like he is being set up as the villain of the film, really he is an ally for Elliot and his family. I know Spielberg went back and make a version without the guns in it, and that could help reduce the feeling that the government is a threat, but I don’t think it would make much of a difference.
The performances in the film are great, especially the three kids. Drew Barrymore went on to be the most famous of the kids and she is precious in the film. She successfully walks that thin line between precocious and believable. Sean Frye is also great as the older brother. He has been unexpectedly pushed into the role of “man of the house” now that his dad is gone and he wants to help/protect his mother. But he is also an older brother who likes to push around his siblings. He also walks that line successfully in the film. Henry Thomas as Elliot steals the show for me. He is so many things wrapped into one character. He is an annoying little brother, a kid who misses his dad, and he is excited and scared about his new discovery. The moment that I loved the most is when he fakes being sick to stay home and shows E.T. around his room. He is the typical little kid bouncing from one thing to the next and explaining his toys the way a little kids sees them. I have to give Spielberg a lot of credit for casting good child actors but then also getting wonderful performances out of them.
E.T. is such a strange looking puppet, but his sweetness and wonder make him so lovable. I had completely forgotten about the scene when he is alone in the house and gets drunk and it is so fun to watch as it is transferred to Elliot in school. While I love modern filmmaking techniques, there is so charming and tangible about a big rubber puppet waddling through a scene that I still love. The children are “really” interacting with E.T. and it makes everything more fun, dangerous, and exciting. The scenes when they do use “movie magic” like the flying bike rides don’t really hold up but when I was a kid in the 80’s I thought Elliot and his friends really flew, so I think that is what really matters.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial ranking: Carrier