E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Reviews
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is Steven Spielberg's ultimate cultural touchstone for everyone's childhood. Spielberg redefines alien encounters with E.T. as a lovable, yet realistic puppet instead of the more mystic alien life of old stories. E.T. is what people are thinking of when they refer to 1980's pop culture. It has the child protagonist that must grow up, witty humor, pop culture references, thrilling action sequences, iconic imagery, and intriguing cinematography that keeps you in suspense.
E.T. was the first film I ever saw as a child. It moved me so much that I cried. I understood the emotional connection that Elliott the boy had with E.T. even as a young boy myself. Upon revisiting E.T. as an adult, I found it largely remains charming. The wonder of the story and likability of its characters hold up well. You feel for this 80's California family suffering divorce, boredom, and bullying. You naturally empathize with Elliott's plight and situation.
On the other hand, I found E.T. to have certain aspects that so not hold up when held up to the light of modern day criticism. The acting is mostly passable from the mother and older brother in particular. They are believable and likable. Then, the main son Elliott and daughter Gertie of the movie are pretty compelling as leads. They emote well and deliver lines in a natural manner. Spielberg really coaxed respectable performances out of the young Henry Thomas and Drew Berrymore.
However, I cannot say in honesty that they are always excellent. Their screams are incessant at times and all together unpleasant. In their quieter moments, their emotions ring true. Thomas and Berrymore play innocent, afraid, curious, charming, hilarious, quaint, and brave well to their credit, but their outrageous screeches and yells are blatantly overacted. The supporting cast are serviceable as they play their parts nicely enough with what little screen time they get. Overall, I enjoyed E.T. still regardless of the performances as the film presents its own special charm all the same.
The effects are dated as far as the CGI and green screen, while the puppetry and mini models are masterful landmark achievements in special effects history. You believe the spaceship, flying, and of course, the titular character of the alien E.T. Spielberg's crew did an excellent job building a world that we can believe in reality.
Speaking of Spielberg, the director solidified his legacy as the man who made pop culture what it is today with E.T. He lets us into this world, explore the house set, and believe in E.T. as more than a puppet, but as a character too. Spielberg continues his masterful and subtle use of shadow silhouettes in E.T. as well as emotional close up shots that hold up beautifully. The cinematography is lovely and all based in a real home and neighborhood. The direction is as focused as the stream lined story. E.T. does not overstay its welcome at a respectably short run time.
Furthermore, the writing is superb. Children actually talk like real kids. The teenagers mouth off and act on their own, the little kids speak truthfully with an innocent wonder for all things new, the parents are sincere, yet aware, and the government is curious and intrusive. In all, E.T. works so well as a little adventure with a boy who befriends an alien and must accept his leaving. It's played up to be more empathetic, but it is effective. The science fiction plot-line of Elliott feeling what E.T. does is an exquisite metaphor for Elliott's empathy for E.T's emotions. I think audiences will still be moved by E.T.
Lastly, I must mention John Williams' most enchanting score is what absolutely secures E.T.'s place in people's mind as a cultural touchstone. Williams composed a beautiful score that varies from cues of uncertainty, leaps of fear, to flying through sky with his magically emotive music in the background. It fits E.T.'s atmosphere so well that the music is much of what many remember from E.T. years later. Williams' scored the soundtrack to many childhoods including mine as E.T.'s music is truly a major moment in movie history. Even taking off our nostalgia glasses, E.T. has a lovely and sweet symphony of feelings.
To conclude, Spielberg invents new iconography for our pop culture with each new release and E.T. is perhaps the greatest example of a movie that is magical. Anyone who views E.T. gets wrapped up in the little waddling alien and all the emotion that comes with him. It's a thoroughly charming movie that is highly entertaining to this day. E.T. also doubles as a well made film with all of Spielberg's movie making skills on full display. Watch E.T. with your children, friends, or family and you'll surely have a fun time. It's worth a watch.