Review of 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'

et.jpg An alien ship lands in the woods but is discovered and forced to leave quickly leaving one of the aliens behind. The young boy Elliot (Henry Thomas) discovers the alien hiding in the gardening shed in his backyard and they quickly become friends despite the alien not speaking English. When E.T. is left at home while Elliot is at school he starts drinking alcohol but the psychic connection he has created with Elliot causes him to fall out of his desk drunk. Eventually Elliot's older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) discover the alien Elliot has been hiding. They call the alien “E.T.”, teach him some English then agree to help him get home (“E.T. call home”). E.T. has been assembling a communication device created from household bits and pieces in the woods but when visiting the site Elliot's bike carrying himself and E.T. goes out of control over a cliff E.T. demonstrates more of his unusual powers when he causes the bike to fly to safety. The government is on the case though and it is only a matter of time before they find where the alien is hiding…will E.T. ever make it home?

A charming piece of Science Fiction from the great Steven Spielberg, early in his career. Though perhaps over sentimental the story still manages to capture your heart as we follow the plight of the alien stranded far from home and his young friends. The effects are slightly dated now but still manage to convince (even more so with the 25th anniversary where Spielberg re-worked several scenes). The young actors are all utterly convincing and reported thinking of E.T. much like any other member of the cast so convincing was it's presence. Most of the time they appear on the screen to be realistically responding to the events as they unfold. The story is told from their perspective with the adults (though generally kind) are very much single-dimensional elements and simply hurdles to be overcome in sending E.T. home.

To be fair, though intended for a younger audience, E.T. does touch on some difficult issues such as death, and truth elevating this from any average Hollywood film intended for children. This is a film that treats children like real people yet has the spirit of fun and excitement of youth. Spielberg very much channels his inner child here.

When I first saw E.T. many years ago I was not entirely happy despite the overwhelming popularity of the film. This is a film aimed at children and as such really did not completely satisfy my taste for a bit more of a hard-core Science Fiction story. Too syrupy and simplistic. I still think this is true but now I do not see these things, though perhaps true, so negatively. Perhaps now I better appreciate the character development and nuances than when I first went to see, expecting a SF action/adventure.

A pleasant, easy paced, family film. Do not expect a big-budget action flick…just sit back and enjoy the (gentle) ride.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-01-19

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Universal Pictures

Year: 1982

Length: 115 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Steven Spielberg: