‘E.T’, or ‘E.T the Extra-Terrestrial’ if preferred, was brought to life thanks to an imaginary friend Spielberg created when he was a child. The story is a simple one. A young boy, Elliot, discovers an extraterrestrial roaming in his back yard. He soon plucks up the courage to help the alien return to his home planet whilst violating the rules set out by the authorities.
Although rooted in sci-fi normality, ‘E.T’ surprises in one aspect, which is simply conveying a touching companionship. Two completely different life forms are brought together in unexpected circumstances, yet they are emotionally connected as a result of life’s harsh ways. Elliot is lost as a person, due to the abandonment of his father, and E.T. fills the missing space in his life. However, Elliot’s saviour cannot sustain life on an unknown planet. A bond has been made but it’s another bond that has to be broken.
Foreseeing a separation, ‘E.T.’ is a heart-breaking story of loss which has touched audiences around the world. Aside from friendship, growing up also takes centre stage. The script gives the protagonist a chance to come to an understanding about acceptance, tolerate what life throws at you and learn from it. These underlying messages make ‘E.T.’ relatable, and in some ways special.
Its undeniable excellence hasn’t gone unrecognised with nine Oscar nominations and four wins under its belt. But some films are never left in their original state.
In 2002, for it’s 20th anniversary, an extended version of ‘E.T.’ was released with special effects altered and certain animatronics replaced. The robotic structure of E.T. may be dated, but, having said that, the old-fashioned cleverness added charm to this classic and evoked plausible performances from its young stars.
Henry Thomas (Elliot) is a captivating lead, carrying the film with raw emotion and general likability. Then we have a very cute Drew Barrymore playing Elliot’s younger sister. Her initial frightened reaction adds subtle humour but her progressive relationship with E.T. adds another level of sentiment.
It’s Spielberg, however, who makes this movie what it is. His intimate fantasy and extremely creative mindset has created a film that will be admired for generations. Its iconic imagery (the bike flying across the sky) and memorable dialogue (“E.T. phone home”) will forever be associated with greatness.