PG, for kids constantly swearing and claiming that other people's breath smells like human anatomy. Also, I remember a part of this movie terrifying me. I can't have been the only one who was super scared of NASA kidnapping a dying E.T. My son found E.T. himself terrifying and never really got over that. He ended up playing Sonic Dash on my phone the entire time. I also watched the version that has shotguns instead of walkie-talkies. PG.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
I can't believe that my blog is following up something as mainstream as The Shawshank Redemption with something as mainstream as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Before I get a handful of comments that I should be writing about the true story of the Atari cartridges buried in the desert, know that I am aware of that story and this is a film blog about the movie.
I never really understood how E.T. is considered this universal modern classic. I mean, it's better than Mac & Me, but it is a pretty blah movie. Even the ride at Universal Studios was always kind of lackluster to me. (I also have to state for as lackluster as this movie is, I also am slogging through writing this. I just don't have the drive. What you get is an exercise in sheer willpower.) Part of me wants to write off the story as something that was a product of the '80s. I mean, I grew up with this movie. This movie was an integral part of my contemporaries' childhoods. But even then, I didn't really get what all of the fuss was about. I mean, I suppose it's a fine movie. But it also seems like kind of an empty film. I'm about to slog down a whiny curve that's pretty unproductive, so realize that if your tastes differ wildly from mine, it probably all really comes down to a matter of taste. I also harbor the same opinions on Close Encounters of a Third Kind.
What bugs me about E.T. is that I never really feel the bond for the titular alien. Like, the only real takeaway I have is the overwhelming sadness of when E.T. is dying. That's it. Yeah, I giggle at some of the cuter moments. E.T. hiding in Elliot's closet is pretty iconic. But E.T. never really felt fleshed out to me. It really just seems like a collection of ideas that really don't tie together. Listen, I know that there is a hardcore E.T. savant who could explain every element to me, but the conflict of the movie doesn't really make a ton of sense to me. For a long time in the film, the movie is about E.T. learning to stay off the grid while he finds a way to contact his spaceship. I'm cool with that. But why is E.T. dying? There's the scene at Halloween where he makes the bikes fly, but why is he all of the sudden really dying? Is it the same thing that killed the aliens in War of the Worlds? It also feels like Elliot's bond with the alien only exists to have him die later. Yeah, I admit that I forgot about Elliot getting vicariously drunk on E.T.'s beer, but that's just so we can have to worry about this little kid who is dying at the same time.
There's also a lot of, "Well that happened because it did moments." E.T. getting really sick for no reason or explanation is one part of it, but then he gets better for no reason too? To me both today and when I was a little kid, this is a moment of false conflict. It isn't a lesson that is tied to the events of the story. There is nothing that Elliot or E.T. could have done differently that has any degree of moral responsibility. Instead, the movie had nowhere to go, so it just threw this element in. If this wasn't a movie about an alien that had a degree of mystery, this plot development would have come across as absurd. Two kids become friends and then one has a heart-attack and seems to die. But then he gets up and is just fine? They continue on with their adventure. The thing is, there's already a conflict woven into the story. The idea that E.T. could be caught at any time is a perfectly legit conflict. But the scene where the scary NASA folks show up (NASA or mysterious government agency that wears space suits on Earth), there isn't much of a threat to Elliot or his friends.
It's appropriate that there is a ride at Universal for E.T. because Elliot himself is almost on a ride instead of making active decisions. That's not always the case. Elliot starts the film as an active agent in this story. He investigates the shed. He skips school. He organizes the Halloween experiment. But never does Elliot have an inkling that government folks are searching for his little alien. Instead, the threat just manifests itself. It's not protagonist versus antagonist. The two are almost unaware of each other. And with the case of the government looking for the alien, it makes them look real evil, but what is the alternative? It's not like E.T. made his awareness known or has any kind of way to communicate with them. He has come from outer space and is dying by the time that the government has shown up. From what I understand, that shadowy government agency tried to save both E.T. and Elliot. And isn't it a bit bizarre, considering how evil the government comes across in this film, that Elliot isn't under seven levels of arrest for being the only human to come in contact with an alien?
I have to mention it, don't I? I don't want to, you know. I'd rather avoid it all together, if you don't mind. But I know that this blog entry will be incomplete until I mention it...
Ahem: The Christ Allegory.
Yeah, it's pretty superficial. For all my grumbling about this random plot point, the idea is that E.T. is standing in for Christ in this one. He comes from afar and becomes one of us. (E.T. dresses up in clothing and tries beer. That's an American if I've ever heard of one.) He heals people, in this case literally, and brings back the dead (flowers). When those people who are meant to be good to him take him into custody, he dies only to return later. He eventually ascends to where he came from and we're all the better for knowing him. Why? Why did we need this to be another Christ allegory. E.T. is so cornball and Christianity isn't. It seems like the most cheap metaphor out there. I'd like to point out that I actually really like Steven Spielberg, but this metaphor is played out, especially in a movie like E.T..
My daughter wanted to watch this for her birthday and I didn't think it was the worst choice. But even with me going in extremely optimistic, golly I was bored at times. There are just some movies that everyone else likes that I get nothing out of.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.