Well I said it was coming, didn’t I? So, let’s get it out of the way. Similarly to Grease I had PROBABLY seen E.T but had no conscious memory of watching it from start to finish. So I thought it best to add it to the pile.
Oh also, for the duration, I’ll be calling it E.T because typing the full title every time seems gratuitous and y’know…. I don’t want to.
Going into this I pretty much felt as though I had seen it. Its basically weaved so deeply into popular culture that’s its almost impossible to not know a great deal about the film. So, unlike the others, I knew the entire plot, cast and main emotional beats. Add to this the fact that it’s a John Williams scored Spielberg film and you know you’re in the safest hands you can be in for some solid entertainment.
Which is exactly what I got. I mean what more is there to say that hasn’t already been said?
The film is just a stone-cold classic. Exquisitely directed by Spielberg as he manages to do something that’s rare for directors, he gets fantastic performances out of ALL his child actors. In particular, I must say, Henry Thomas is just brilliant as Elliott. I know he has continued to act but, in my eyes, he could’ve done so much more if he wanted to. On the other hand, a young Drew Barrymore. It’s clear to see even here that she had that star quality that would continue to grow into adult hood. Great performances by the adult actors too. Dee Wallace’s frazzled and newly separated mother gives some real emotional realism and heart.
If there was one thing that I wasn’t expecting it was that. The fact that a film about a little boy befriending an alien would be as much about family dynamics and drama as it is about E.T himself. That’s where the film excels. By weaving the two together it keeps us grounded in the real world whilst also presenting us with the spectacular.
The music too. We all know how famous the music is, but I wanted to lend my own voice to the millions who say, its just a beautifully written score. John Williams really is a master.
Another thing I didn’t expect was that the effects would hold up. For the most part I expected the mostly practical effects to have aged poorly and look clunky. But they didn’t. Poor effects can really take you out of the film but in this case they didn’t. As much as I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking it was all real, the effects have stood the test of time well enough that they weren’t laughable.
I can’t really say I had any criticism of the film. I suppose some of the more emotional beats were a little lost on me. Whether that is because I am 29 and the film isn’t really aimed specifically at me or that the film is now so famous that I went in knowing all of the twists and turns I don’t know. I can say that if I’d watched it as intended and upon release, it certainly would have been more effective. Not an issue with the film as such, more that the film is a victim of its own enormous success.
I suppose to finish I should just say that E.T was everything I was expecting. Having watched it I can really see why it’s become such a classic. It also gave me a new appreciation for everything it must have influenced over the years. From Stranger Things to Arrival you can really see how the film has embedded itself into the cultural zeitgeist with no signs of its influence slowing up.
When people often talk about the perfect film, they often mention things such as The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption or Citizen Kane. They are all brilliant films that have earnt their right to stake a claim as such. However, I am very much of the school of thought that when considering the perfect film, you need to consider the audience. For me the perfect film needs to appeal to as many people as possible including families and kids. I can’t really imagine myself in the future sitting down with my kids on a Saturday night and saying, “let’s put on the Godfather kids!”, whereas E.T for me joins the list of films with something for everyone. Whether that be Back to the Future, Toy Story or The Lion King, they are all more akin to a universally adored film rather than “The perfect film.” E.T can firmly take its place as perhaps the king of these films. Whilst it isn’t my personal favourite, I can certainly see why it is loved by so many.
Originally published on Tumblr on 27th March 2020