Review: ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg | 115 minutes | drama, family, fantasy, science fiction | Actors: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace-Stone, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Peter Coyote, KC Martel, Sean Frye, C. Thomas Howell, David M. O’Dell, Richard Swingler, Frank Toth, Robert Barton, Michael Darrell, Erika Elenak

Aliens were “hot” in the late 1970s, early 1980s. The existence of aliens was nurtured by Steven Spielberg with the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), after which Ridley Scott terrified movie audiences with ‘Alien’ (1979). We were just wary of aliens, Spielberg (him again!) comes out with a movie that shows that aliens can also be very cute and sweet: ‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982). We rarely saw aliens as endearing as ET. The big eyes, the round belly, the friendly look. Perhaps only Pixar’s ‘Wall-E’ (2008) comes close. The figure ET is said to have been created by pasting Alfred Einstein’s forehead and eyes onto a baby’s head. May sound strange, but it works! Even today, ET is an iconic film figure who still manages to endear. ‘ET Phone Home!’

The science-fiction adventure ‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’ is one for the whole family. We can be brief about the story: lonely eight-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas) befriends the space creature left behind by his ilk. Initially they want to keep their friendship a secret – his mother thinks he has an imaginary boyfriend, but it turns out to be very real – but you can’t keep a wonderful creature like ET hidden from the outside world for long. Soon the entire American government is after the poor ET, because they want to subject him to all kinds of scientific experiments. The movie audience is already completely wrapped up in ET, when we see him walking around in the clothes of Elliott’s sister Gertie (a very young Drew Barrymore) and as he tries to master other earthly customs.

With ‘ET: The Extra Terrestrial’ Steven Spielberg – who has been fascinated by extraterrestrials all his life – made an ode to youth. The film-maker himself has always given the child in him plenty of space. It becomes clear in various ways that the children are in charge in his film. Adults (except for Elliot’s mother, played by Dee Wallace-Stone) are not portrayed too rosy. The fact that the story, which Spielberg described to screenwriter Melissa Mathison after shooting ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981), is told from a children’s point of view says it all. Of course the story is predictable and the melodramatic moments pop up at times, but thanks to a brisk pace and a good dose of infectious humor it never gets sentimental. Although you have to stand very firmly in your shoes, you don’t want to be moved to tears by this touching creature.

ET is basically a little actor in a rubber suit, whose scratchy voice is produced by Debra Winger and Pat Walsh. This extraterrestrial figure absolutely steals the show, although the sometimes very young human protagonists also deserve praise. We didn’t hear much from Henry Thomas afterwards, but that’s not because he has no qualities. He carries the entire film pretty much on his own. Drew Barrymore (only seven years old here) is also stealing the hearts of the audience. The scenes where Gertie hesitantly tries to make contact with ET are heartwarming. We also see Robert MacNaughton as the older brother steal the show at times.

‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’ is a delightful adventure that appeals to the child in all of us. The story is timeless and heartwarming. The captivating alien from this film will remain in the memory of anyone who has ever seen it. A youth classic of the purest water!

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