Posted: 03/25/2002

 

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

(1982)

by Chris Wood



Twenty years later, E.T. phoning home is just as enjoyable, but long distance rates have become ridiculous!


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Being left behind. A feeling that all of us have encountered on one level or another throughout the coarse of our lives. The unsettling feeling of being alone, unsure of the surroundings, and no clue how to get back to that familiar place, which instills a certain comfort. But what if it happens to an alien from a distance universe?

The beginning of E.T., The Extra Terrestrial, first released in 1982, directed by the legendary Stephen Spielberg (Jaws, Saving Private Ryan), starts off by showing the space craft, from which E.T. and fellow aliens are collecting plants from earth to place aboard their ship. But when government “alien watchers” come upon the spacecraft, the aliens are forced to leave the planet without the later named E.T. This start to the movie is very smart for two important reasons: First, it establishes in the viewer’s minds that these aliens are peaceful creatures who have no loftier purpose—like destroying the earth—other than being botanists, and second, by showing that there is an existence of higher life forms from the get-go, the plot becomes driven by the eventual need to get E.T. back home. This makes the movie more appealing to a much wider audience, whether they are Sci-Fi lovers or not.

So now the stranded space man is on the lamb, taking refuge in a tool shed on a suburban cul-de-sac in California (I knew Hollywood was full of aliens!). The knowledge of his whereabouts unknown to all, that is, until Eliot (Henry Thomas—All The Pretty Horses, Suicide Kings) rolls a softball into the shed, and someone, or something rolls it back.

His older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton—The Bob Newhart Show, 1982), and friends, like Tyler (C. Thomas Howell—The Outsiders), who were busy playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” attribute Eliot’s “close encounter” to coyotes (Wile E. Coyote can’t catch a break!). But Eliot knows better and tries to lure E.T. back to his house using Reeses’ Pieces.

This “bread crumb” theory that Eliot puts in place is successful and soon the alien is in Eliot’s room. Here we see a classic scene where Eliot explains some of the contents of his room. After E.T. tries to eat a Matchbox car, it is apparent that Eliot’s efforts, while noble, have not yet sunken into E.T.’s cranium.

Eventually Eliot tells his brother Michael, whose response is that of a dumbfounded facial expression at the brownish waddling alien, and then Gertie (Drew Barrymore—Riding In Cars With Boys) walks in and shrieks at E.T., who shrieks right back.

The movie’s twenty year re-release promises, in commercials and trailers, added scenes and special effects, but the real magic of this picture is how it will take those who first saw it two decades ago right back to their childhood, and give children, perhaps seeing it for the first time, some fond memories of their own.

In addition, there are several other memorable scenes that can never be washed completely from one’s memory. For example, when Eliot is taking E.T. into the woods to “phone home,” via bike and milk crate, the terrain gets too rough to ride over, so E.T. takes the reigns and pilots the bike into the air, with part of the flight taking them across the moon filled horizon. Then, later, with the previous scene acting as foreshadowing, Eliot, Michael, and the rest of their friends try to take E.T. back to the pick-up area in a great bike vs. G-men and police chase, which ends by E.T. lifting all five of the bicycles into the air, while the famous theme music plays (holding back tears at this point is tough).

Like the re-release of Star Wars, E.T., known as A Boy’s Life and Night Skies, in 1981, as working titles, allows new generations who never had the opportunity to view this classic on the “big screen,” to become participants in the movie, by forgetting our surroundings and getting lost in a wonderful story of friendship.

Chris Wood once sent a script to Hollywood about an alien driving instructor who travels back in time for some reason, but it never got the “green light” …Hollywood can be so cold sometimes!



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