Back in ’94, I got lost in Vegas. It was only for a second. You see, everyone else had stopped to look at the white tigers, and I didn’t notice. I started following a dude that had a shirt on like my grandpa’s. When I made it outside and realized my mistake, I was a little scared. However, I wasn’t nearly as panicked as my grandmother was when I reappeared. She acted like I’d been missing for hours, days. At that time I was thinking she should chill out, but looking back, it’s nice to know that someone in my family noticed that I was gone. *sniffle*
I saw this movie once (in fact it’s number seven on the list) where this kid (I’m assuming he was a kid) went on a trip with a bunch of his family, and they left him there. Left him. Alone. In California. And I don’t have to tell you what California is like. It’s full of aliens. Now many of these “aliens” speak English, but what if none of them did, and you were stranded by your family and had no way of communicating with anyone around you? This is pretty much this kid’s problem in the film because he is an alien . . . from another planet. Now, shoe on the other foot, what if you had an alien, illegal or intergalactic, stranded at your house? You wouldn’t know his name, so what would you call him? John? Rocky? Zurple? How about:
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Personally, I think that this sounds generic, like calling someone by what they are instead of by their actual name. I’m just saying.
E.T. was one of the first movies I ever owned, so I’ve seen it anywhere between 12 and 15 times . . . a thousand . . . or something. I watched this movie over and over again until I could recite it, but since I was so young there were tons of things I didn’t get. For example, the main character Elliot calls his brother Michael something inappropriate at the dinner table. I didn’t get it; not until junior high at least (and those of you who know what I’m talking about . . . know what I’m talking about.) But it’s not just that alone. My perspective of this movie is now totally different from the perspective I had back then. When you’re a kid, your world is concrete; Black and White. The good guy vs. bad guy motif totally makes sense. I understood that E.T. and Elliot were good and the scientists, who you see moving around in the dark searching for traces of the alien, were bad. On the other hand, when you get older (and you want to write a review on your blog), all the abstract feelings and themes come into play as you watch. The main theme that I see now as an adult is the clash in the story between science (logic) and the supernatural (emotion). In the first scene with all the aliens running around studying things, this movie is a science-fiction movie, but by the end it becomes so much more than that.
So what do I mean by all this logic vs. emotion talk? Well for starters the relationship between Elliot and E.T. is based on a connection that no one can understand. Somehow they become synchronized on a deep psychological level. One of the scientists is chatting with Michael and trying to understand E.T. The conversation goes:
Scientist: “Did he ever […] write anything down?”
Michael: “He communicates through Elliot.”
Scientist: “Elliot thinks its thoughts.”
Michael: “No. Elliot feels his feelings.”
He gets it. We associate thoughts with the brain and all its firing synapses, but feelings . . . they’re different. It’s basically the whole glowing heart thing. For those of you who may not have seen the movie, sometimes E.T.’s heart glows, and you can see it through his chest. It signifies the connection that E.T. has with his own family and also with Elliot.
Another great example of the contrast between science and emotion is when the connection with E.T. causes Elliot to free all the frogs from his science class before they are dissected. Then, as E.T. is watching a love scene on television, Elliot acts it out with the girl in his class that has totally wanted him since the bus stop. That was always one of my favorite parts. Especially since he’s too short to reach her and has to use the bully to boost himself up. Classic.
The moments of contrast are not all comical, though. For most of the movie, you don’t see the faces of the scientists, and the scariest part is when they all show up in their masks and suits and invade the home of Elliot. This is where the two opposing forces meet, and it is uncomfortable. The scientists come in and set up shop, and they have all these gadgets and devices that transform the house from the movie E.T. into a scene from E.R. (like how I did that?) Then, we have the meeting between that one guy with the keys (who interestingly enough is credited simply as “Keys”) and Elliot. Even when I was little, I recognized that Keys was an important character even though he has no backstory. Now, as an adult, I see that Keys and Elliot are two sides of the same person that believe in the same thing. Elliot is the pure side with uninhibited faith and innocence that embraces his connection with E.T., while Keys is conflicted by his scientific brain. And in the end, when science fails to save the day, it is the “connection” (you know the glowing heart thing . . . seriously, watch the movie) that awakens E.T. and reunites him with his seemingly absent-minded but very loving family.
The escape from the house starts, and you get all the famous riding around on the bikes trying to avoid the government men. What we learn from this part is that it is easy to underestimate a group of teenagers on their bikes especially when they “split up”. This part baffled me even as a kid, because it’s not like they weren’t able to tell which kid had the alien in the basket. One of the kids did have a good idea, though:
Elliot: “He’s a man from outer space. We’re taking him to his space ship.”
Greg: “Well, can’t you just beam him?”
Elliot: “This is REALITY, Greg.”
I laughed for a long time when I got that one.
Now, if you are going to watch this movie, and you should, you need to make sure you’re watching the original 1982 release and not the 2002 version. You see, I don’t know if Steven Spielberg was upset with how all the effects turned out in the original, but I guess he felt the reissue anniversary edition should have some new pizzazz to appeal to the newer audience . . . or something. So he made some changes and added some CG to make it look better. Most of these changes are purely aesthetic, and I have no problem with them. However, there is one change that I think ruins the suspense and takes the excitement right out of the moment. When the government dudes are chasing Elliot and the gang, they cut them off with a huge road block. In the original, E.T. sees the men at the road block with shotguns. They mean business. And just when you think it’s the end of the line, E.T. jumps from the bike and disarms the men with his alien martial arts. (False) The point is the shotguns make it suspenseful. In between E.T. and his ride home is a deadly weapon. In the 2002 version, E.T. sees the men at the road block with . . . Walkie-Talkies. In between E.T. and his ride home is a battery-powered, hard-plastic, communication device. This was clearly an unnecessary change, and personally, if I were on my way to the promise land, I could take one of those to the face if that was all that stood in my way. I would even throw it back just to spite them.