E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

I was able to attend a Fathom showing of the 35th anniversary of the Steven Spielberg classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial today, and I wondered if, since this was a movie that I have not seen for years– check that–decades even, this was a film that would not hold up upon my considerably older eyes.

Well, those eyes, full of tears, witnessed the fact that E.T. is an indomitable classic that easily holds up from the day it came out.

Everyone knows the story.  The little space alien gets accidentally left behind on earth and finds himself in the backyard of 9-year old Elliott (Henry Thomas).  Elliott lures ET out of the shed with Reese’s Pieces and into his bedroom, where they bond, quite literally.  As ET begins to show signs of illness, Elliott, along with his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and his precocious sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), strike up a plan to help the alien “phone home.”

This is simply a magical experience.  EYG Hall of Famer Steven Spielberg at the high of his powers.

Sure, today, the little rubber suit wearing alien may not look as realistic as the CGI creatures we see on a daily basis in Hollywood, but that is part of the charm of this film.  It adds to the feeling of the childish wonder that is a major theme of ET.

Spielberg also does some outstanding shooting of the film, with the camera shooting behind the adults, showing the point of view of the children.  In fact, with the exception of Elliott’s mother Mary (Dee Wallace), we see no adult head-on until the third act of the movie.  It is an intriguing choice that really works, creating a world of child-like wonder.

There is another EYG Hall of Famer who does some of his best work on this film.  The score of ET is done by John Williams and is hauntingly beautiful and unbelievably uplifting.  Although Williams has a huge resume to his credit, the score of ET has to be near the top as his greatest of all time.  The music is transcendent.

The film does not work if not for the performance of young Henry Thomas.  Elliott is clearly a pivotal role, and he is tremendous.  The boy goes through the gamut of emotions, from joy and wonder to heartbreaking sadness.  There were some times when he felt too whiny, but that felt real for the situation he had been placed in.

And yet some would argue that the best child performance of the film belonged to 5-year old Drew Barrymore.  You could see the sparkle in the eye of the little girl every second she was on screen as she delivered each of her lines with such a realistic flair that she was a danger for stealing every scene she was in.

The film rocked the emotional roller coaster, easily making you laugh just moments before it tore your heart out.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial not only holds up today, it also shows what a treasure of a film that is was.

It is absolutely a…


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