E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – Steven Spielberg

Welcome to 1982, one of the biggest years for number of science fiction films EVER! And an amazing number of good ones! In fact the next 5 titles being visited on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list are all from 1982, and I saw all but one of them in the theater that year, and the one that I didn’t has since become one of my faves.

E.T., I was Elliott’s (Henry Thomas) age when it came out, and I saw it at my local Cineplex Odeon in Kingston, and it was me on the screen.

Melissa Mathison wrote the screenplay about an intergalactic visitor who is left behind on earth and the young boy who befriends him.

There is so much to love in this movie, the purity of the story that still to this day speaks to my heart and can make me cry, John Williams’ stirring score, which quite rightly one an Oscar, Drew Barrymore who is so precocious as Gertie, Elliott’s little sister, Dee Wallace as Mary, the divorced mother of three amazing children, kids I would recognize from my own friends.

kidsThe always great Peter Coyote is Keys, who like all the adults in the film, but for Mary, isn’t shown above the waist until the government takes over the house in latter part of the film. The thought process behind that is that everything is from a kid’s height point of view.

There is a realness to E.T. that is lacking in the CG characters today, because he was actually there on set, one could interact with him, and yes, I get that he was part puppet, part animatronic, and part actor but he was, is real to me.

Cineplex currently ran their annual Digital Film Festival, and E.T. was one of the films that was screened this year. I hadn’t seen it on the big screen since it’s theatrical run back in 1982. Despite the fact that I knew the film backwards and forwards, knew all the musical cues, all the dialogue, seeing it with an audience in a darkened theater, that shared communal experience, is still awe-inspiring in the way that it affects the viewer.

chaseThis for me is a near-perfect film, there isn’t a missed beat, the editing and pacing is brilliant, it’s a perfect marriage of image and sound. I love that Spielberg re-edited the ending of the film to match the score that Williams created for it, and that last section of the film, from the moment they steal the van, the bike chase, flying, saying goodbye to the end credit roll this is one of my favorite film sequences, and film scores ever.

This is a wonderful science fiction film, and an wonderful family film, and it’s not so very often that those two categories meet and mesh so well. It’s filled with hope and light, and despite the fact that it makes me cry at the end, every single time, it’s happy crying.

We’re better for having known E.T. for the short time he was on Earth, and I dread to think what my life would have been like if he had never come along. I have a stuffed E.T. toy atop my computer, sharing space with a stuffed Yoda, I still have puffy stickers from the 80s featuring the lovable alien, and when I first toyed with sketching (something I really do need to pick up again) at the age of 10, E.T. was one of the first things I drew, working off a promotional picture of him peeking around Elliott’s door.

This is one of the true gems of cinema, not just science fiction, and should be treasured and revisited often.

To use a line Sue and I have gleefully stolen from the film, “I’ll believe in you all my life, every day… E.T. I love you.”


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