Blog Directory CineVerse: Fable of a benevolent alien

Fable of a benevolent alien

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" still packs a strong emotional punch 35 years after its release. Director Steven Spielberg focus less on science fiction and more on fairytale fantasy to tell a very personal story from a child's point of view – and that child be any one of us, regardless of age. How do we as viewers love "E.T."? Let us count the ways...


  • It strikes a chord with the inner child in all of us—the one who experienced loneliness, awkwardness, misunderstanding or alienation when we were young; it’s especially relevant to children of broken homes and divorce, middle children, and kids who grew up in the suburbs, which describes the character of Elliott. 
  • It’s an intimate, emotional movie that Steven Spielberg considered his most personal film. Steven Spielberg said in an interview: “"E.T. was about the divorce of my parents, how I felt after my parents broke up. [It was] the first movie I ever made for myself.”
    • It’s a very emotionally resonant film that requires you to be an actively engaged viewer—it involves your feelings and moves you; films that can evoke a strong emotional reaction in audiences are powerful pictures that tend to be remembered and revisited.
  • It’s a rare science fiction story about aliens that are benevolent; many sci-fi films feature extraterrestrials that are violent and destructive to humans. Here, the message is that strangers from different worlds can and should coexist in peace and find a way to communicate.
  • It features a brilliant, emotional score by composer John Williams that ranks #14 on the AFI’s list of 25 greatest film scores.
  • Some believe E.T. turned aliens into pop culture icons and gave a lovable, memorable face to an alien being that was safe for and acceptable to children.
  • It helped usher in the era of product placement (Reese’s Pieces and Coca-Cola) into the movies, for better or worse.
  • It firmly established Steven Spielberg as the world’s most popular and famous director—a man with the Midas touch after consecutively helming Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and now E.T.
  • This was also nearing the end of the era when audiences showed up in droves, creating extremely long wait times and lines that often stretched around the block. With the proliferation of multiplex theaters later in the 1980s, these ridiculously long lines would subside; but in 1982, chances are that you had to get in a long line and wedge into a packed theater to see E.T.
  • Despite old school special effects limitations of its era, compared to the dazzling computer wizardry of today, E.T.’s effects hold up, especially the animatronic and puppetry work involved in making the alien look realistic and act believably.Disconnection from home and family is not healthy. E.T. needs to go back to his kind and his own world; he is reborn because he has made reconnected with the ones that love him. This suggests that Elliott, too, must find a connection and treasure his life with his family in suburbia, even if he doesn’t always fit in so well and lacks a father. It also underscores how E.T. and Elliott are connected and similar; think about how “E” and “T” are the first and last letters of Elliott’s name.
  • Seeing life through a child’s eyes. Consider that it adopts the literal as well as emotional viewpoint of a child: the camera is often placed at a child’s level, and the point of view is often Elliott’s or E.T.’s. Consider how the “bad” adults like the man with the keys are often only shown as faceless silhouettes and from the mid-torso down.
  • Christ-like rebirth. This an uplifting story about a helpless creature who’s been abandoned and left behind, is vulnerable, friendly and cuddly, and can work feats of magic; yet, the creature gets sick, dies and is reborn. 
  • The importance of maintaining a sense of wonder and imagination. This picture makes you feel young again and taps into the mysteries and energy of childhood—how cool it is to find something really precious that’s your unique secret, trying to find your place in a world where you don’t feel like you fit in, and being in awe of the marvels and mysteries of the universe.
    • It also speaks to the power that children have to possess a powerful sense of imagination and an awe and reverence for magic, to be resourceful and resilient, to be open and receptive to the idea that aliens, monsters or the supernatural can exist, and to connect and communicate with life and nature in a way that most adults have forgotten or can’t.
    • It references Peter Pan in the film, and often plays on the themes of Pan—that you can fly, have adventures, wish upon a star for a miracle, and defeat the pirates (or, in this case, the adults trying to take E.T. away). . Remember that the “Keys” adult character is like a grownup Elliott or former Peter Pan—he’s been “wishing for this since (he) was 10 years old.” He, too, wants to be a kid again.
  • The importance of tolerance, compassion and understanding. Film journalist John Kenneth Muir wrote: "E.T. purposefully asks audiences to accept that which is alternative or seem different, and judge it not by how it looks. On the contrary, E.T. and Elliott develop a symbiosis, and so come to understand the feelings of one another. No matter how different or alien someone may seem, they possess the same feelings that you do. That too is E.T.'s message."
  • Super 8
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Earth to Echo
  • Lilo and Stitch
  • Peter Pan
  • Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
  • Starman
  • Jaws
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Jurassic Park
  • Schindler’s List
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • A.I.-Artificial Intelligence
  • Lincoln

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