“He’s a man from outer space and we’re taking him to his spaceship,” says Elliott. Greg asks, “Well, can’t he just beam up?” Elliott responds, “This is reality, Greg.”
One of the earliest films I ever watched on VHS when I was a kid was a film called E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. My earliest memory of the film is being creeped out by the opening sequence (John Williams’ music was eerily effective in this). E.T. helped introduce me to the filmography of its director, Steven Spielberg (whom I would develop a lifelong admiration for due to his talent and output). Later viewings of E.T. as a kid led to clarification and understanding of what was going on in the film as well as a newfound appreciation for it. For the film’s 20th anniversary, a digitally remastered version was created with some enhanced special effects and a new sound mix. It is this version I saw on the big screen 13 years ago (although I’d still like to see the original theatrical version on the big screen), and it was a wonderful experience. This review of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is my entry in the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.
1982’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial follows a young boy who befriends an extra-terrestrial botanist who was accidentally left behind on Earth. While the boy tries to help the alien contact his people, the government searches for proof of the alien’s whereabouts. Spielberg assembled a talented cast that includes Henry Thomas (as Elliott), Dee Wallace (as Mary), Drew Barrymore (as Gertie), Robert MacNaughton (as Michael), Peter Coyote (as Keys), C. Thomas Howell (as Tyler), K.C. Martel (as Greg), Sean Frye (as Steve), and Erika Eleniak (as Pretty Girl). Thomas’ performance is the anchor of the film; he makes the developing friendship with E.T. very believable. Wallace is outstanding as Elliott’s mother Mary, who must deal with keeping her family together. Barrymore is a scene-stealer as Elliott’s younger sister Gertie; she brings innocence, mischief, and a certain naiveté to the role that comes off as charming.
Best Director Oscar nominee Spielberg’s strong direction draws terrific performances from his mostly young cast (he even shot the film in mostly chronological order) and crafts some memorable fantastical sequences. Melissa Mathison’s Oscar-nominated screenplay focuses on the developing friendship between Elliott and E.T. The opening sequence firmly establishes E.T.’s background in visuals without any dialogue, the danger the government may or may not pose, and the status of Elliott’s family life. Allen Daviau’s Oscar-nominated cinematography enhances the tone of the film (light at times, eerie lots of the time). James D. Bissell’s production design creates an unsuspecting suburban California neighborhood and an eerie forest (I especially liked the spaceship interiors).
Carol Littleton’s Oscar-nominated editing moves the film at a good pace, and the Oscar-winning sound design by Charles L. Campbell and Ben Burtt was top-notch (Burtt created the voice design for E.T.). The Oscar-winning special effects were amazing (Carlo Rambaldi did incredible work in bringing E.T. to life, and the bike flight has become one of the most iconic sequences in all of cinema). John Williams delivers an Oscar-winning score with memorable themes and intense dramatic music. Spielberg crafted one of the greatest films ever made with this Best Picture Oscar nominee, a timeless tale of friendship (with some science fiction thrown in the mix) that features star-making performances from young cast members Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore.