OCTOBER 19, 2008
I missed the 20th anniversary release of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial back in 2002, because A. I had just watched it, 2. I was broke (I also missed Jason X and Blade II around the same time) and D. I like rifles more than I like walkie-talkies. I missed it again when it screened at the Arclight earlier this year. And even though I’ve had the deluxe DVD set for years (I got it pretty cheap too, and didn’t realize how much stuff was in it until today) I’ve never cracked it open until now. For some reason, even though I love the movie, I just never get around to watching it. Even as a kid, I don’t think I ever saw it more than two or three times. I’ve probably spent more time playing the Atari game (which I have actually beaten) than watching the film. Weird.
Anyway, it’s a great movie. You know that. Everyone knows that. The entire supplementary section of the DVD set is devoted to everyone pointing out how beloved the movie is. I think a great extra would be a commentary by someone who hated the movie, if only to hear their reasoning.
There’s a reason that it’s inspired so many modern filmmakers, even ones who don’t make “family” movies. It’s just a perfectly executed film. Spielberg is the master of the earned reveal; in all his legendary “monster/alien” movies, he has never shown the entire creature right from the start, and ET is no exception. I would love to watch the film with someone who had no idea what it was about, because it’s almost played as a horror film in the first half hour, which doesn’t quite work on me because I’m pretty sure E.T. does not murder anyone in the film. But someone going in totally blind? They'd totally think Elliott was a goner.
I also love how un-cynical it is. There really isn’t a mean character in the entire film. Peter Coyote would be the sneering villain in anyone else’s hands, but he’s a sympathetic man who longs for answers to his childhood questions. Speaking of Coyote, every time he spoke in the film I had flashbacks to that one Oscar night when he was like, a play by play commentator? He was with some broad, I forget who, but it was fucking weird.
And I must mention Mike, the older brother. Elliott and Gertie may be the ones people remember, but I think Mike is a great underrated character. He could be the typical older brother, i.e. a jerk, but he eventually is just as dedicated to ET as Elliott; his “Nooooooooooo” when he sees the dead plant is one of the more heartbreaking moments in the film. And lest you forget: he’s the one who runs off into the woods to find the little guy.
And it may seem a bit cheesy in the age of meta-humor, but the scene where ET sees Yoda and begins to follow him as if he was an old friend is fucking hilarious. This sort of “wink” was pretty much unheard of back in 1982, and again, I wish I could sort of experience it for the first time all over again, not knowing that it was coming.
While we’re on the subject of Star Wars – in the part where Elliott shows ET his SW toys and how to feed fish and what not; I never noticed how bored ET looks in the scene. “Yeah, great kid, you have toys and a plastic shark on a stick... can you get me the hell back home?”
I also love how giant Elliott’s closet is. Seriously, it seems like it’s bigger than the room itself. If I had a goddamn alien in my bedroom closet when I was like 7 or 8, I’m pretty sure my parents would notice right away. I’m curious what kind of salary Mrs. Elliott’s mom pulls in, since they have a pretty big house (though it’s kind of flimsy, shit falls down all the time even when ET isn’t anywhere near the object(s) in question). Their kitchen table is also pretty awesome. I want to eat around a triangle.
Like I said, the DVD is mostly comprised of everyone saying how much they love the movie “even today”, but there’s some other good stuff too. The documentaries are by Laurent Bouzereau, which translates to “They don’t suck”. Apparently there was a 2 hr one on the original laserdisc that has not been carried over, but I’m sure we are getting all of the same information in the new ones. There’s also a nice piece about the movie being shown with John Williams conducting the score live, usual trailers and such, and a couple of PSAs from the 80s, like ET inspiring a kid to compete in the Special Olympics (the kid doesn’t seem to be disabled in any way though?). Since its Spielberg, there’s no commentary track (though I’ve never understood why his actors or screenwriters or whatever can’t do one? Does he forbid it?), but otherwise it’s a pretty jampacked set (it also includes the CD soundtrack, a book with making of stuff and the script, a film cel, and a certificate of authenticity, which is a bit odd because like, how could all this stuff be a fake? Seems like it would be a lot of work for a bootlegger to put together this giant package). It was limited, so I don’t know if you can get it cheap anymore, but if so, it’s definitely the way to go, especially since it has the original version (I didn’t even bother with the “restored” nonsense).
It’s a shame that people today are too cynical and douchey to appreciate such a wonderful and charming film, and I fear that the next generation of kids (that is, the children of the kids who should have gone to see it in 2002 instead of fucking Ice Age) won’t even bother seeing it at all. Hopefully they can latch onto another “kids of all ages” movie that is as compelling and well-constructed, should such a film ever come to pass (Wall-E being the closest contender in recent memory, or if you want to go back to the “ancient” 1990s, Toy Story 2).
What say you?