Last night I was hanging out with my cuz, searching for a movie to watch amidst the labyrinth of on-demand menus, and he mentioned he’d never seen E.T. And I was all, “You’ve never seen E.T.!?” and so we immediately ended our search and purchased it for the very reasonable price of $1.99.
I was probably 7 or so the last time I saw the full movie, and it was fascinatingly familiar yet new. I remembered most of it in surprising detail, but my experience of it was through entirely different eyes – kind of like going back to your old elementary school as an adult. To pick an obvious example, I remembered Eliot’s high-school-age brother and his friends as being “big kids,” unknowable giants to my 7-year-old eyes. As a kid, I was completely terrified by Eliot’s first meeting with E.T. in the backyard, when they both get scared of each other and run off. I also think I completely missed the whole divorce theme that looms over the whole story – or at least I didn’t remember it at all until re-watching.
Mostly, though, I was just amazed at the storytelling – so emotionally powerful, effective – and economical! Not one minute of the movie is wasted: Spielberg spends a few minutes setting up that E.T.’s stranded and establishing the characters in Elliot’s family, and then goes straight to their first encounter, and while he’s building their friendship makes sure he also plants the seeds for the confrontation with the scary guys from the government. As soon as he’s established that E.T. and Elliot have a psychic link and that E.T. wants to phone home, the bad guys show up and E.T. gets *really* sick *really* fast and we jump straight to the satisfying climax.
They just don’t make movies that tight anymore. I feel like if E.T. were made today, it would be three and a half hours long, would start with several scenes presenting a detailed picture of life on E.T.’s homeworld, and would also include a romantic subplot for Elliot. Plus at least three epilogues of E.T. and his buddies in space and Elliot and his family having dinner and God-knows-what-else.
In any case, this one holds up, to say the least. If you haven’t seen it since you were a wee lass or lad, it’s definitely worth seeing again – it’s a different but equally wonderful experience.