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E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial
Matt - 3/01/01

Here's one that probably should've been reviewed much sooner, but somehow, I've only seen E.T. once in my life. Its one of the movies you take for granted and assume you've seen six thousand times like every other movie, until that fateful day where your friend quizzes you on which Star Wars figures Elliot showed the alien, and you're caught with a blushing red tail between your legs. I couldn't let the embarrassment continue, so I watched it again the other night. (and forced others to - I liked it, but they seemed pretty victimized)

If you've never seen the movie, you're part of the minority -- its currently the seventh largest-grossing flick worldwide, ever. Of course, The Phantom Menace and Independence Day are ranked even higher than that, so its pretty hard to call this a gage of quality. As stated, before the other night, I only saw the movie once. This was back when it was in theaters, and also when every one of my six thousand siblings still lived at home. We all piled into the family car and went to the drive-in, so with that many people in the car plus the excitement of being next to all these glorious cars, I didn't take too much of the movie in. Actually, I spent the better part of the decade firmly believing that E.T. has long hair, and that the movie we saw was actually E.T. III, which doesn't even exist. I'm not sure how to field that one, but now that I've seen the movie again, I can understand what all the fuss was about.

And what was the fuss all about? Its pretty simple: E.T. was our first true alien paragon. Perfection from outer-space. Almost every other movie/television alien had something terribly wrong with them. Let's quickly review...

Stupid aliens from equally stupid movie Fire In The Sky: Make humans fear jelly.
Stupid aliens from Independence Day: Killed Brent Spiner!
Alf: Ate cats.
Stupid aliens from Close Encounters: They were just ugly.
Stupid aliens from Aliens: Didn't one of them commit a sex crime against Sigourney? I've got to watch that movie again. If anyone remembers how they explained her getting pregnant with unborn alien child, please e-mail me!
Stupid plants from Day of the Triffids: Just evil.

Point is, E.T. was our first truly virtuous visitor from another planet. He may have looked weird and been an alcoholic, but for the most part, he was someone we could be proud of. After getting stranded on Earth while his fellow alien people take off into the night sky, young Elliot manages to woo the frightened creature into his bedroom using a trail of Reese's Pieces. Let's pick it up from there...

Here's our first semi-obscure E.T. fact of the day. Its not really that obscure, but I'm willing to bet that not too many of you went around looking for secret backstage info about E.T. Call it a hunch. Originally, M&M's were supposed to be the candy of choice for E.T., but pulled out at the last second thinking the film would be a flop. So Spielberg and friends found a decent substitute in Reese's Pieces...which sales tripled immediately following the movie's debut. If you're a comic book reader and were always curious as to why Reese's always used weird aliens in their ads, there's your reason.

Back to the movie. For simplicity and proper sentence structure, the alien's periods are removed and I'll only be referring to him as 'ET.' Elliot lures him back to the bedroom after a night of swearing up and down to his family that he saw some kind of goblin in the grass. Obviously, no one believes him, since alien sightings rank right up there with promises of finished homework on the kid scale. But there really is an ET, and since Elliot's family are such a bunch of stuck-up nonbelievers, they miss out on the opportunity to see this pile of rubber attempt to waddle up the stairs.

Remember how I said ET was our first truly virtuous alien visitor? We're lucky he didn't make a call to annihilate Earth after this. The guy must've been pretty patient and understanding of human nature to survive a first taste like this, where Elliot shows him the finer aspects of Earthlife, that being the Greedo and Snaggletooth figures from Star Wars, plus a plastic shark toy which he uses to torment the fish in his fishtank. So, if you thought ET looked confused for the first half of the movie, that's why.

By the way, there's a ton of theories out there that say this movie has a lot of biblical ties, more or less alluding to ET being Christ himself -- coming down to the Earth, healing people, eating candy, etc. Plus, his heart glows just like that classic Christ picture. I dunno, somehow I doubt Spielberg or Mathison would consciously hope to create a flick that portrayed some friendly alien with a long neck as Jesus Christ 1982. Then again, if you look hard enough, you could probably say every character in every movie was somehow supposed to be Jesus. Like, in Die Hard 2, when Bruce Willis survives that explosion by hitting the eject button just before the plane blows up...that was a miracle, right? He must be Jesus reincarnate. Same goes for anyone with long hair.

Elliot's mom isn't allowed to see ET yet, because adults are usually a little more pedestrian in their views, and typically won't be fans of allowing alien creatures that form symbiotic relationships with their sons live in the house. Siblings are an entirely different matter though, so Elliot finally caves and shows ET to his brother and sister.

His brother, while shocked at first, seems to take ET in stride after a few minutes. Though I don't think much phases the guy, I'm pretty sure I heard him work the term 'douchebag' into his lines earlier in the film. No joke, I guess it didn't sound as offensive 20 years ago. Of course, Elliot's little sister Gertie is a little more taken aback. In fact, her psyche was so scarred by alien visitations that she ended up an alcoholic who strips for Letterman and dates Courtney Love's guitarists. Yes, Gertie is none other than Drew Barrymore, and the freaky thing is, she looks exactly the same at age 5 as she does now, sans tits and height. What's even more surprising? This is her most well-acted role, ever! She displayed more talent at age 5 in ET than she would for the next two decades! Don't get me wrong, I love Drew...but I've also seen Batman Forever and Mad Love. Trust me, if she has any fleeting hope for getting a lifetime achievement award, it'll be because of ET.

Here's where things start getting a little weird. Actually, nothing much of note happens for the first trimester of the movie, if you discount the whole alien-landing, alien-at-home thing. That was just a day in the life of Elliot and ET. Now their adventure begins. And what better way than with a little breakfast beer? ET's showing the true signs here, folks. There's been times where I've hit the bottle for a little zap of that liquid courage, but its a dark day when I roll out of the bed and straight into the fridge for a Coors. Making matters worse -- this whole exercise in dispassion shows us that not only are ET and Elliot good chums -- they're psychically linked. It means a lot, actually. If ET gets sick, Elliot gets sick. If ET does the classic Danny Thomas spit take, so will Elliot. If ET gets blasted at 9 AM - so will Elliot! Look at the look on his face, reminds me of the first time I got drunk. I'm fairly sure that if you could go back and pinpoint the times everyone first got drunk, they all had that malevolent, psychotic stare on their face. You know, that 'well well WELL!' face. Now, let's see how the guys handle their liquor...

Elliot: Showing all the classic signs of a lightweight, Elliot flips out and sets all the about-to-be-DEAD frogs free in the classroom, sending the entire place into a Frog Frenzy. Well, kudos to him. The only thing memorable that happened the first time I got drunk was a sprained ankle from a bad jump and a few smashed beer bottles in the road to signify my complete and totally rebellion to the man. Elliot's gonna have a great story to tell by the time he gets to college.

Unfortunately, Elliot makes the cardinal mistake of a drunk, that being assuming every female in a mile-radius wants him to grab her by the head to start tonguing her. Man, ET gave Elliot his first taste of the ALCH and his first kiss - maybe those theorists were right about him being Jesus. Speaking of ET, here's how he handled his liquor...

ET: Now ET knows how to hold his alcohol. If you're ever watched a true alkie in action, you'd know that it takes quite a bit for them to lose their balance or try killing someone. ET only had one beer -- compiled with his usual amount and alien physiology, the effects are so minimal that he actually manages to turn an old Speak N' Spell into some kind of radar/sonar alien detector thing, I'm guessing for future use. You just don't make that kinda stuff for the hell of it.

If this was a battle, ET is the clear victor. Elliot's freaking out and belching, ET's making electronics. Still, I'm not sure which one would be more fun to drink with. If we're talking about which one's more fun to take acid with, ET's the obvious winner. Alcohol? I dunno, ET's still fun, but getting drunk and saving frogs seems like a pretty good time. Anyways, back to the movie.

PS, there's a scene that was filmed that didn't make the final cut here that showed Elliot drawing on thin-air with chalk. It was cut for pretty obvious reasons. If anyone out there for some strange reason can't go on without seeing it, you'll have to find a really old Beta tape of the flick -- and even then, there's only a small chance it'll be there.

We're skipping a head a little now. To bring you up to speed, ET learns enough English to relay the message that he's built some kind of machine that'll help contact his homeworld to come pick him up. Elliot really wanted to keep ET, since he's more fun than their dog and gets him drunk, but he knows ET is right. He has to go home. So, its Halloween. Perfect opportunity to get ET through the streets without much of a problem. They throw a sheet over his head, trek out into the public eye, and, well, see for yourself...

ET meets Yoda. Here's semi-obscure fact #2 - Spielberg and George Lucas are good friends, and oftentimes throw each other's trademark crap into their movies. The Yoda kid here actually turns out to be pretty creepy. I vaguely recall being scared of this back then at the drive-in, but then again, I thought this was E.T. III, so my symbiotic alcoholism with ET may have really distorted my memory. ET attempts to attack Yoda, because really, who wouldn't? The scene where he kicks the bucket in ROTJ is the only part of the Star Wars trilogy I'll actually allow to be fast forwarded on video. So either Yoda dying is just too touching for me, or I simply can't stand the scene. The jury's been out on that one for the past ten years.

Funny thing is, almost two decades later, Lucas would repay the favor by including a group of ETs in the Imperial Senate scene of Phantom Menace. Most of you probably didn't catch that the first time, but trust me, the ETs are there, and absolutely rabid.

Yeah, so ET turns Elliot's bike into a plane, they reach that special part of the forest, but no aliens arrive. Its a pretty big disappointment considering the dramatic music they gave this scene. I was totally waiting for them to throw in the Flintstones 'wah wah wah wah wahhhhh!' when ET's buddies didn't show up. Fortunately, the show ain't over yet. The show's not over till we start crying.

Elliot was supposed to be back home before dark, but with all this excitement, he fell asleep with ET in the forest. When he awoke, ET was nowhere in sight, so Elliot in all his naive childhood ways somehow thought the alien managed to trek all the way back to the house by himself. When he got home, there were no extra-terrestrials anywhere. Making matters worse? Elliot is as sick as a dog, Mom's pissed, and nobody has any idea where ET is. How I long for the good old days of ET eating Reese's and Elliot setting frogs free...times were so much simpler then, before the dark times. Elliot commands his brother to go find ET, and since that means getting at least one semi-important scene in the movie, he's more than happy to oblige. And yes, he does find ET...or at least, what's left of him.

Sickly White ET!!!! Wow, no one was expecting that one. Its a pretty surreal sight to see the poor thing rolling around on the floor pale as an alien ghost trying to mutter something about being 'ouch' and wanting 'home.' Personally, I think all of this was just a friendly competition between Spielberg and Lucas to see who could create the weirder aliens. Lucas gave us guys who breathed hard, were covered in fur, and kept scantily clad women as sex slaves. Spielberg attempts to one-up him by giving us a guy whose fingers light up, heart glows, neck outstretches, and turns white when the going gets rough. I'm not sure who won that battle, but I'd say both these guys are too rich to give a shit anyway.

Kudos to the makeup department, they really knew how to make an alien look like hell. Many of us have had a pet lizard at some point in our lives -- remember how if you left its dead carcass in the cage just a few hours too long, it'd start changing colors? Same deal with ET. Fortunately, there's no meal worms around to start eating his eyes, which by the way, is the sight which stands as the number one reason to never own a lizard. If it dies when you're out of town, you're gonna have quite a mess on your hands.

Those dirty feds finally realize that Elliot's been keeping an unregistered illegal alien in the house, so they break in and put the both of them, who at this point are nigh-death, into a giant plastic bubble hospital. ET is none too pleased...

In what turns out to be a strangely touching moment, ET and Elliot express their concern for each other's condition in this makeshift hospital. I felt pretty embarrassed when I got emotionally involved in this scene, but then again, the only other movie that 'got' me this much was the second Ewok Adventure, when Cindel and the Quaker Oats man had to leave Endor. Don't do drugs kids, they royally screw your endorphins.

The doctors officially announce ET as 'dead,' which was a little redundant to say since they were in the process of putting his body inside what looked like an airtight freezer. Elliot, et all, are obviously pretty saddened by the news. Maybe the kid should've thought of the consequences of feeding aliens from outer space seventeen bags of Reese's Pieces. Maybe ET should've known better than to drink foreign beer -- unless its Sapporo, that's great shit. This isn't the time to play the blame game though, times are rough, aliens are dying, and, in our final Lucas tie, they cut the scene that featured Harrison Ford as the school principal. Something's gotta give.

But it doesn't. Michael Jackson buys the remains of ET, and starts taking it around with him for interviews. Elliot's pissed, but what can he do? Michael's a superpower. And at least ET's not pale anymore. A little Jackson Jolt really lifts the spirits. I love happy endings.

Actually, as fate would have it, ET's not really dead, he just has the power to make his heart stop beating for no reason. Once Elliot realizes this, the two of them escape from Alcatraz and head back into the fabled forest, where ET is sure his alien compatriots are headed. Elliot seems a little skeptical -- he's heard this all before -- but at this point, what's the sense in disagreement? ET only knows like six words, he's in no position to really state his case. So they head back, and sure enough, the aliens did come back. ET can finally go home, which unfortunately means he can't stick around and play with Elliot anymore. But at least he's not dead, right? The End.

Overall: Welllp, I never doubted that this was a classic, but now that I've seen it again, I can see why. Spielberg is no media hype machine, there's a reason he always lands on top. His direction seems to pull the audience in to situations they can't possibly relate to, explaining how the general public could enjoy movies of his about aliens, historical wars, and Michael J. Fox traveling through time. I'm not saying a movie like this really needed Spielberg behind it to be memorable, but if you look at the guy's track record, his work is definitely something to appreciate. Amazing thing is, he's been doing it for so long now, without the slightest hint of letting up. Doesn't happen everyday, and we as the audience get the payoff because of it.

As for E.T., great movie. I've made it a point to watch basically every 'alien' movie I've come across, and this is a nice change of pace in that while the alien isn't 'bad' as they're usually portrayed, we can't write off the entire flick as a comedy. Most movies that have 'good' aliens are completely out-there comedy pieces, E.T. was fantasy work at its finest. Given the way society's tastes have changed as a whole over the years, I doubt we'll ever see a movie anything like E.T. again. So, go rent it, see what all the fuss was about. Besides, how can anything that had all the shit pictured below not be worth seeing?

One of our only true cultural dynasties. With a long neck!

- Matt