Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why Haven't I Seen That?: E.T.

Welcome to a new installment of WHY HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT?, where we talk about a must-see or iconic movie that we have never seen...until now. This week Jonathan phones home, chows down on some Reese's Pieces, and flies into the magical world of Steven Spielberg's E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL.  Enjoy.

Yes. I had no childhood. Yes. I somehow missed one of the greatest family films of all time growing up. Yes. I regret not seeing E.T. sooner.

I experienced E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the first time in a strange situation. I sat in a room with five other millennials, three of whom had never seen it before either. There were some jabs thrown at the old-style visuals and some laughs at the slightly cheesy plot devices made more noticeable by twenty-something years of exposure to film tropes and cliches in story-telling.

However, as the credits rolled, I couldn't help but marvel at the simple beauty of Spielberg's classic 1982 film.

Necessary spoiler warning here. If you haven't seen this classic yet, all I can say is "See it." No matter your age or the situation, take two hours and experience this delightful adventure.

E.T., at its heart, is the story of a boy finding his inner strength through the sacrifice of a new friend. Crazy set-pieces and adorable aliens aside, the simple tale of Elliot (played wonderfully by eleven-year-old Henry Thomas) and his extraterrestrial friend takes you into a broken home where a boy struggles with understanding his own worth. Elliot emerges from the story as a strong person able to stand alone, even as his friend leaves and returns home. The final, heart-wrenchingly beautiful scene elicits a feeling everyone will remember from growing up -- the moment you realized that life will go on no matter what happens and that good memories never have to die.

I was fascinated by the animatronics of E.T., which were masterfully done, turning an adorably disturbing-looking creature (that still weirds out twenty-one year old me) into a lovable friend. Drunk E.T. stumbling around the kitchen may be one of my favorite moments in a family film ever. That moment by itself, where a family film tackles an adult situation with ease and inoffensive charm, makes E.T. all the more beautifully perfect of an experience.

The maturity of E.T.'s story adds so many intricate layers to the film. Elliot's parents' separation wasn't avoided or sidestepped, but confronted head-on. The police chase scene felt genuinely tense and suspenseful (if a bit over-the-top). The death scene of E.T. was raw and emotional, portraying grief and pain in an unblinking light. There was so much in E.T. that defied it the label of a simple "kids' movie."

Nitpicking E.T. is easy. Small details don't  always make sense, and every-so-often the dialogue is as cheesy as the pizza in the shed. However, I think that cinematic naivete only adds to the experience. You must view E.T. through the eyes of a child, no matter your age. Everything in the film facilitates that momentary step out of your adult body, from the beautiful John Williams score to the fantastical direction and cinematography. You are Elliot. You must be Elliot. If you've lost the ability to truly think like Elliot, then you've lost a great treasure and should probably watch E.T. a second time. I think films like this are the real Fountain of Youth, for they allow you to become an innocent kid again, even if just for the two-hour runtime of the film.

Some movies are timeless. I hope the remake machine doesn't touch E.T. for a long time, for the simplistic beauty of Spielberg's masterpiece stands up to the test of time.

This weekend, be a child again. Pop in Aladdin, Finding Nemo, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (my newly formed Holy Trinity of family films) and feel that nostalgia and innocence come back once again.

Be good, my friends.

Jonathan's Score: 10/10

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