March 01, 2016

Cutting Edges: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

ET The Extra-Terrestrial Film Review
Figure 1: Movie poster
ET The Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 science fiction adventure film, directed by Steven Spielberg. It is a film about a friendly alien who gets unintentionally left behind on Earth, and is separated from his family and his home. He meets a young boy called Elliot who with the help of his siblings, teaches ET about humanity and helps him try to find a way to return home.
“What's perhaps most amazing about E.T., what distinguishes it from many of the other fantasy films of its era, is its ability to put an audience under a spell of childlike wonderment without infantilizing it.” (Taylor, 2015)
In this quote Taylor describes the way that Spielberg has directed this film in a way which we not only sympathise with the boy, but also we feel his age becomes irrelevant and his problems feel no less than if it were an adults story. While we watch the film it becomes clear that we are on the side of Elliot, and we want his secret kept from the adults as much as he does. The story is not an immature one, although it is simple and childlike in the sense of wonder and magic we get from watching it.
Figure 2: Film Still
In the beginning of the film we are introduced to Elliot's family, and it is made apparent to the audience early on that they live apart from their father, having divorced from the mother. Is it a sensitive topic to the family, and the audience can sense that they are very close to one another, and are all affected by the father even though he is not ever shown. Through the first half of the film we do not see a male man, we only see either shadows or mentions of them. There is no introduction to any sort of adult male character until late in the film, and this may be reflecting the absence of a father figure in Elliot and his family's life.
“What E.T. does so well is to capture that moment in life when childhood seems to be slipping away” (MacDonald, 2003)
MacDonald describes her experience of the film as one which captures the childhood in its last stages. We see Elliot in the beginning as a lonely young child who cannot be heard over his older brother’s friends, and who is not listened to. We see him grow up fast throughout the film, in the beginning we see him full of childish enthusiasm, staying up all night to see this mystical creature. As the film progresses, we see him go through loss and desperation and although he has had to face exceptional circumstances, he remains innocent and full of wonder and excitement, but still understanding of more adult like concepts.
Figure 3: Film Still
There are many establishing shots of Elliot's house throughout the film, all at the same angle at different times of the day. This may be because Spielberg wanted to push the importance of 'home' and a place where you are safe, because even though ET is safe there he does not belong, and it is not his home. Spielberg also does many POV shots from ETs perspective. One of the more significant scenes in which this is used is when ET lay dying in the bathroom, and we see from his point of view the threatening masked man looming over him, and hear the thud of his feet. This makes the audience feel vulnerable and understand how ET is feeling. Another one of these shots is used in a more comical way, such as the scene on Halloween and ET is disguised as a ghost under a bedsheet, and the camera looks through two holes in a piece of cloth.
There are many shots towards the end of the film of action, we see long continuous shots of the escape with ET on the bikes, as well as short choppy ones to imitate the urgency, importance and danger they were facing. In one of these shots Spielberg uses the camera to mark short jumps closing in on Elliot's face, as he realises they are about to be caught. This makes the audience realise with him that he will be captured and ET will not be able to go home.
“Enough cannot be said for John Williams’ score, which stands as a model of film composing–although it is almost continually present it’s also practically unnoticeable, so well does it both complement and further the events onscreen.” (McCarthy, 1982)
The soundtrack to the film is very dramatic, with pieces of music that swell and escalate as more happens on screen. This really helps the film in terms of it being emotional, it is a hugely emotional film and the music adds atmosphere and tells us what to feel and when.

Figure 1:, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].
Figure 2:, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].
Figure 3:, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].
McCarthy, T. (1982). Review: ‘E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial’. [online] Variety. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016]., (2016). E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].
Taylor, C. (2016). You can go home again. [online] Salon. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Becky :)
    Just a couple of points... you don't need to italicise the names such as Spielberg and MacDonald, just the film names. Also, you have written about a 'male man' - one or the other would have done! :)