05 November 2012

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (starring Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore and Dee Wallace)

I first saw ET when it was first out in the cinema, back in 1982. I had no idea what to expect, but fell quite in love with it. However, although some people went to see it several times, I didn't re-watch it at all. We bought the DVD about eight or nine years ago so that our sons could see it with their friends, and I watched it - or at least half-watched it - about six years ago. Yesterday evening we watched it again with some teenage friends.

The story is well-known: an odd-looking but lovable alien comes to earth to collect some plants, then accidentally gets left behind by his spaceship. He is taken in by a boy called Elliot, played absolutely brilliantly by Henry Thomas. Dubbed ET, the alien and Elliot get to know each other gradually, each developing trust in the other, and sharing an odd kind of psychic link. There's a poignancy in the friendship, as Elliot is a stressed, often lonely boy whose parents have recently separated. He's the middle child of three, teased by his brother (Robert MacNaughton) and sometimes irritated  by his small sister (a very young Drew Barrymore).

Unfortunately ET can't survive for long on earth; we never really discover why in any detail. Worse still, government officials want to capture him, worried about alien contamination, so that in the end the children have to fight to get him away.  I had forgotten most of the details of the story, and enjoyed it very much. I would have liked more scenes with Elliot and ET, and fewer of the later more tense ones that featured fast action - but the whole thing was brilliantly done, directed by Steven Speilburg, with a very moving end.

Supposedly this film is for children, with a PG rating on both sides of the Atlantic. This sounds about right, since it would be fine for many children of about nine or ten and upwards, but it would probably not be understood by much younger ones.

The edition we own is the 20th anniversary one, with an extra CD. We watched the 'creation of ET'afterwards, in which the stars and director were interviewed. It was amazing watching Henry Thomas's audition - his acting and emoting were outstanding for such a young boy - and also very interesting learning how ET himself was made before the days of CGI. The film had been digitally enhanced to take account of modern technology, and clear up a few minor glitches; seeing how it was done was fascinating, and certainly hadn't spoiled the film in any way.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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