Released when I was six months old, I can recall E.T. being a big deal. Not so much from its theatrical release (again, I was a baby), but from the VHS home video release. My mother worked at Blockbuster Video (huzzah!) at the time and she brought it home. I can assume my parents saw it, but I remember being bombarded with commercials. Being six years old in 1988 and knowing that it had aliens in it, I just had to see it. I was awestruck by it at the time, though it never was my favorite (that would be Star Wars, naturally). Over the years, I’ve come to love it more and more each time I watch it. There’s something timeless about E.T. in that it always stays relevant, no matter where you’re at in life and pieces unlock for you as you do get older. Absolutely wonderful.
E.T. presents a family influx due to divorce. Indeed, the father is only mentioned in how he’s not there (“He’s in Mexico with Sally.”) and in fond remembrance when the boys find his old shirts. Center to all of this is Elliot. He’s personally at a crossroads. He’s not a teen like his brother Michael nor is he a small child like his sister Gertie. He doesn’t seem to have friends his own age, and Michael’s group treats him as an afterthought: a typical little brother. Their mother Mary tries her very best, but Elliot is largely alone during his ordeal with no one he can relate to, often lashing out in a seemingly self-imposed exile. That’s when he meets the titular alien who had been left behind by its crewmates after a chase from human hunters. E.T., like Elliot, is all alone and trying to make sense in a strange new world. The two quickly bond (quite literally) and their friendship blossoms.
As you all are well aware, the movie is full of magic as only Spielberg can provide, but the scene we’re going to take a closer look at is the final one. The gang and E.T. have just escaped from the scary human government scientists people (ie. adults) and are at the rendezvous point where E.T. phoned home. E.T. says his goodbyes to Michael and Gertie and then it’s time to do the same with Elliot. E.T. asks Elliot to come with it, but Elliot knows he must stay. And it hurts them both (“Ouch”). For Elliot, E.T. gives him purpose. He has a friend who understands him (particularly due to their connection to one another), someone to be loyal to, and something that makes him unique (“He came to me!”). That makes this so much harder as E.T. is another central figure leaving him like his father had done so previously. This time, however, Elliot learns a lesson. No matter who comes in and out of your life for whatever reason, no matter where we go, those people will always stay in our memories and will live forever there. No one is ever truly gone. Changes are apart of life.
The spaceship takes off and we’re shown a symbol of peace: the rainbow. As John Williams’ fabulous score rises, we get a close up of Elliot looking up at the sky. There are tears in his eyes, yes, but there’s also hope to be found in them. He’s forever changed, but he’s ready to take on life. Elliot is going to be okay.
That’s it for this first installment. I hope you all enjoyed this small trip down memory lane and join me again next month for 1983 for a film which I’m sure most of us have seen roughly 100 times at this point. No, really.