Forum feature: ET The Extra-Terrestrial

Arguing for one boy and his alien.

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Welcome to SciFiNow’s long-running feature that gives you the chance to vote for the greatest sci-fi film of all time. Every issue for the next ten months the industry’s best writers will campaign for their favourite film from a shortlist of ten, with our readers ultimately deciding which film deserves the accolade of Greatest Sci-Fi Film Of All Time.

Today, Amy Squibb argues the case for Steven Spielberg’s ET The Extra-Terrestrial.

ET_nose_touching_rgbAs Hollywood’s most famous alien first uttered the words “E.T. phone home”, his brown, wrinkly finger pointing its way into our hearts, one of the most iconic phrases in Hollywood history was born, and along with it, one of the most enchanting children’s movies ever took its place as a true sci-fi sensation.

Upon reading E.T.’s famous words, you have no doubt been whisked away to memories of your first encounter with this mesmerising moment, and it’s a heart-warming and happy place that we would all like to bask in for a while. That’s the thing about E.T.: it is universally appealing. There’s no division of fans along the lines of the great Star Wars vs Star Trek debate; you all love this little alien, and there’s absolutely no denying it.

A moving tale of an abandoned space creature who forms a bond with a young boy, Elliott, Spielberg’s story captured audiences both young and old, as the public embraced E.T. to the tune of a $793 million worldwide gross. With such a massive taking, it became the highest earning film of all time at that point, and bagged itself four Academy Awards to boot. In a decade where kids’ movies were not exactly raking in massive box office figures, E.T. proved that a high quality, highly profitable children’s flick could be made, paving the way for entries like WALL•E and Shrek to blast their way into our lives. Without E.T. we certainly would not have some of the most loved films of our times.

But what is it precisely that makes me love Spielberg’s masterpiece so much? Well, that little creature with an unusually extendable neck to start with. As the film opens, with flashlights penetrating the darkness, an alien hand curling slowly around the side of an old shed and the audience on tenterhooks as to what devilish delight could be out there, the tension is shattered when we see that this ‘thing’ is just as scared as Elliott himself.

It is testament to the quality of the characterisation that we fall in love with this ugly looking alien, not because he is cute and cuddly like a lot of lazy film critters, but because of his endearing qualities and irrepressible charm. E.T. is far from just a plot device – he is a fully fledged character in his own right and he managed to buck the prevailing trend in Hollywood for showing aliens as some kind of threat.

For more on ET, pedal over to the next page…