After I don’t know how many years I re-watched E.T. the extra-terrestrial, the legendary Steven Spielberg movie which came out in 1982 (the same year in which a much more evil extra-terrestrial came out, that is John Carpenter’s The Thing!). Do you remember the plot of E.T.? A U.F.O. is on Earth to do some research, probably, but in order to escape a group of humans it takes off in a hurry leaving one of the crew on the planet. The extra-terrestrial is found by a young boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas), who does everything in his power to send it back safe and sound. And he succeeds.
I know that it sounds too simplistic, but in fact the plot is really simple. It’s linear, the good guys are good and the bad guys are… well, not that bad! That’s pure 80s’ Spielberg, and he even said it himself in various interviews: this is a film made to spend two quiet hours feeling good with your family and getting to the ending with a smile. Even Elliott’s eldest brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) is not a bully and helps his little brother, something unheard of in an 80s’ movie (see The Goonies, for instance)!
The film shows us how the friendship between Elliott and the alien develops, with various humorous sketches in which the latter stumbles and falls into the bathtub, and the mother incredibly manages not to see him even if he walks awkwardly around the house. And then suddenly both the alien’s and Elliott’s health worsens (for reasons not well defined by the plot), triggering the final part of the movie in which E.T. is saved by its people and goes home. Love and friendship can solve everything! In short, for me it’s an acceptable film, nothing more, and it has to be acknowledged that it had a HUGE success. But… oh yes, there is a “but”.
I saw the “20th Anniversary Edition” because it’s the one that I inadvertently bought on DVD. What a mistake… It starts with Spielberg explaining that he has ENHANCED the film because, for example, when E.T. spoke the movement of his lips was not perfect, and then thanks to computer animation (2002 computer animation, mind you) he managed to correct these mistakes. He’s lying! Spielberg went far beyond correcting small flaws! In many scenes he put a horribly-looking CGI E.T. over the wonderful puppet made and animated by Carlo Rambaldi (who also won an Oscar for his work), managing to completely destroy his movie. The new scenes with CGI E.T. are horrendous, they are extremely distracting, and the new E.T. has nothing to do with the old, it looks like a cartoon. The initial scene in the cornfield is embarrassing, as are all the other scenes in which the alien’s eyes open so much that all of a sudden the movie looks like a Looney Tunes cartoon. And then what about the walkie talkies superimposed on the police officers’ guns, which South Park has already ridiculed in the fantastic Free Hat episode? There must have been a CGI-fever virus in those early 2000s, the same that hit George Lucas unfortunately…
So, how to conclude? Instead of leaving me between the indifferent and the slightly satisfied (in the end it’s a simple fable, and Spielberg never wanted to make anything more than that), the viewing left me with a bitter taste for the disservice to the spectator made by this horrible re-edition. If I were Carlo Rambaldi I would pay a visit to Spielberg to break an E.T. puppet on his head. Ciao!
PS: it’s tragicomic that the innocent and pure sister of the film is none other than Drew Barrymore, who entered a drug detox center at the tender age of 13!