So, in Ebert's essay, he mentions that the whole movie is from a child's point of view, and that's what makes it so effective. He writes, "But there isn't a single moment when they use grownup talk and explain what they're doing. We only hear small pieces of their dialogue, as Elliott might overhear it" (The Great Movies, 166-167). This is a good point. As an adult, I get it. Or, a sort of adult, an "adult" of my generation who are perpetually indulged in our childhoods. I appreciate what he's saying, but I still don't get it. I don't really yearn for the innocence of Elliott. I don't need a forced perspective to feel like a child again. I can do that when I want, like everyone else my age.
Maybe you need to have felt some sort of sense of awe when you first saw this movie, so you can feel some sort of nostalgia for it? When I first saw this movie, I had already seen Jurassic Park, which I liked a lot more. Despite that fact that it was more violent, it made sense to me. I loved dinosaurs, they were my hobby - I had tons of dinosaur toys, read dinosaur books, and went to see them at museums. The idea of a dinosaur park was awesome. They looked awesome! I felt in awe when they were revealed for the first time. And the plot made sense. I understood that dinosaurs were marauding killing machines. Of course they would escape the park and try to murder everyone. That's what they did! I couldn't understand E.T. Why was he dying? Why was he making Elliott die? Why were those weird men letting them die? Why was the Mom so mean and trampy? I could understand dinosaurs being bad, but understanding people being bad was a harder concept to me. People were nice, right? Right?
Watching it now, I'm smart enough to understand that the men are supposed to be confusing. Elliott doesn't know they are from the government, and so kids (as viewers) don't either. It's realistic, but it's also what made it so upsetting for me as a child. It's not like I had some sort of conception of the government, or even, honestly, "bad men". I get it. I just don't like it. Ebert got to watch it with his genius grandchildren who are able to not have overly emotional reactions to things. I think the effect he felt from watching it with children would have been diminished had he watched it with me as a child, sobbing hysterically and trying to hide under a blanket.
I feel like it's a movie that should make me nostalgic for my youth, but it didn't. It made me want to watch other movies that I felt were important to my childhood. Jurassic Park makes me nostalgic for my youth. It's where I first was introduced to the wonders of Jeff Goldblum, which started a life-long obsession. I saw my favorite creatures come to life. I saw a cool looking young girl acting pretty badass. Anthony said it made him want to watch the Spielberg movies that he liked more when he was younger, like Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There's either something to my dislike of E.T., or we're both just equally weird. Which is is very likely possibility.
If you liked this movie as a kid and want to feel like a kid again, rent it and check it out. If you're like me where you don't feel too impressed by it for whatever reason, you can come over to my house. We can watch Jurassic Park and Jaws and Jumanji and we will have the best night. I promise.
Roger Ebert's Great Movie Essay on E.T.