Tuesday, July 20, 2010

E.T. Go Home!

After Speilberg created his classic science fiction film in 1977, Close Encounters, I remember having high hopes for what seemed to be his next big sci-fi film, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, in 1982. After all, Spielberg had up until then a great track record in Hollywood. In addition to CE3K, he had produced a wildly successful monster thriller (Jaws), and an equally successful adventure film (Raiders of the Lost Ark). What could go wrong?

Well, instead of a science fiction film, I found myself watching what seemed like a kid's film about a family that finds a pet and takes it home. So the pet happened to be an alien, it was still nothing more than watching a Saturday film festival by Disney. For quite some time afterward, I struggled to understand where its popularity came from. It made more money than Star Wars! (On only 75% of the actual ticket sales - that's hyperinflation for you!). Both the critics and the audiences loved it. Just read through this synopsis to get an idea of the response at the time. Was it because of all the little kids that thought he was a cute alien? Was I, at 16, outside the targeted demographic? Strangely, however, there was never a sequel like with the other franchises mentioned above.

Although E.T. often gets voted into lists of the best sci-fi movies ever (and #1 in the Rotten Tomatoes poll), I can't even see this as falling under the category. The same goes for Back to the Future. These are family films that borrow some concepts from the genre but have no intention of taking the subject matter seriously. Yes, I am somewhat of a purist at heart, but that's part of why I started the blog. Whatever gets distilled out here helps me both understand and share with others this love of something that's just difficult to put a finger on. Perhaps someday I will watch it again as an adult, without expectations, and actually enjoy it, but only as a nice family film.

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