E.T. will be arriving soon on Blu-ray, along with Spielberg’s other blockbuster, Jaws.
Yes, the 30th anniversary marking E.T. mania that swept the world is upon us, which helped make it the biggest movie of all time way back when. I remember the insanity over E.T. very well, and how much the film moved people, myself included, but how does it hold up today?
Andrew Niccol, the writer / director of Gattaca and the upcoming adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s The Host, believes the real reviews for movies are written five to ten years after they hit theaters, and it makes me think of The Shining, which was originally panned - yet is now hailed as a flawed masterpiece, similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which got steamrolled by E.T. in the summer of ’82, but is now more popular than ever.
As Carpenter said after The Thing got trounced, with E.T. people wanted an uplifting cry, and that’s what The Thing obviously didn’t deliver. What was also remarkable about E.T. in its time was how even with Spielberg’s track record it seemingly came out of nowhere with no pre-release expectations, and went on to become a huge phenomenon. With movies being hyped so far in advance these days, it seems films that come out of nowhere are becoming increasingly rare, and having grown up with seeing this happen with Star Wars, E.T., and The Sixth Sense, to name a few, that’s a darn shame.
As recalled in the book Blockbuster, E.T. wasn’t opened in tons of theaters, just 1,100 theaters at first, as Spielberg wanted word of mouth to bring people in. "That was the entire logic behind the campaign," he said. "There is something beyond the five senses that gets into the air that becomes a collective national curiosity. With very little advertising, and very little indication of what E.T. was ever going to be about, we sneak-previewed that film in about five theaters and we sold them all out. You’ve got to give the public credit for being able to sniff it out. They can smell it faster than we can sell it."
Yet as we’ve seen with the re-release of Titanic proved, a lot of times we can get caught up in the emotional pull of a film, and quickly grow out of it. As acclaimed as E.T. was back in its time, it doesn’t seem to have much of a second life today. Not having seen it in years myself, I’ve caught bits and pieces of it on TV over the years, and it’s certainly still a well made film. (Whatever you think of Spielberg’s work, the guy absolutely knows how to make a movie). I’m just not sure if it can grab people today like it did back in its time.
You may recall some years back E.T. came out on DVD, where Spielberg added a few things, and even debated taking out a throw away line about a kid dressed up like a terrorist on Halloween because it may have been in bad taste right after 9-11. Then again, Spielberg doesn’t monkey with his movies anymore, as he went through his Lucas phase with the special edition of Close Encounters years back already.
And with E.T. coming back to celebrate its 30th anniversary, as well as Universal’s 100th anniversary, it will be interesting to see the film on its own merits past all the insane hype and hoopla. Because after all, once all the hype and hoopla disappears, all that’s left is the work itself, which then will stand or fall on its own merits.