Fante’s Inferno revisits the films of the Summer of 1982, considered the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Release date: June 11, 1982
Directed by Steven Spielberg; Screenplay by Melissa Mathison
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Robert McNaughton
See the original trailer here.
How is it Labor Day already? Seems like just last week I was writing my first post on the Summer of ’82 and screening Conan the Barbarian!
I’ve been putting off writing this post for as long as possible this past week. Over the last two months I’ve had such a great time revisiting the films of the Summer of ’82, that (like summer vacation) I didn’t want it to end. This retrospective has brought me back to one of the most memorable summers of my youth, almost as if I’ve been living the summers of 1982 and 2012 in parallel.
Looking back at the lineup of movie releases that summer was mind boggling. It’s only fitting that I wrap up my personal journey through the films of the Summer of ’82 with that summer’s mega-blockbuster: Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. was one of the only films I had to stand in line halfway down the block for during its opening weekend. The buzz in the lobby really made it feel like an event, and if I remember correctly our local theater booked E.T. into two of its four screens, a rarity back then. The crowd was an mix of kids, teenagers and adults, which was a testament to how Steven Spielberg was able to make E.T. accessible across generations. A couple of posts back I compared Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to the cleanup hitter on a baseball team. Even though Khan is my favorite film from the Summer of ’82, Spielberg’s record breaking E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial would be the League MVP based on its phenomenal box office that year ($359 million in North America, $619 million worldwide).
E.T. is one of those movies that had each element hit the right note to create a flawless film. Screenwriter Melissa Mathison used elements from Spielberg’s unproduced project Night Skies in her screenplay, and wove together the themes of isolation, loneliness and friendship to create a story filled with characters that are more than just caricatures to support the cute little alien. Spielberg brought out fantastic performances in the young cast led by Henry Thomas as Elliot and supported by Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore as his siblings Michael and Gertie. And who could forget John Williams’ incredible and inspiring score?
As much as I enjoyed E.T. when it was originally released, I thought that I was a bit too old for it at the time, which is strange when you consider Henry Thomas was also 10 when he played Elliot. At that young age I was on a steady diet of science fiction films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and Outland. I chuckled when I watched the scene of Elliot’s brother and his friends playing a game that looked similar to Dungeons & Dragons at the beginning of the film. My first thought was “Looks like those guys are playing Basic D&D. Hmmmph, we play Advanced D&D!”
When E.T. was re-released in theaters in 2002, several of my friends who were also in their 30’s at that time had planned on seeing it as a group after work one night. I thought about joining them, but at the time I had a feeling that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the film with the same enthusiasm at age 30. Even though I now disagree with that original sentiment, I’m glad I didn’t watch E.T. ten years ago because it may have tainted my opinion of it during this retrospective on the Summer of ’82. And so at age 40 I watched E.T. in the spirit of my ten year old self and enjoyed it even more.