E.T. was the highest grossing film of all time when it was released. It held that record for ten years. Then Jurassic Park ousted it. It could be that I'm writing this the day after the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon but there is something so calming about the fact that for a decade American's favorite film was a film devoid of violence. It was a film about friendship. About family. About helping a stranger.
There are a lot of great parallels between E.T. and Close Encounters. Namely the idea that at least for some people, discovering a being from another world isn't a cause for alarm. Sure, in E.T. the government does pose much more of a threat than they do in Close Encounters but what I find so wonderful about E.T. is that ultimately it's not the government thats the problem. It's more generally adults. E.T. is a film told almost entirely from a child's perspective. Spielberg utilizes numerous low angle POV shots to illustrate this. Though it was many years earlier I saw a lot of Terrance Malick's Tree of Life in much of this film's cinematography. Though Tree does a better job of portraying the beauty and energy of a child's view, E.T. managers to portray the sometimes terrifying nature of being surrounded by people who control you simply because they're larger. Spielberg never over complicates this issue either. Almost every adult is wearing a mask in this film. And it's perfect. Almost no individual adult is important save for Elliot's mother and possibly one of the scientists that gets involved. Masking the adults, whether it be literally or in shadow, is the perfect way to turn them into agents of evil without having to show any kind of violence.
The story in E.T. is over simplified but I really feel it does nothing to soften the film. Instead it just supports the claim that the film is about and for children. A child wouldn't find out everything he could about a new friend's home-world or genetic make up. He'd simply want to spend time with them. I really can't fight with E.T. on any level. It's a wonderful film with a great message with one of the most touching conclusions I've ever seen. I hand it to Steven Spielberg for keeping the film as innocent as a child.