E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
seen on TV @ GMC
Okay, if you have warm fuzzy memories of E.T. and don't want them ruined, you'd better skip this post, because I'm about to rip it to shreds. Consider yourself warned.
Let's begin with the aliens - might as well call them ETs - and their mission to Earth. They're intelligent enough to build a spaceship in the first place, so it's safe to assume they're no dummies. Let's also assume that they're benign and weren't planning on nuking us Independence Day-style. It looked like they were on a basic survey mission, but why weren't they more covert about it? If they weren't interested in observing the dominant life form on this planet, well, fine - they probably studied our communication networks and thought we were primitive savages - but if that's true, then why settle down within the vicinity of a highly populated area? They couldn't have gone someplace much more remote? Didn't they equip their vessel with some kind of shuttlecraft? Or a cloaking device? If all they wanted to do was make a simple scientific study, they really should've been more cautious. They had to know sentient life forms were around and that they could potentially discover them.
Next: if you're organizing a landing party, why do you not give your unit communication devices of some sort? Whoever led that away team should've been reamed by his or her CO for not only forgetting something so basic, but for being forced to leave a crewman behind. That's just sloppy work.
Then there's our boy, ET himself. Telekinetic, some kind of projecting empath, with tactile healing abilities and who knows what else - he should not have been nearly as helpless as he seemed. We don't know the full extent of his abilities, so maybe he wasn't powerful enough to uproot entire trees and toss them at the humans about to discover their party, but he could've at least chucked branches and rocks and stuff, enough to buy him and his team enough time to re-board their ship and get the hell outta Dodge. Slow as the ETs are, however, they would've needed a whole lot of time - which makes me wonder what the evolutionary advantages are in a species that developed feet but not legs. Then again, maybe their powers evolved as a means of compensation, assuming ET is not unique. Anyway...
Like I said, we don't know if all ETs can do what our hero can, but he doesn't strike me as being all that bright anyway. I suppose it's possible that he was the ET equivalent of Mot the barber instead of Commander Riker, but if so, then, what was he doing on the away team? (Actually, I remember reading the novelization of E.T. and as I recall, he was a botanist.) Once he was stranded on Earth, his priorities should be to learn the native language and figure out a way to contact his people, which he does, though not before getting drunk on crappy beer and hiding in children's closets.
So ET builds a radio transmitter of some sort out of a Speak-n-Spell, a buzzsaw, and some other crap. Fine, I'll buy it. We've seen this sort of thing before, though I would've found higher ground to set up the device. What exactly happens to him afterward? Elliot wakes up out in the woods and ET's gone. Why did he leave? And how did he get sick? Huge plot hole that's never adequately explained.
Finally, after a whole lotta other stuff, the ETs return for their missing crewman. Where were they? Surely they didn't scarper back to the homeworld. They knew they were missing someone (at least I sure hope they knew - maybe I'm overestimating their intelligence after all); the least they should've done was remain in orbit around Earth until a window of opportunity opened up for them to retrieve him - and this is where a shuttlecraft would've really come in handy.
Also, what about the G-man? After all the effort he and his people went through to surveil and study ET, he makes no effort at all to try and pursuade ET to stay? He said that meeting aliens is something he had dreamed of since he was Elliot's age. I think a bit more could've been done with his character.
I realize that none of this matters that much in the end because of the kind of story that Steven Spielberg was trying to tell (for instance: no clear shots of adults' faces other than that of Elliot's mom - something I never noticed until yesterday), but he could've given much more thought to the ETs - specifically, what kind of beings they are and what their purpose on Earth was. I think if E.T. had been released today, it would still be a big hit, but because geekdom has become a much bigger thing than it was 30 years ago, I think it's fair to say that a small segment of the audience (read: people like me) would look at it with a more critical eye.
Kudos to GMC for airing the original version of the film, not the bastardized one where Elliot and friends are chased by feds with walkie-talkies instead of guns.
(My idea for the sequel, which will never happen but it's an idea I've had in my head for years: Elliot grows up to become an astronaut. Some spatial anomaly throws his ship off course and he lands on ET's planet, making him the extra-terrestrial now. Drew Barrymore makes a cameo appearance as Gertie at the end, welcoming Elliot back to Earth.)