Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Monday, 24 June 2013

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Whew, this one. Before viewing it for this review I hadn't seen this movie for about 25 years. Why? Well, this scared me as a small child. I'm not sure why this and the old Superman cartoons frightened me while the original Star Wars trilogy inspired me. So, after avoiding it for a quarter of a century, what did I think?

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is Spielberg's most main stream alien movie.

An alien is left behind on earth and is discovered by a young boy. The boy shelters the alien and the two learn from each other. However, a devoted scientist is tracking the alien. Soon it becomes adult versus child as E.T. must find his way home before he's tracked down by the government.

I can definitely see what frightened me about it. At various points, E.T., the scientist and the police are all depicted as fairly menacing. The story itself isn't the best managed. The psychic link developed between E.T. and Elliott would have been incredibly interesting if it weren't brushed over. The friendship between Elliott and E.T. is probably the best thing about the movie. The kids versus adults thing is something that had been done often. The adults come off more ignorant than stupid at least.

Our Heroes
E.T. is a clueless alien from a friendly race who gets stranded on earth. He acts like a child by constantly screaming and flailing. I suppose this is supposed to reflect his otherworldliness and make him endearing. It didn't have that effect on me. When he isn't acting like a child off ritalin, he becomes more tolerable. I'm refering to the part where he gets drunk of course.

Elliott is the little boy who discovers E.T. hiding in his shed. Elliott is awkward and so nerdy it hurts even me. In Elliott's first scene his brother and friends won't let him into their way cool Dungeons and Dragons game. Either Dungeons and Dragons was waaaaaaaaaay cooler in the 80s or Elliott is incredibly pathetic. He's at his best when he gets sympathetically drunk.

Gawking Observers
The little sister is pretty obnoxiously cute. Mind you tiny Dre Barrymore is preferable to the adult version, at least I think so. Naturally she makes the biggest actual breakthroughs with E.T.

The older brother is an incredibly cheesy eighties cool. He sort of picks on his younger siblings while acting like everything he does is awesome.

Their mother is overworked and oblivious to most of what her children are doing. It's played for comedy, though it does get somewhat ridiculous.

Suburban Atmosphere
Ah, suburban Southern California, I know it well. There are certain waves of nostalgia that flow through me when it shows their rooms and neighborhood. Simpler times.

In the End
Deus Ex Machina! Chase! Awkwardly slow farewell. Seriously, take the music away from the last scene and it is painfully slow. However, as cheesey and overly emotional as it gets, it is a satisfying ending.

I know I've been hard on this movie, but it's not bad. It is a simple film about accepting others for who they are. It could have been tighter and used its concepts better. However, I must say that I can see why its a much beloved classic. Oh and no, I'm not scared of E.T. anymore, though it'll probably be another 25 years before I decide to re-watch it. Stay way from the 20th anniversary edition where they added some horrible CG faces to E.T. That is scary.

The next film on the Spielberg list is one that defined my childhood in a more positive light: Jurassic Park.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a semi-remake of Spielberg's first film Firelight, which is now lost.

Scientist Claude Lacombe encounters a group of fighter pilots from World War II mysteriously dropped into the desert. They haven't aged a day. A child's toys all turn on at once and he wanders outside. His mother chases after him. Electrician Roy Neary has his face partially sunburnt when brightly lit objects flies over his truck at night. Soon, those that saw the objects are plagued by visions of a mountain.

Close Encounters is an unconventional story. It still has the hallmarks of a narrative, but it keeps you guessing as to what and why the characters do what they do. Even by the end the alien intentions are still mysterious. The glue of the story is the passion held by the characters to discover why they can't get the mountain out of their heads.

Invited Guests
Roy Neary is an electrician who enjoys modeling and sculpting in his spare time. He has a wife and three kids, but family life has begun to wear him down. After seeing the ships, he becomes increasingly unstable. His obsession drives his wife and kids away and he's left with nothing, but his desire to get the image of a ship out of his mind. This decline eventually draws him to the next stage in his life.

Janine Guiler's son being abducted by the aliens is the catalyst to her journey. In a lesser story there might be a romance between her and Roy, but not this one. Her only goal is to save her son and Roy is the only one willing to help her. Janine proves to be a capable woman and is even more willing to deal with the insanity going on than Roy's wife.

Claude Lacombe is a scientist who has been on the trail of aliens for years. He has finally managed to figure out where the aliens want to meet. After meeting with Roy and Janine he becomes sympathetic to their cause, but he can't aid them on their journey.

Uninvited Guests
The Military is not really a villain per se. Their desire is to prevent panic and be sure that the aliens are actually harmless. It's nice to see that in an alien film, since most of time the military is evil.

Unidentified Flying Objects
The Aliens are more an unknown force with little known motive or reasoning. They manage to be jovial and friendly in one scene, threatening during Barry's abduction, and serene during the climax.

The film is beautifully shot from suburban Indiana to the middle of Wyoming as is to be expected from Steven Spielberg. The alien ships are amazing. The brightly lit shapes in prime colors give off a vibe that has come to be recognized as futuristic.

In the End
The climax is a bit confusing. The film has a tremendously positive perspective on human acceptance. Roy's actions come off as strange, though after what he's put through it isn't that surprising.

This is a prime example of a film that succeeds despite the lack of a primary antagonist. The story could best be described as man vs. the unknown. I think the humor laced through helps hold the confusing bits together. Roy's story is one of never being to old to be inspired and try new things, though they may leave your old life in shambles. THis is a must see for fans of science fiction.

I'll continue next time with another alien film: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.