Although I saw its rip-off Mac and Me for free at the cinema in 1989 (unless you count the cola I bought to drink for the full viewing experience), until today I had never watched E.T.
In fact, after spotting space's most famous extra-terrestrials making a cameo appearance in The Phantom Menace last April, I had half a mind to delay watching this entry into the Star Wars universe until when it chronologically comes - at the end, concurrent with Airplane II. (Star Wars has always been set "A long time ago")
While such tenuous links are among the things that I look for in SF to enjoy, in this case I'm glad I didn't. For Star Wars is explicitly and repeatedly stated to be a work of fiction within ET's universe.
I mean the only way that I can think of to reconcile those two opposing tensions would be to also wedge Paul in there too, and argue for his selling the true story of Star Wars to George Lucas as fiction in the 1970s. Yes, it's a good thing that I'm not that sort of reviewer. Which, as already stated, I've spent the past 32 years not being.
Greg: "Well, can't he just beam up?"
Elliot: "This is reality Greg."
In fact, even after my long-play VHS of ITV1 this evening had warmed up and started projecting, for a while there I felt as though I were still not quite watching this film. For the first nine minutes it's hard to clearly make out ANYONE, as both the aliens themselves are hidden from our view, and so are all the humans. There are some trees, and silhouettes, and mist, but even these are vague. And no, I don't think using short-play would have helped, nor even 35mm.
The plot, as you may know, involves the 'titular' 'E.T.' (we never learn his real name, or even if his race have them) getting left behind on Earth and falling in with a crowd of kids. Those darned shadowy authorities aren't far behind though (we see them from behind a lot), and it isn't that long before they're advancing upon the children's home and proving by their actions that they never got that science lesson at school about chloroform.
In a scene that is played brilliantly for all it's worth, E.T. dies. I mean yes, he does come back to life for no explained reason afterwards, of course he does, it's a movie, but in 1982 this was before that had become such a staple of the formula.
E.T. also reveals that he can fly. Well, he really should have remembered this ability in scene one when he had to rush back to his spaceship - it would have saved everyone so much angst.
Overall, although I don't dispute E.T.'s standing as a classic, I'm afraid I never really engaged with it. He is brilliantly realised, and yes I did start to feel sorry for him right from that opening, but I'm ashamed to admit that I just didn't care much for the kids, or their mom. I'm also glad that they kept his speech to such a minimum, endowing him with clumsy Mr Bean-like qualities to make us like him.
I remember getting some 3D E.T. tie-in marketing as a kid, which at the time I perceived as connected to the planned sequel, but in the end such a follow-up never landed.
How ironic that, in real life, E.T. actually did get left alone.