The overwhelming feeling I still have when watching E.T. is a sense of wonder. I think this is why the film spent 16 weeks at the top of the box office, and had the longest theater run in history.
For me, the film’s key theme was the struggle between curiosity and fear. This began with the clear reverence that E.T. and its species had for the natural bounty of our planet, which seemed linked to their ability to connect with and regenerate living things. There is a clear environmental message buried there. It continued with Elliott’s natural fear when faced with something completely foreign, only to be replaced by youthful exuberance to understand and teach E.T. Finally, it’s capped by the curiosity of scientists as juxtaposed with the fear of the military – which leads to a wonderful chase sequence that ends magically with a squad of flying BMX bikes!
It still makes me cry when E.T. dies, telling Elliott: “I’ll be right here.”
In the end, what is so compelling about this classic film is the sense of kindness that embodies Elliott in his efforts to help E.T. get home. Compassion is felt so deeply by most young children, yet it diminishes in most of us as we get older. This is one reason I like “Keys,” the scientist empathetically played by Peter Cayote, so much. Now that I’m a grown-up, he feels like a real role model. I will close with my favorite line from the entire film (even more than “it was nothing like that, Penis Breath!”). As Elliott lies on a gurney and E.T. is fading, Keys tells him: “I’m glad he met you first.”