It seems hard to believe, but yesterday (June 11th) was the 30th Anniversary of the release of E.T: The Extra Terrestrial. Was it really three decades ago that the nation was fascinated with this visitor from outer space?
E.T. was a really big deal to me when I was a kid. I was kind of obsessed with it. My mother was pregnant with my brother when the movie opened and I lobbied pretty extensively for him to be named Eliot (I lost). I just thought it would be really cool if he was named after the little boy in the movie AND he would have the initials E.T. Pretty clever for a six year old, especially since I hadn’t even seen the movie yet. That’s right – I wanted my parents to name their youngest child after a movie that I wouldn’t lay eyes on for 4 more months. I was that confident that I would love it. This may have been when my pop culture fixation first became obvious.
I can still remember when I finally got to see it with my mother. We didn’t go to the theater a lot when I was little – we were more drive-in people – so it was a special treat to go. It was especially important to me since after being an only child for so long it was a bit of a culture shock to have a new baby in the house. So some one-on-one time with my mom was something I really craved. For some reason we drove down to Colonie to see the movie at the now razed Northway Mall theater Even though it is only a 30 minute ride, it seemed to take forever. But the unfamiliar location added to the intrigue of the day – not only did I get to see the movie I was dying to see, but I got to do it in an exciting and exotic place (side note – I now live about 5 minutes from the former location of the theater. I can assure you that it is neither exciting nor exotic). Then the unthinkable happened – the movie was sold out! Since I have, you might say, a flair for the melodrama, I can pretty much guess what my reaction was to that news. But after a quick call home to my dad who was home with a newborn, we got tickets to the later show. It was most likely only an hour later, but my memory was that we didn’t see the movie until the middle of night, probably because it got darker earlier in the winter. I remembered this as being an epic all day affair until I fact checked it with my mother.
Once I finally was in the theater, I loved the movie. I wanted my own E.T. to dress up and I remember being very scared in the scene when the government agents swarmed the family home. I thought Gertie was pretty much the bomb and I cried when E.T. finally was reunited with his friends. I was happy he was with his people, but so sad that he was leaving Earth. I knew he wasn’t real, but I wanted him to be.
I haven’t revisited E.T. in a very long time; I’m afraid that it just won’t live up to how magical I remember it as a child. Given my general dislike of Spielberg as an adult, there is a real chance that my tastes have changed too much to still enjoy it. But perhaps it is time to give it another viewing. It is still a movie that I hold near and dear to my heart and I’d like to think that even if it doesn’t quite live up to my memories of it, I will still find a glimmer of the joy I felt the first time I watched it. After all, even 30 years later, I still smile every time I see a pack of Reese’s Pieces.