Log Line

A young boy attempts to hold onto a friendship that he forms with a creature from another planet.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Melissa Mathison

Director(s): Steven Spielberg

Production Co.(s): Universal Pictures; Amblin Entertainment

In E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the main character, Elliot, is a young boy who lives in a nondescript suburban California house with his older brother, Mike, younger sister, Gertie, and divorced mother, Mary. Although Elliot is not portrayed as a loner, he does not seem to have any close friends outside his family, and he appears to long for the sense of camaraderie that Mike enjoys with his own friends. On the night that we first meet him, in fact, he is attempting to gain admission to a role-playing board game that Mike and his friends are playing in their home.

When the older boys send Elliot outside to receive a pizza delivery, he stumbles onto a discovery that will change his young life. Specifically, he hears a disturbance in the backyard shed, and when he tosses a ball into the shed to investigate the disturbance, the ball rolls back to him, revealing the presence of something or someone inside. The event leads to a flurry of activity as Mike and his friends scramble to search for Elliot's "goblin"—as well as a late-night investigation by Elliot himself that results in a frightening face-to-face encounter with the creature, an extraterrestrial alien (whom Elliot later names "E.T.") who was left behind when the spaceship that was carrying him and his fellows made a hasty liftoff that night in the face of discovery by government agents.

The next day, Elliot goes in search of E.T. and lures him (it) back to his house with candy, eventually leading E.T. into his bedroom, where, the following day, he proceeds to introduce E.T. to elements of his everyday world as an Earth boy. And when Mike and Gertie finally encounter E.T., their initial shock dissolves quickly into sympathy and fascination, and the trio become clandestine helpers for the alien creature.

Ensuing events cement the developing friendship between Elliot and E.T.—a bond that appears to be psychic as well as psychological. And when E.T. expresses the desire to contact his alien cohorts, Elliot and Mike provide him with the materials he needs to do so, devise a ruse to get him safely out of the house, and help transport him to a nearby forest clearing where he can send a clear signal unseen to probing eyes.

The attempt, which does not appear to succeed, takes its toll on the health of both E.T. and Elliot, whose health has been declining since E.T. arrived. And when Mike finds E.T. lying helpless in a gully the next morning, Elliot and E.T. soon find themselves quarantined together in Mary's home by the government agency that has been searching for E.T. ever since the night that he was left behind by his fellow aliens.

As E.T.'s health degenerates further in captivity, so does Elliot's, owing to the psychic bond between them. But when E.T. "dies," the bond is broken, and Elliot's health is restored—as is E.T.'s shortly thereafter when, after Elliot mourns the loss, E.T. receives word from his alien cohorts that they have heard his call and will return for him.

With E.T. restored suddenly to health (unbeknownst to the government agents), Elliot, Mike, and their friends carry out a daring escape and take him back to the forest clearing to rendezvous with his fellow aliens. The final parting is bittersweet for Elliot, who is happy to see E.T. returned to the safety of his ship but sad at the thought of losing the friendship he's come to treasure. But with the simple touch of his finger to Elliot's forehead, E.T. assures Elliot that the friendship will never be lost.

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