The usual themes, childhood isolation and the collapse of the nuclear family, explored through the relationship between human and extraterrestrial. Spielberg uses this idea to craft a moving, intimate, often claustrophobic film (about the clash between 'belief' and cynicism) that is also genuinely surreal; the apocalyptic imagery contrasting against the suburban American setting to create a sense of real danger.
It nearly defies belief that the highest grossing film of the 1980's could feel this intimate, this personal. While it's now a cliche to compare a movie to a roller coaster ride, the screenplay oscillates between a sense of hope and sadness in a way that mirrors the journey of our own lives. Clearly an autobiographical endeavor for Spielberg, at its core "E.T." is one of the greatest films ever made about loneliness.
"Back to the river! Back to the forest!" Sublime hokum from the golden age of science fiction, otherwise known as my own childhood (maybe yours, too), E.T. overwhelms the wonder receptors in the brain, turning susceptible viewers into weeping, grinning, dopey miracles of the human spirit. Want a Coke? Don't ruin it.
Like most of Spielberg’s work, ET restores a sense of childhood wonder. This mode becomes both text and subtext, and informs the film’s visual style and sentimental machinations. ET doesn't undercut this systematic naivety with the cynicism of adulthood, but respects the emotional experience of childhood, its joys, fears, and its own unique wisdom. http://filmcapsule.com/2014/06/30/e-t-the-extra-terrestrial-1982/
Well, I do like the scene when the house is covered (contained) with plastic, or whatever that is. All the other stuff, when I was a kid, the finger, the fact that the alien looked like a sick old man all the time, made out of rubber made me not like the film. But I did like the other alien movie that Spielberg did, way cooler: Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Spielberg brings together elements from both religious myth and childhood experiences of loss and loneliness, then weaves them into a modern fairy tale of alien visitation. It's a potent combination: the entire piece feels like a profound exercise in emotional catharsis, made all the more powerful by his extraordinary ability to integrate humour and adventure. An extraordinary achievement.