Elliott, his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore, displaying impeccable comic timing at age 6) truly believe in this creature. It makes absolute sense to them that he’d show up and be their friend. Why shouldn’t he be able to cobble together a phone using a Speak and Spell, a coat hanger, a record player and a fork? This was the childlike wonder of early Spielberg. This was the optimism of the decade. Anything seemed possible.
“E.T.” similarly looks very of-its-time technically — and that includes some forgivably cheesy green screen during the flying scenes. As in Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the effects have a quaint tangibility. Today, E.T. would be rendered with CGI or performance capture. It would probably be in 3-D.
Thomas himself told me recently that only now, at 41 with three kids of his own, can he finally appreciate the film’s enduring nature.
“It’s my great hope that the message of compassion and friendship, and that kind of being a universal thing that crosses all boundaries — that, to me, is the great thing about the film and the reason it’s stuck with audiences for so long.”