I’m sure everyone has heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. So I figure if you take a 90 minute film at 24 frames per second, that film should be worth 129.6 million words. There’s no way I can write that many words about one movie, so I figure it’s easier to just write a thousand words about one picture from one movie. And that’s what I’m going to do.
The first picture I am going to write about is the shot from E.T. The Extraterrestrial. If you’ve seen the movie or simply seen any poster or cover of it, you more than likely know the one I’m talking about. If not I’ll provide the picture, of course.
This one shot is probably one of the most iconic and immediately recognizable shots ever. It is also a great one. I couldn’t think of a better one to talk about first.
To say a thousand words about just one photo, I’ll talk about the events up to, during, and after that shot in the movie, why that one shot is so great, and maybe find some deeper meanings within it. I remember doing that in high school, and telling myself I would never analyze a picture like that again. A picture is just a picture. But we never looked at E.T., just a painting with melting clocks or something. So if my high school English teacher is reading this, I hope you’re proud of me.
The one thing I believe makes this moon shot so great is that it sticks with you. That is also a credit to the story created by Steven Spielberg that makes you feel like a kid again, and is magical to see as a kid. Once E.T. and Elliot ride off that cliff and onto the air, the John Williams score plays, and we see the huge moon in the backdrop, that scene sucks you up, making you forget everything around you. It’s one of the best feelings you can get while watching a movie, and just as effective no matter what age you are. I can watch that movie and get just as much out of it as when I was a child. And that’s not just nostalgia either. My dad who saw it for the first time as an adult probably likes it just as much as I do. I wish I could remember my first time seeing that scene and being able to tell what I was feeling then.
Looking at it as one picture, one shot from the movie, it holds up as being magnificent all by itself. All the light seemingly coming from the moon displays the silhouettes of E.T. and Elliot sharply against the gigantic moon. I have no idea how they set up the moon to look like that; it probably wasn’t hard, but it was extremely effective. Or at least a lot more than Jim Carrey doing it in Bruce Almighty. It also suggests to the audience how high above the world they are flying. From what we can see in the movie, they are not very far from the ground (you can see the ground in the shot), but that shot makes you believe they are. It defies logic by awing you and filling you with wonder. E.T. is an alien, so why wouldn’t he be able to fly wherever he wants. Flying on a bike is definitely something Elliot had never experienced before, so he probably felt like he was flying into space or right next to the moon. That shot captures what it is like to imagine and believe the impossible.
I mentioned before how E.T. is just as good when you’re an adult. I think the shot and scene surrounding it is a metaphor for how we experience this movie. Elliot is about to go off the cliff on his bike, but just before, E.T. makes the bike fly as they glide to safely to the other side. E.T. was there for Elliot when he needed. Just like E.T., this movie will always be there for us. It never overstay its welcome, it is one that you can grow up with, and grow old with.
If you’ve seen E.T., you know that E.T. makes the bikes fly again in the chase scene. You are not surprised by this because you saw it happen, but once they take off, you are just as excited and transfixed to the screen.
This is clearly not a simple shot put together to connect scenes, it is a lot more significant as I’ve described. What I want to know is, what was the inspiration for that particular shot, and who came up with the idea? Was it Spielberg himself, cinematographer, Allen Daviau, or someone else who just thought of a cool looking shot that elevated the scene to a magical level?
Such an iconic shot has of course been referenced and spoofed many times. I know that Cars and Last Action Hero have both recreated the shot in their own way, and I’m sure The Simpsons have spoofed it once before. Like I said, it more recognizable than almost any shot. People who haven’t seen E.T. have heard of it because of seeing just the picture of E.T. and Elliot.
I’ve said just about 1000 words on this picture and how it has become an icon in pop culture, reminding us of the great film, E.T. The Extraterrestrial. It is a single shot that will live forever, and not be forgotten any time soon. It’s been months since I last saw E.T. Life can be hard and stressful for everyone. Out of the many things that E.T. can offer its audience, the one thing it does best for us is at offering us an escape. We can leave our daily lives for two hours, cry, laugh, and cheer for the friendship between a boy and an alien. So I encourage everyone to join me, grab some Reese’s Pieces, and watch E.T.