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Headscratchers / E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

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  • If E.T. is now Star Wars canon, why didn't he have some sort of blaster that he could use to pulverize his pursuers at the start of the movie, thus ending this thing before it could begin?
    • Er, what? E.T. is Star Wars canon?
      • Technically, yes it is. George Lucas put an envoy of Asogians in the galactic senate in The Phantom Menace as a joke and a Shout-Out to his old mate Stephen Spielberg. As to why ET didn't have a blaster, his race is clearly quite peaceful and even if they did have blasters, a scientist collecting samples probably wouldn't know how to use one.
      • In E.T.: Book of the Green Planet you see that they really are a race of botanists, and ET is pretty young for his race and still lives with his parent.
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    • Better question: Since E.T. is Star Wars canon, what's Elliott doing with Star Wars action figures?
      • That is explainable with the Literary Agent Hypothesis. The events of the Star Wars movies are supposed to be part of a record of events called Journal of the Whills. If we assume that, in the E.T. universe, the Journal of the Whills is real and George Lucas made Star Wars because he read it, the presence of Star Wars action figures makes perfect sense, as does E.T. seemingly recognizing Yoda.
    • ET is Star Wars canon the same way humans are Star Wars canon.
    • Fridge Brilliance: E.T. didn't know it was a kid in a costume and thought it was a legitimate alien. After the events of E.T. happened, the existence of alien life made news. Maybe George Lucas or someone from Lucas Film saw a picture of E.T. and used it as a background character. In their universe the appearance of the aliens is Aluminum Christmas Trees.
  • Since E.T. can make the bicycle fly at the end, why doesn't he use it to fly in the beginning of the film to avoid pursuit?
    • Because he didn't have a bicycle at the beginning of the film.
    • Maybe it takes concentration that is harder while running (not to mention the mindless fear). Sitting in a basket, on the other hand, doesn't tire one out nearly as much, and by then he was more used to the idea of being chased, leaving him with a clear enough mind to pull it off.
      • The novelization claims his growing telekinetic powers are a side-effect of the same process that is killing him.
  • Why in the cosmos did E.T.'s companions abandon him in the beginning? They appeared to be on a scientific expedition. Some local natives find them and start chasing. The rest of the expedition runs back to the ship, leaving one of their own behind. Wouldn't they have done a head count? Haven't they heard of the buddy system? And if they had no reason to wait five seconds for him to get back aboard, why did they come when he "phoned home"? Bunch of jerks.
    • Robot Chicken covered this nicely. He's a retard and they ditched him on Earth b/c they hate him/they really are a bunch of jerks.
    • Robot Chicken aside, your question assumes E.T.'s companions even care they left him behind. Aliens, after all, are aliens. That means an entirely different culture on top of an entirely different anatomy. Just because humans would be reluctant to leave one of their own behind doesn't mean aliens would feel the same ethical/moral obligation.
      • ET may have signed a release saying "if left behind you have X [ET planet] days to call us or you will be assumed dead or captured."
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    • We don't know if earth's scientists have a galactic reputation among aliens - maybe we're the ones doing the "probing".
      • Or maybe we have a reputation for violence. There's no guarantee that the approaching humans won't try to commandeer the spaceship, or start shooting at it and damage something. Maybe they've learned that it's better you leave one of your men behind then leave the highly advanced spaceship in the grubby hands of hairless apes.
    • Eh. The whole "group panics and takes off, not realizing they left someone behind 'til later" is a fairly standard bit, really. Usually done with cars instead of space ships, though.
      • So E.T. is Home Alone 2 with aliens, and Elliot is the homeless pigeon lady?
      • Sadly, they cut the scene where they glued a ton of Reeses Pieces to the scientists and set the aliens on them.
      • This Troper had years of psychological trauma from this damn movie and would like to thank you for crafting a simple sentence that very nearly made him pass out in terror.
      • It would make sense for them to leave behind one to save the rest; maybe a little cold, but who are we to judge? Alternatively, they didn't want their technology to fall into human hands—a biological specimen is bad enough—and since humans were converging on their landing site, having their craft captured was a distinct possibility. After taking off, maybe they just took up a temporary position orbiting Mars or something in the hopes that E.T. would find a way to communicate; in fact, given that this is pretty much what I would do, I'm all but convinced that that's what Spielberg et al meant to imply. (Of course, this again runs into the Blue and Orange Morality issue again...)
      • That would make sense from their point of view. The humans were coming and they couldn't risk letting their ship get captured, so they had to leave without E.T. They then parked behind the moon or somewhere else in the solar system to try to figure out what to do now: even if they knew where he was, once E.T. joined up with Elliot, they couldn't risk exposing themselves by landing in the suburbs to pick him up, so it was up to E.T. to contact them and set up a new rendezvous point.
      • If E.T. is an average specimen of the species, it appears that they have VERY fragile psyches and are prone to panic at the slightest loud noise or any evidence of violence whatsoever. It's entirely possible that they all just panicked. It seems also like they waited for him as long as they could and then the humans got too close and then took off.
      • Imagine a group of scientists in the middle of the Amazonian forest with a helicopter taking botanic samples and then a very primitive and aggressive tribe attacks. They certainly will get away as fast as possible even if that means left one behind (though they may stay close to see if the lost scientist is able to send them smoke signs or something like that to show his position), now put that analogy but with aliens and humans.
  • Obviously this would have made for a much shorter and less interesting movie, but a lot of problems could have been avoided if E.T. and the rest of his field trip companions had taken some sort of communication device with them when they left their ship to walk around alone on an alien planet!
    • Why would they need that ? They're telepaths.
      • So why does ET need to phone home, instead of just communicating telepathically?
      • Range. Can you yell loud enough for someone to hear you 30 miles away? It would be pushing it to assume telepathy works that far.
    • I guess he didn't use a telepathic message to say "Man overboard!" while the ship was taking off, though.
      • Maybe he tried, and they heard and didn't want to risk coming back for him (see above).
    • It's odd, but they're doing a survey on a primitive planet and trying to avoid contact with the locals. They might have deliberately left the ship with zero technology so that, if something went wrong, they wouldn't leave behind anything that humans could find and reverse engineer.
      • Then why couldn't they have done their survey somewhere that wasn't a short bike ride from suburbia? There are plenty of potential plant-collecting sites on the planet where there aren't any people for hundreds of miles.
      • Maybe the particular plant they're studying only grows in that area. There's nothing to say they haven't already been to all the remote locales and, for whatever reason, the one plant that can cure diseases, provide unlimited fuel or otherwise revolutionize their science just happens to be in a populated region.
      • One of them did have some kind of beeping and blinking thing with him, but he was right next to the ship while using it. Also, E.T.'s jerry-rigged communicator was clearly working on regular radio waves like any transmitter we use here on Earth. The only chance humanity would have had of capturing any advanced technology from E.T.'s people was if they could capture the ship itself, which obviously had some kind of advanced hyper-drive to be able to get from one galaxy to another. As for communicators otherwise, their short-range telepathy was sufficient for most situations, just not this one.
  • How do you threaten anyone with a Walkie-Talkie?
    • Have you ever had a Walkie thrown at you? Those things hurt!
    • A Vogon poet could be on the other end!
  • Seriously, who has ever had to dissect a frog when they're in the fifth grade?
    • Moreover, who has ever had to dissect a still-living frog in the fifth grade? The teacher even mentions that the kids will see the frogs' hearts beating when they cut them open!
      • My teacher tells me that schools really did do that in the past. Probably not in the fifth grade, though.
      • They didn't dissect them alive (quite), they dissected them brain-dead. The teacher would "pith" the specimens (= strike their heads to destroy the brain) before passing them out to the students.
      • No would the kids be responsible for euthanizing the frogs!
  • What happened to the kids after E.T. left? They stole a government van, ran from the law, and disobeyed the feds. Did they get in any trouble at all?
    • Maybe. They are children, after all, and the government knows that at least one was in some sort of psychic link with an extraterrestrial being, so they might assume that its influence was on all the kids. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on how much "research" they'd be willing to do to make sure. A hopeful sign: when they believe ET is dead, "Keys" is discussing what will happen to the family with Mary-mainly a rather short period of quarantine before they go on with their lives. A disturbing sign: the use of guns/walkietalkies during the chase. Take your pick.
    • Considering that there were several different kinds of agents in all those scenes, what happened next probably depends on whose jurisdiction won out. Actually, my concern would be what happened with the family due to all the publicity they'd be receiving for having been in contact with an extraterrestrial. "Keys" and the scientists from SETI would probably be able to talk the other government agencies into letting Elliot and Michael and their friends off the hook for stealing that van (especially since it was recovered soon afterward) and evading arrest, but they would probably want to go on monitoring the family and especially Elliot for any lingering effects from E.T.'s empathic influence. Meanwhile, the whole neighborhood saw the home quarantined and Michael's friends in particular are likely to get chatty about their encounter with a real live space alien. What happens when Elliot and his family basically become super-celebrities with their names and faces known to everyone on the planet who has a television (or buys the merchandise some enterprising soul will undoubtedly make from them)? They'll have no more peace and quiet with their fans from all over the world making pilgrimages to their house and neighborhood on top of their own neighbors swarming around to gawk at them, and probably have to move out to some undisclosed location elsewhere under a government witness protection program just to get some semblance of a regular life back. To be sure, the fortune in royalties they'll make from having their likeness next to E.T.'s on that merchandise means their money troubles are over, but the price of that kind of "success" might make them wish they'd never gotten mixed up in this whole First Contact incident.
  • Why did ET and his ship land so close to human development? California has national parks and things, too!
    • Maybe they did it before. Many times, indeed. But this time, they wanted to inspect the flora in that specific area. One that just grew close to the Californians. Perhaps some kind of polluted plant that you cannot find in wild nature, or something like that.
      • Maybe THE ENTIRE experiment was bonding with a human. The "Phone Home" thing was just saying "Ok. Job's done, folks. Now pick me up"
    • It's called "urban sprawl". The plants in question had been there for ages, but the suburbs have been spreading in recent decades. When the alien botanists noticed the area was being encroached upon by human settlements, they shifted that site from "Maybe we'll get around to it three or four years from now" to "Holy ***, we gotta sample that spot right now before somebody builds a shopping mall on it!". Hence, the haste with which they were searching the area, and the sloppy contingency-planning that led to E.T. being left behind when some humans showed up.
  • Why are government agents driving around neighborhoods listening in on conversations? This is like some V for Vendetta level creepy.
    • To hear if anyone was discussing the missing alien that they were searching for and was last known to be in the area— and that's precisely what they found.
  • So why exactly did the first government agents to arrive at the house wear space suits? It makes a sort of sense if they're going for protection from potentially hazardous alien substances, (since they don't know anything about E.T. or his biology and motives at the time) but that being the case, why not hazmat suits like Keys is shown wearing in the next scene when he first enters the house?
    • This is just a guess, but space suits are designed to allow survivability in the harshest environment we've been to, other than the deep ocean. The first guys into the house had no idea what sort of crazy alien tech E.T. could have been packing. Best to wear the safest thing you can find until you verify there's no weird-ass radiation or toxins in the house.
    • The suits seem more a precaution to protect him from them. When the doctors figure they've failed and ET is dead, everyone takes off his and her surgical masks, suggesting they figure they don't need them to protect him from them anymore.
  • So why exactly did E.T. get sick anyway? And why did he suddenly get better?
    • E.T.'s people are a race of empaths. The farther away from each other they are, the sicker they get, because their bonds are weakening. He'd been away from them for some time, and their apparently not receiving his "phone home" only made him reach the Despair Event Horizon that much faster. When they finally got his signal and responded, he was barely clinging to the last fibers of the last thread.
    • An alternate possibility: those six nucleotides in his DNA the researchers discovered (two more beyond the four that are standard to the DNA of every living thing on Earth) mean he wasn't able to get enough nourishment from our food. Apart from the junk food Elliot was bringing him not being all that nutritious anyway, he'd be suffering from his species' version of scurvy due to being unable to get the right chemicals from any of our food to give his cells all the building blocks they need to make more of those other two nucleotides (whatever they might be). He was able to draw life from Elliot and then his own people to slow his degeneration, but he really needed some of his own food to put an end to the "rabbit starvation" from which he was suffering.
  • Am I the only one who ever spotted that "tree-man" thing in the interior shot of E.T.'s space ship where all the plants are stored? I was noticing the face and the lips moving as he sighed way back when we first owned a copy of this movie on VHS in the late 1980s! Didn't Spielberg or anyone else ever mention anything about that while discussing film trivia? (Granted, I haven't heard any of the commentary tracks on the discs or seen very many of the "making of" features...) Considering his fairly smooth dark-brown exterior not being that different from E.T.'s, and E.T.'s lack of any genitals, I kinda thought that creature might be the asexual "parent" to all of these sexless "little squashy guys" or maybe a living ship's core with them serving as his drones to gather resources for him. Given the novels and guides not saying anything about that, now I figure he's one of the acquisitions E.T.'s people made on some other planet before they came to ours. Anybody else seeing what I'm seeing in that scene?

  • Do a little reckoning concerning how Elliot didn't have to go to school the first day after he met E.T. (and they both ran away screaming) and then stayed out again the next night to lure him into his house and room. The next day when he had to fake a fever to get out of going to school must have been a Monday, and the following day when he got drunk-by-proxy and caused such a commotion freeing the frogs must have been a Tuesday. That places Halloween on the following day, which must have been a Wednesday. The closest year in which Reese's Pieces were a known product and Halloween (October 31st) fell on a Wednesday? Though the movie's first release was in 1982, the events in it must be taking place in the year 1984.
  • E.T. is able to make the bikes fly, as well as other objects. It's possible he can't make himself fly. At the beginning of the film, why didn't he sit on a tree branch or rock and fly back to the ship?
    • He would have to stop and find a rock that would support his weight. He can't just grab any rock he finds, and it would need to be light enough to levitate. Levitating a branch would likely require removing the branch from the tree, which is unfeasible.
    • E.T. was also clearly and understandably bothered by the men and, though he made a break for the ship anyways, he had to maneuver until they were no longer between him and his destination. If he'd levitated, they would have had a clear shot, assuming they were both armed and meant him harm. At least the underbrush he was crashing through provided him some form of cover; he didn't make a smooth, in-the-open run until he was past them and could beeline for the ship.

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