I consider Steven Spielberg to be one of our greatest living directors, and I've always thought of E.T. as one of his best, along with Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and my personal fave, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. John Williams composed the music for all of those films, as he has done for most of Spielberg's films, from Sugarland Express to The Fabelmans. Williams is perhaps best recognized for his work on Star Wars movies, but he really does it all: he has been nominated for more Oscars than anyone not named Walt Disney, and has won five, including one for E.T. He is ubiquitous, and rightly so.
And yet ... as I settled in to watch E.T. once again, I saw Williams' name in the credits and my heart dropped a bit. Perhaps unfairly, I've grown a little weary over the years of his work, or better said, that ubiquitous quality. I always know he's there, whether I saw his name in the credits or not, and yes, I know that speaks well of him, that he has a recognizable style. You could say he is the Max Steiner of his day.
It's a minor thing, really. E.T. remains a wonderful movie, a wonderful experience. But at that tear-inducing finale, I wondered for a moment how it would play without Williams telling us how to feel. Spielberg is one of the best at evoking emotion from an audience ... at his worst, which isn't often, he can be a bit sappy. And Spielberg is certainly milking that last scene for all it's worth. The combination of the two greats, Spielberg and Williams, almost overpowers that scene.
Or maybe it's just me.
It doesn't really matter. E.T. is still one of the greats. The adult actors do a decent job, but Spielberg isn't concerned with them ... this is a movie about kids from a kid's point of view. Henry Thomas has had a nice career, and what can I say about Drew Barrymore, who steals every scene she is in?