E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
U.S., 1982 / 118 minutes
Actors: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Director: Steven Spielberg
Dialogue with the Gospel
"The Word was made flesh." Christians have always tried to understand what this means: that the Divine entered our world, become one of us, and shared our humanity with us. Movies like "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" help us to imagine something about the Incarnation of Jesus.
The Gospel parallel with E.T. is quite strong. E.T. comes from "out there," in space, beyond this world, and dwells among people. At first E. T. is shy, and then becomes part of a family and shares human experience. Gradually, the humans, first the children, and then the adults, are able to get to know and appreciate E.T.
Government authorities are also searching for E.T. so they can test the little alien. E.T. goes through a dying process when he is captured. When Elliot donates his blood as they travel in the ambulance, E.T. revives, appears in a white shroud, his red heart beating.
E.T. then goes back to his home using words very much like those from the ending of St. Matthew's Gospel: Be good, I will be with you always. When the film was released people joked that after the O.T. (Old Testament) and the N.T. (New Testament) came E.T., the Extra Testament. Mathison and Spielberg did not set out to create something theological. Rather, they tapped into stories and myths present in many cultures about incarnations. Scriptural parallels are obvious, however, and add supernatural significance to the filmmakers' E.T. creation. Theology has always used analogies and stories to help understand something of the mysteries of God. Here, popular culture provides the audience with a moving and imaginative opportunity for theological reflection.