I dream for a living.
       - Steven Spielberg

Prime Structure in E.T.

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E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) remains one of Steven Spielberg's most acclaimed picture. The plot was simple: what if a helpless alien where left on Earth by accident? The twist was remarkable: instead of perpetuating the cliché of having gigantic, ominous aliens plastering humans with laser guns, screenwriter Melissa Mathison showed us the beautiful relationship of a young boy and his extra-terrestrial pal.

Hook: E.T. arrives on Earth, along with many others of his kind. Scientist, trying to trap them, make them flee away. A hasty escape leaves E.T. behind, stranded on Earth, incapable of returning to his home planet.

Inciting Incident: Certain that there's someone (or something) just outside his house, Elliott (Henry Thomas) decides to investigate. When he runs into E.T., both get scared. Elliott soon realizes that E.T. is actually more scared of him than he of it. This changes the dynamic of Elliott’s curiosity. On the following day, he goes to the park to track E.T.

Plot Point I: Elliott welcomes E.T. at his home and ditches school to spend more time with his new best friend. Together with his brother and sister, Elliott keeps E.T. a secret from his mother and neighbors. They have a great time while exploring and playing with the little creature.

Midpoint: E.T. learns to speak and is finally able to express his wish: “E.T. phone home.” Up until that moment, Elliott was enjoying E.T. as a friend or a mere pet. But when E.T. communicates what he wants, Elliott tries to enable it

Plot Point II: After several foreshadowings continually reminding us of the villains of the movie, Elliott's family is confined in quarantine. Scientists break into Elliott's house and get ahold of E.T. Severe exams ensue and almost kill E.T.

Showdown: Elliott saves E.T. from the hands of the scientists. A chase ensues. Alongside his friends, Elliott rides his bike to the woods. E.T.'s magic touch makes them all fly right over the police.

Dénouement: E.T.'s kindred returns for him. A poignant goodbye. Over Elliott's tears, E.T. consoles him, letting the boy know that they will forever remember each other.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is a magnificently orchestrated movie. The structure analyzed above is fabulous. Note how Plot Point II is much more intense and powerful than Plot Point I. The stakes are much higher. Also observe the paradox. In Plot Point I, Elliott welcomed E.T. in his house. In Plot Point II, the scientists broke into the house and separated E.T. from Elliott.

In order to validate the ending, two major foreshadowing moments were implemented in the movie. First, Elliot's brother was shown ineptly driving a car. His driving “skill” was greatly important during the escape from the scientists. Second, when E.T. expressed his wish to talk to his kind, Elliott took E.T. to the woods. In the occasion, E.T. made Elliott fly for the first time. This gimmick became essential in the ending, when E.T. made Elliott and his friends float right over the police.

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