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A Week of Movie Posters, II: E.T

February 10th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

ET poster

A vast expanse of space can often draw one to wonder what else exists out there (though it’s rare to see such a sight in New York, so I’m going on memory here!), and thus the backdrop for the poster already casts one’s mind to distant stars, planets, and lifeforms. But the foreground image is the truly bold one, with its visual referencing of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and the finger touch between God and Man. Quite bold to invoke Michaelangelo and God, but just as Michaelangelo’s image literally and figuratively connects God and Man, so too then are extra-terrestrial and human connected here, their lives, fate, existence, and being connected. Important, though, is that it’s not Man here, as much as Child, suggesting that if humankind’s first great experience with a higher, other being was with Man and Adam, its next great step forward will be with Child. Several of Spielberg’s films take up the mantle of Twain and Rousseau, positing the child at the center of all that’s important in the world, and here the act is crystallized in a visually evocative image.

Subtly, too, since we’re looking at Earth in this picture, the poster places us in the extra-terrestrial’s spot, and seemingly gives us its eyes – an initial move towards taking away the threat of ET. The child’s hand is open, not clenched or withdrawing in fear, and thus the moment of first contact is portrayed as gentle. And the text likens him to a kid lost at the bus depot, not a green goblin come to probe and destroy. Neither kids nor their parents need be scared of alien nightmares, setting the stage for one of Hollywood’s all-time best children’s movies.

Tomorrow: Home Alone

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