Actually a direct cause of ET illness is never set down in the film. The fact that he is on an alien planet is a good assumption but there is nothing in the film that gives an answer. ET and Elliot do have a bond that ET forges in Elliot’s room the first night.
Since Elliot gets better when the bond is broken it’s logical to assume that ET is sick and the link caused Elliot to be sick but it’s not explained in the film. You could argue that all the doctors and medicine work better on Elliot than they do on ET.
But you see
ET is an emotional sci-fi story. The exact whys and hows don’t really matter. It the emotions you feel when ET and Elliot get sick and when ET breaks his bond with Elliot to sacrifice himself and let Elliot live that are important.
ET’s return to full health is a reaction to the return approach of his fellow botanists on the spacecraft. So there’s something about being away from his fellows, probably some kind of symbiosis, the same kind between ET and Elliot, that is at play.
“Not agreeable enough” is probably the understatement of the year.
Take some distilled water, let it set out for a few hours, and then look at it under a microscope. It’ll be crawling with bacteria it picked up from the air. E.T.'s alien lungs would’ve been inhaling dozens of those little microorganisms with every breath he took.
Sure, us human beings inhale the same bacteria, but we’ve co-evolved with them for millions of years and have all sorts of built-in defense mechanisms against them. E.T.'s body has never seen anything like terrestrial bacteria before. E.T.'s lungs evolved to ward off infection from the germs on his home planet, which are going to be ever more dissimilar from our germs than Sequoia trees are dissimilar from people.
I’m surprised his crewmates were running around out in the open without wearing biohazard suits.
I never got the impression that ET broke his bond with Eliott, and just let him recover on his own. I had always figured that he was actively healing Eliot through their bond, by channelling his remaining life-force (or whatever) over to Eliott.
Of course, the real question about ET is why a Jew would create such a blatant allegory of Jesus.
Damn. Seems a little harsh. I must admit that my favorite part of the New Testament is when Jesus gets into the wine and all the apostles on the fishing boat end up being drunk as a result, so they release all of the bait, causing much hi-jinx to ensue.
Perhaps the answer is that Spielberg just wanted his own . . . personal . . . Jesus.
Any Depeche Mode fans out there?
I’m sure he’d say the same about you (and anyone else participating in this tangent). The difference is that yours is an insult, and his would be a soul-related service order. I hate big business bureaucracy . . .
I know this is a zombie, but I just rewatched this movie with my six year old daughter and wasn’t quite clear on this point. There are many sci-fi and cinema sites that address the question, but I think this one response is the most satisfying answer–yet no one else seemed to give it any props. So here are mine, a dozen years later.
That’s the kind of thing that bugs me about film adaptations of Superman. Yes, he was created by a couple of Jews, and they clearly intended him as a kick-ass Moses allegory, not the suffering Jesus filmmakers since Donner have tried to force on audiences.
Side note, to be sure. I never actually saw E.T.