I’m a big, big fan of “My World of Flops,” an ongoing series of movie reviews by Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club. “Flops” conducts post-mortems of critical and commercial failures, reevaluating each film with fresh eyes. And Rabin gives every movie a fair shake (his review of Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered is, in a word, generous), ultimately grading each film as a “failure,” a “fiasco,” or a “secret success.”
I have always held that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the 2600 is a “secret success” (Kevin agrees), and when Rabin first announced to Twitter that he was going to score the video game for “My World of Flops,” I was floored with delight.
For one, this is the first time a video game has ever made it to “Flops,” and E.T.’s notoriety certainly qualifies it for inclusion. For another, the “Flops” series was only meant to last a single year; not only has it endured, it has spiraled out of control! Video games! Licensed video games! What next?
So I was totally thrilled when Rabin tweeted that his review is complete:
@nathanrabin I just turned in my first, and possibly last game-themed My World of Flops piece on Atari’s E.T. It is less than glowing.
In an effort to rally interest in Rabin’s upcoming E.T. review, I took to Twitter to inflict my own opinion of the game on everybody. There are a lot of inactive verbs. The whole thing could stand a rewrite.
Here, now, and unedited for posterity (mostly), are my E.T. tweets.
jennatar In honor of E.T. (Atari 2600, 1982) making it onto @nathanrabin’s Flops, here is my GLOWING review, presented one painful line at a time.
jennatar E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is about an extra-terrestrial named E.T.
jennatar In it, you play ET. You are trying to assemble an “interplanetary” phone, because you believe in liberties and that VOIP ought to be free.
jennatar In the game, your only ally is a 10-year-old child named Elliott, here rendered in stark, rudimentary pixels.
jennatar In the film, Elliott’s idealism and childlike naïveté are tested when Spielberg replaces all the guns with walkie-talkies.
jennatar Your adversaries, alas, are numerous. There are, for instance, a number of gov’t agents who are trying to strip-search you.
jennatar There are also scientists, no doubt working for Big Pharma, who probably want to capitalize on your organs and turn you into the latest pill
jennatar Despite all that, your greatest obstacle, poor ET, is yourself. Yes, the landscape is riddled with enormous pits. Step carefully, ET!
jennatar You could become a captive—by your own hand!—in one of these deep furrows, which itself is a metaphor for the “liminality”
jennatar For you are a stranger in a strange land, stretching yourself across space and time in search of a moment of connection, and small candies
jennatar It is during these liminal fugues, when ET is lower than ground itself, that most players, disgusted, switch the Atari off.
nathanrabin @jennatar Color me impressed. Beats the hell out of my infinitely more verbose take.
jennatar @nathanrabin Shh! Not yet; I’m not finished.
jennatar That players leave w/out finishing—that is, without making “contact” with “home”—is a potent metaphor for a collective lack of agency.
jennatar Finally, the graphics are OK but maybe the framerate could have been better. I’m not sure the 2600 is being pushed to its full potential 3/5
P.S. This E.T. “strategies” video rules (thanks, Andrew!).