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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition
Release Date(s)1982 (October 9, 2012)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is today, more often than not, shunned and mostly overlooked when film fans reference Steven Spielberg's career. When people talk about his body of work, usually the films that come up include Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Empire of the Sun or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Perhaps the reasons for this are because it was such a massive blockbuster & pop culture phenomenon, it cross-pollinated with another blockbuster moment in time (Michael Jackson) and it's a more family-oriented affair than the other films in question. It seems to be in a class all by itself and it usually isn't even mentioned. I guess I also sometimes feel that way, but not in a negative way. After all, E.T., for all intents and purposes, is a masterpiece, and probably the greatest family-friendly masterpiece in the history of cinema.
Despite that, it's just not one of my favorite films, but I do give it the respect that it deserves. Upon revisiting it, I had forgotten just how powerful it was and all of the imagination that went into making it. Even as a child I don't remember being over the moon for it the way that I was with other movies at the time. It's an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end, and it's just not a film that I revisit all that often. Almost all of that emotion can be attributed to John Williams' masterful score, which has its way with the audience more potently than most film scores of recent memory. It's a tour-de-force and truly stands out as one of his best works. I may be more impressed by the technical wizardry and filmmaking techniques that went into making the film, but the performances and the score are still as powerful as they were in 1982. It may have struck a bitter blow to the theatrical performances of more adult-oriented films when released (Blade Runner, The Thing), but you can't deny that the film is a masterstroke, and it's great to see new life breathed into it thirty years later.
Although it was theatrically re-released in 1985, it was the 2002 special edition re-release that marred the film a bit in the eyes of film fans and left a bad taste in their mouths. The most infamous change made to the film was the eradication of all of the guns from the hands of the F.B.I. guys and being replaced with walkie-talkies. Well, I'm pleased to inform you that this is not the version you'll fine with this new Blu-ray release. Steven Spielberg has decided to ignore that particular version of the film, which featured a lot of updated special effects and newly-inserted scenes, and give us the original version only. There was also a line of dialogue that the mother character said to Michael during the Halloween scene: "You're NOT going as a terrorist!". This line was previously deleted from the original video release but now remains intact. One has to wonder about the influence that George Lucas, one of Steven Spielberg's closest friends, had on these changes at the time. I don't hold a personal grudge against Spielberg because of it though. I, along with many other people, just didn't think that the changes were necessary. Fortunately (unlike Lucas), he usually maintains and includes the original versions instead of casting them aside (thankfully, no one says that they hate Pizza Hut in this movie). To make a long story short, this release is exactly what audiences saw in 1982.
The back of the Blu-ray case proclaims that E.T. has been "Digitally Remastered from High Resolution 35mm Film Elements". As with other recent Universal releases, many videophiles have derided them for appearing too clean. For those people, rest easy - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on Blu-ray is as stunning as you could hope it to be. It's an absolutely beautiful presentation, free of any overabundant digital manipulation. I'd venture to guess that it looks better than it did in 1982 (or even 1985 and 2002, for that matter). The color palette is much bolder than I remember it being. The Halloween scenes during sunset in particular stood out, popping and fizzing with color. Blacks also appear to be very deep without being crushed and the grain texture is completely solid and even throughout (and pleasantly film-like). The newly-enhanced resolution displays an amazing amount of fine detail, particularly on the E.T. puppet. Every fine layer of skin texture can be seen in much higher clarity than ever before. The skin tones and textures of the human players are also equally impressive. Contrast seems a little too high at times, but not enough for me to make any major complaints. There appear to be several instances of softness throughout the film, but these moments seem to be inherent in the image itself and don't reflect the restoration process. This looks and feels like a newly-struck print using the finest film stock available, and I can't honestly find anything to complain about.
I also can't find anything to complain about when it comes to the audio. We've been given four options to choose from: English DTS-HD 7.1, English DTS Digital Surround 2.0 and Spanish & French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. I'm always happy to have the original soundtrack so for me that's all I really need. However, the new 7.1 track is great unto itself. Even if it's sourced for a 2.0 mix, they've done some great work with it here. Of course John Williams' magnificent score benefits the most from it, but so do the small ambient sound effects. Crickets chirping, owls hooting and all of E.T.'s little groans and noises come through with amazing clarity. The dialogue is also on an even playing field, which is nice. Sometimes with these new mixes it's a bit too low, but it's perfectly audible and fits in nicely in this case. The film doesn't have too many LFE moments, mainly in the beginning and the end, but those moments do have some nice deep bass to them. All in all, it's a great soundtrack. I would even go so far as to say that it rivals the original soundtrack, but the purist in me just won't completely agree to that. There are also subtitles in English, Spanish and French for those might need them.
As far as the extras go, most of the previous extras have been carried over. Newly included with this release is the Steven Spielberg & E.T. featurette and The E.T. Journals on-set production footage in two parts. Carried over from the previous releases are two deleted scenes that were originally inserted into the special edition, the A Look Back documentary, The Evolution and Creation of E.T. and The Music of E.T. featurettes, The E.T. Reunion segment, the 20th Anniversary Premiere musical segment, the film's original theatrical trailer, a Special Olympics TV Spot and a collection of photographs under the banner of Designs, Photographs & Marketing. Additionally there's a pocket Blu app, BD-Live, a D-Box motion code option and Ultraviolet & Digital Copy options with a redemption code paper insert. The DVD features audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Spanish & French; subtitles in English, Spanish & French; the two deleted scenes; and the Steven Spielberg & E.T., A Look Back and The E.T. Reunion featurettes.
Missing from the previous releases (other than the 2002 special edition version of the film) is the introduction by Spielberg himself, the isolated score track, the interactive tour of space with E.T., the re-release trailer and the swag from the DVD Gift Set. Also sorely missing from the great Laserdisc release is the long form The Making of E.T. documentary, which featured even more behind-the-scenes material, interviews and additional deleted scenes. A lot of this same material was used in some of the featurettes included with this release, but a lot of it is exclusive only to that documentary. It's non-inclusion is a real shame but the wealth of extra material that HAS been included makes up for it the best that it can. I also think that Steven Spielberg has made it more or less clear that he isn't interested in the 2002 special edition version of the film anymore and that the definitive version of the film is the original version. Thank goodness for that.
Revisiting E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has been a bit of an emotional experience for me. I can't think of another movie that has ever turned me into such a blubbering mess as this one does. Perhaps that's why I don't watch it too often. Nevertheless, it IS a masterpiece of storytelling. It dominated the box office upon release and for many years was the highest grossing film of all time. No matter how many years go by, it still manages to touch us. I think it's about time for a proper revisit to this film, and with this Blu-ray release, there couldn't be a better time than now.
- Tim Salmons