Steven Spielberg's E.T. (1982) was the first movie I saw in a theater...but at the time, I was a little too young to remember everything about it. In the years since, I've really come to appreciate its timeless story and memorable characters, which are almost overshadowed by the film's iconic visuals and classic John Williams score. Case in point: you really don't need a nostalgic connection to appreciate the film's technical merits and lasting impact, even though its particular representation of childhood is one of the main reason E.T. works so well. It's just a simple story told with conviction, free of excessive supporting characters and sub-plots. Modern efforts like Super 8 come awfully close to recapturing the specific vibe that films like E.T. first created, but Spielberg's intensely personal family film is in a class by itself.
The story, written by Melissa Mathison and based on a collaboration with Spielberg, unfolds entirely from a kid's perspective; in fact, adult interactions are few and far between. E.T.'s young hero is ten year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas), who discovers an extraterrestrial being in his family's outdoor shed. Determined to keep him hidden, Elliott fakes an illness to stay home and discover more about his mysterious new friend before introducing "E.T." to siblings Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton). There's an immediate connection between Elliott and his new friend, as evidenced by a psychic link and later, an imbalance of physical health. Either way, one thing's for certain: E.T.'s time on Earth is extremely limited, and it's eventually up to the kids to get him home before outside forces interfere with their plans.
E.T. wasn't intended to be a religious allegory; instead, it's based on Spielberg's creation of an imaginary friend after his parents' divorce during his childhood. As a result, the film's personal perspective gives it a heart that feels 100% genuine, unlike the flood of copycats that surfaced in its wake. It's also the first film in which Spielberg worked almost exclusively with a cast of children, and their natural performances are but one part of its continued legacy. In short, E.T. represents the pinnacle of a genre that's often overlooked: it's a pitch-perfect family film that, with any luck, will be passed down for generations.
Not surprisingly, the infamous 2002 Special Edition of E.T. has not been included as part of this 30th Anniversary release, as Spielberg himself regretted the digital alterations in hindsight. Though several changes were subtle and didn't alter the film's tone, other new scenes and effects (including some rather distracting CGI and, of course, the walkie talkies) didn't fit in quite so well. For obvious reasons, the lone preservation of this original theatrical version is a wonderful thing indeed. Universal's new Blu-Ray takes E.T. to greater heights in every respect, from the stunning technical presentation to a well-rounded and thoughtful collection of extras. Overall, it's about as strong of an effort as fans could've hoped for.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Like Universal's recent release of Jaws (and Paramount's Indiana Jones collection) on Blu-Ray, E.T. has been blessed with a beautiful director-approved transfer that fans should certainly appreciate. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p effort features strong black levels, a wonderful amount of depth, strong textures and a natural layer of film grain. No glaring digital problems could be spotted along the way, and the only other sporadic defects (matte lines, softness) appear to be source material issues and nothing more. It's an excellent visual presentation overall, and one that's head and shoulders above 2002's Limited Edition DVD. Long story short: E.T. won't look better than this for quite some time.
DISCLAIMER: The images in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent the picture presented on this Blu-Ray.
Not to be outdone, the included DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track is equally impressive and, like the recent Spielberg Blu-Rays mentioned above, has been tastefully constructed for maximum effect. Dialogue is uniformly crisp, John Williams' memorable score is incredibly robust and rear channels are carefully used when the situation demands them. I'm sure that many fans might have appreciated the original two-channel mix as well...but in all regards, this respectful effort won't disappoint. Optional dubs are available in French or Spanish (DTS 5.1) and optional subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above in DVD form, the menu designs are straightforward with easy navigation and generally quick loading time. This two-disc release is housed in a multi-hubbed eco keepcase with a Digital Copy insert and an enhanced matching slipcover. The Blu-Ray and DVD and locked for Region A/1 playback only.
Much like the recent Indiana Jones
Blu-Ray collection, we get a few new HD extras and most of the older DVD supplements. The new bonus features include "Steven Spielberg & E.T."
(1080p, 13 minutes) and "The E.T. Journals"
(1080p, 54 minutes), which respectively include brand new interviews and vintage production footage. The former is a loose and interesting chat with Spielberg about the film's production and lasting impact, while the latter is a fly-on-the-wall archive of on-set happenings. These are both enjoyable supplements and well worth a look, and the A/V quality on both is as strong as possible.
Everything else is recycled from earlier DVD releases. Returning to this release are a collection of Deleted Scenes (4 minutes), a 2002 Production Documentary (39 minutes), a similar "Evolution & Creation of E.T." documentary (51 minutes), a 2002 Reunion Featurette (19 minutes), two enjoyable Music Featurettes with composer John Williams (29 minutes total), a handful of Promotional Galleries, a Special Olympics TV Spot and the film's Theatrical Trailer. Also included, of course, are a truncated DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy, if those do anything for you. All of these recycled extras are presented in 480p...save for the deleted scenes, which get a nice bump to 1080p. Optional subtitles are included when applicable.
Missing in action is a feature-length score track originally recorded for a Special Edition screening, as well the theatrical re-release trailer. A short Spielberg intro has also not been included...but these missing items are understandable, since they're all somewhat related to the digitally altered version that's only available on older DVD releases. Even so, what's here is a reference-quality collection of extras for the original film, so everyone who doesn't care about the revised version won't be disappointed at all.
E.T. is a simple story loaded with heart, and everything about Universal's new Blu-Ray should excite and entertain fans of this modern-day classic. The film itself has held up quite well during the last 30 years, from the groundbreaking special effects to John Williams' memorable score. Universal's Anniversary Edition serves up a pitch-perfect technical presentation and a wealth of terrific supplements from the past three decades. It's a lovingly crafted and well-rounded Blu-Ray release in all departments, and one that any film lover should be proud to have in their collection. A DVD Talk Collector Series title, hands down.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.