E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Scott Macdonald's film review of E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. - The Extra Terrestial will be screened at EIFF 2016 with a live score.

If you are producing a Special Anniversary Edition, the stakes are high, especially for Steven Spielberg whose recent films, such as Minority Report, have been setting industry standards for DVD extras. Is E.T, as Spielberg claims in his introduction, "like a good bottle of vintage Bordeaux, getting better with age"? As someone who was in the target "child" audience when the film was first released and, for whom, it has a particular sentimental value, I am pleased to report that Universal has taken its task seriously and the result is a complete and entertaining package.

As far as the basics go, the print is in excellent condition. The colours and blacks are good, with no discernible scratches. Because of the CGI enhancements, E.T. himself has never looked better, although, to be honest, few people aside from Spielberg ever felt he looked "bad".

Copy picture

There are some additional scenes in the remastered version and some alterations, which have caused controversy. By and large, the added scenes improve the film, though you can't help thinking that by making E.T. more visible from the start - originally, he was just a light speeding through the woods - some of the early mystery has been lost.

Spielberg mentions the much talked about removal of guns from the police officers, which are replaced with walkie talkies in the new version, citing world circumstances as contributing to his decision to make the film gun free. However, the scene is over in the blink of an eye and one wonders why people make such a fuss about it. At least, Spielberg has seen fit to leave the "core" of the movie unaltered, for which we can be grateful. He explains why he chose to leave out a couple of scenes - including one, featuring Harrison Ford - because he simply wanted to enhance the film, not put things in that people didn't remember. This is an admirable sentiment and one which other directors might well consider when embarking upon their own Special Editions.

The sound is as clear as a bell, letting John Williams's score flood out, although, after watching both the discs, you may find it getting on your nerves a tad. It would have been nice if Universal had varied the selection just a bit. This is a small gripe, considering that the package as a whole is both out of the ordinary and engaging.

The Evolution and Creation of E.T and The Reunion are carefully put together and feature all the main cast members. They are substantial, running to 50 and 40 minutes respectively. The benefits of a small cast become apparent as it is obvious from the outset that - particularly as Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas and Robert MacNaughton were all children at the time - a family atmosphere prevailed on set, leading to bonds which are still very much in evidence 20 years later.

It is obvious that the cast and crew loved working on the film and that there was something to be said for those pre-CGI days, when people interacted with more than a piece of fresh air. Barrymore, in particular, reacts in a completely natural way around E.T. and became totally destraught in the "dying" scene. The interviews are interesting in themselves, interspersed, as they are, with a large amount of onset stills and actual footage from the time. These extras could be shown as a documentary, a rarity in a world filled with scrappy and repetitive DVD yawnathons.

The other extras, while not quite living up to the cast and crew discussions, are also carefully composed. There is an interview with John Williams about the scoring of the film and about his live conducting of the soundtrack for the 20th anniversary premiere, which you can listen to on Disc 1. Also featured is footage from the premiere, and an interview with Carlo Rambaldi, who designed the look of the Extra-Terrestrial and, it has to be said, bears a passing resemblance to the wee guy.

For the younger members of the family and those who can't resist hearing E.T. talk, there is a Space Exploration section - basically a romp through the planets in the solar system, with factoids from E.T, himself - cute and possibly irritating for parents after the 30th time of hearing. Also included are the obligatory trailers and a massive amount of designs, photographs and marketing to keep even the most completist of fans happy. All this and DVD featurette malarky, too.

For many hastily thrown together DVDs, quality is an alien concept. This is one alien concept that is quality.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2003
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E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial packshot
Spielberg's beloved classic about a stranded and lonely alien.
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Product Code: 905 216 9

Region: 2

Ratio: 1:85:1 Anamorphic widescreen

Sound: 5.1 dts ES

Extras: Scene selection; Introduction by Steven Spielberg; John Williams Live at the Shrine Auditorium 2002 Premiere; Evolution and Creation of ET; The Reunion; The Music of John Williams; The 20th Anniversary Premiere; Space Exploration; Designs; Photographs and Marketing; Trailers; DVD-Rom Features Including Total Access.

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