Blu-ray Review: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 30th Anniversary Edition (Universal)

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E.T. The Extra Terrestrial Blu-ray

By today’s standards, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial—amazingly, never out on Blu-ray until now—seems rather quaint. The special effects, achieved mostly through puppets and miniatures, would certainly be realized through CGI if it was made today. But the non-digital effects are part of the 1982 classic’s charm.

It wouldn’t be the same if director Steven Spielberg had “gone all George Lucas” and, say, replaced the E.T. character with a digitally created one. Thankfully, this crisp, beautifully and lovingly remastered high-def transfer is of the original version—not the 20th anniversary one that replaced the FBI’s guns with walkie-talkies (which was so memorably spoofed on a “South Park” episode that, rumor has it, Speilberg and Lucas refrained from monkeying with Raiders of the Lost Ark along the same lines).

And the film itself? As magical and heartwarming as ever. As the ample bonus features document, E.T. was originally conceived as a darker follow-up, sorta-sequel to Spielberg’s 1977 flying saucer classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Eventually, Spielberg got the idea about an alien botanist who gets left behind when he doesn’t get back on his spaceship in time to elude approaching earth people. The abandoned alien is discovered, and subsequently befriended, by a lonely boy, Elliot (Henry  Thomas) and his siblings (Robert McNaughton and a young, too-cute Drew Barrymore).

As Spielberg explains in the bonus features, E.T. was as much about a family in the throes of divorce as it was about space creatures. There’s a feeling of melancholy and abandonment running through the scenes involving the kids and their now-single mom (Dee Wallace Stone), based on experiences from the director’s life. The presence of E.T. fills the emptiness in their lives—he teaches them what love is all about. It’s the very human story of the friendship between E.T. and the family, especially Elliot, that made this movie resonate so strongly upon its release in 1982, and those qualities still shine as brightly now.

E.T. is certainly not a special effects movie. The flying saucer seems rather simple, probably intentionally. Dazzling effects weren’t the point. This is a film with massive heart, a touching story, plenty of laughs and thrills—a downright perfect entertainment, then and now.

This unquestionable classic certainly gets the prime treatment in this new edition. The restoration is awesome—sharp, clear and colorful, a dynamite screener for HDTVs big and small. The 7.1 surround sound is even better, giving the at-times busy sound mix (with multiple tracks of FBI guys, vehicles, chase sounds and John Williams’ iconic musical score).

There are plenty of bonus features here, but they’re mostly from older editions. The new-to-Blu-ray feature “Steven Spielberg & E.T.“, which focuses on Spielberg and his feelings about the film and its themes 30 years later, is interesting but not essential. Deleted scenes are, as these usually go, cool curiosities, but you can usually see why they were left out. “The E.T. Reunion” is most noteworthy for seeing what the cast looks like now. A new E.T. Pocket Blu App for smartphones and tablets will enable modern viewers to enjoy the film’s content on the go.

Fans have long clamored for this Blu-ray edition, and it doesn’t disappoint—rather, it reminds us of a time when blockbuster movies were more about story and emotion than dazzling computer effects, and delivers the goods with content that holds up credibly with today’s tech. And, again, I’m glad they left out the walkie-talkies.

Buy E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Anniversary Edition (Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet) on Amazon
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  • Kyle

    I think that the point that Spielberg makes about how this movie is just as much about the family as the aliens is the key to why this is such a great film. In E.T. he was able to blend the genres of sci-fi and family drama so well that it may be his master storytelling achievement. I had no idea that this release was going to happen, and I was so excited when a coworker at DISH told me about it. I already have the 20th anniversary DVD so I decided to rent it through my Blockbuster @Home account to see if it was worth buying. You are exactly right about how much care was taken in the transfer and about how we are given the best looking version of the film to date. I am so glad that this version finally does justice to the original.