E.T. could have been a disaster. With a lesser alien, one more akin to the freakishly large-eyed Area 51 beings that dominate popular culture, E.T. wouldn’t resonate. It’s not possible to convey the emotive routines, head quirks, and simple life that comes from the animatronic icon without the widened head or soft eyes. Movement matters to. That’s probably why people found the computer generated E.T. in the 20th anniversary edition so revolting. There’s more to it than the nature of film revisionism. The whole thing suddenly felt artificial, jarred into existence without the tender motions. E.T. didn’t live anymore, he was something to fill space.
With the opportunity to wipe the slate clean for a film now 30 years old, Universal has treated their material right. Gone are the sanitized guns, cut lines, and goofy antics. This is E.T. as a generation remembers it, still completely effective in its effects, emotion, and heart (glowing or otherwise).
E.T. follows two beings, one a young boy distraught over his parents separation, the other a stranded alien creature filled with curiosity and an eagerness to go home. They blend perfectly, Elliot (Henry Thomas) needing something to latch onto, and E.T. needing a guide on this new planet. The mixture of genres is brilliant, from a stable line of unsettling mystery as the creature is discovered with a child-like brilliance, heavy drama as the situation deteriorates, fantasy as E.T. displays his prowess, and science fiction as a mystery man with jingling keys tracks the being to Elliot’s home.
Careful massaging of the audience builds an almost unnecessary fear of the unknown – let’s face it, Spielberg’s heartwarming style isn’t going to create a vicious alien being awaiting children brains. The effect works, easing the viewer into a day of drunkenness, masking himself amongst stuffed animals, and enjoying classic sci-fi on an aging tube TV. E.T. is loveable because he’s one of us, with a gentle voice, a penchant for booze, and a need for television. He landed in America and made the right choice in doing so.
Few do more than E.T., a perfect storm of ideas loosely born from Spielberg’s Close Encounters (what if the alien didn’t make it back onto the ship?), projected onto the screen in harmony. From the grunts and gurgles that give the being a voice, to the child actors who couldn’t be asked for more, and a director who plants his own life experience into the center of it, E.T. is an absolute masterpiece. It doesn’t miss an emotion or a chance to entertain, and this film contains more iconic shots than any other film geared towards kids. You grow up loving up, and as an adult, you become enamored with its magic.
Since the advent of high-def media, Universal has been terrible. They are a joke amongst the community, lambasted for their awful treatments of even the highest caliber offerings in their catalog, butchering them with…. holy hell E.T. looks phenomenal. It’s safe to say that after Jaws and E.T., we’re safe. Universal, we love you now, and sorry for the muscle reflex that created the opening to the paragraph.
This an astonishingly beautiful presentation, accurate, pristine, and lush. Universal’s work from what is clearly a high resolution scan is nothing short of astounding, a pixel perfect replication of a film stock going on 30 years old, that looks like it was shot yesterday… except for clothing styles. At some point, chances are you wore that stuff too, so really, you’re laughing at yourself.
E.T. has never contained this much definition in the home. Not only has the opportunity never been there, Universal’s rip shod approach wouldn’t have allowed it anyway. In their new phase where a godly beam of light has seated itself above their Blu-ray production department, the film can shine. Close-ups generate substantial clarity thanks to preservation of the film grain and lack of immediate compression foul ups. Manipulation has been taken out of the equation, no signs of filtering or needless noise reduction. It feels pure, and without so much as a speck of discernible damage to the source.
Color has been left alone, feeling natural in its weight and purity. Flesh tones are perfect. Moments of saturation, from the dazzling sunset to the brilliant blues of the night sky, carry this disc into the high-end of catalog work. Inside the darkened forest or corners of the home, E.T. clings to solid, weighted black levels that carry firmness. There’s no loss of shadow detail or depth due to age.
It’s not safe to call E.T. perfect. No, it does commit a few sins, although they’re far removed from what could previously be considered the Universal norm. The opening shot of the night sky does carry some digital noise and banding. It’s brief, but there, and not consistent. Impressively, the smoky interior of the bathroom as E.T. pales on the floor is handled deftly.
One more compression issue can be called upon as the alien ship leaves Earth. It’s a special effect shot with the usual edgy multi-pass lines, and that’s fine. Not okay is the DVD-level compression that swallows the ship’s top with mosquito noise, and the night sky with artifacts. It’s such a jarring switch in quality you have to wonder what happened, because it’s not the source. It’s almost disheartening to slam E.T. with anything given it’s abilities to produce such a fantastic visual product, but the reality is those two shots shouldn’t push anybody away.
Mastered in 7.1 for the first time, E.T. becomes a full, organic audio experience with opportunity to expand upon the mono effort as originally captured. Atmospheric elements have chances to shine, from the opening shots of the ship’s interior pushing a light mist onto lifeforms in all channels to the same ship escaping in a panic through the rears, it’s an immediate winner.
The highlight of it all is simpler, that being Elliot’s first encounter in the cornfield. Both of them scared, E.T. blitzes into a spiral panic, plants brushed aside as a complete audio circle is made. It’s precise, with each channel feeling uniquely identified.
John Williams’ score is flawless, given full range, fidelity, and precision. As it swells at those key moments, the immersion is undeniable, nothing lost to age. Highs have the full run without blowing out, the heart of this score for sure. While dialogue has dried out slightly since 1982, there’s little room for concern. It’s balanced and pure when mixed with the other audio elements.
Jammed with new and old features, some which tend to cross over each other, it’s hard to believe anything is missing short of a commentary… and Spielberg doesn’t do commentaries. Those who enjoyed the deleted scene with a CG E.T. can still view it as one of the two sequences left to the bonuses. Steven Spielberg & E.T. has the director looking back for 12-minutes while discussing the genesis of the idea and the impact it left. The E.T. Journals is two parts, comprised of all on-the-set footage with occasional voice overs. Superb at 53-minutes.
A Look Back is a mixture of footage and Spielberg interviews for nearly 40-minutes. Evolution and Creation of E.T. is 50 more minutes from a featurette that debuted back during the 20th anniversary. The Music of E.T. and 20th Anniversary Premiere go together as they focus on John Williams, the latter being a live performance during a screening. Sections on designs, marketing, and set photos join D-Box support plus BD-Live for the finale.