Steven Spielberg’s magical E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial brings back many memories of childhood pleasures, apprehensions, sadness, and triumphs for the child in us all.
The Production: 4.5/5
Steven Spielberg’s magical E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial brings back many memories of childhood pleasures, apprehensions, sadness, and triumphs for the child in us all. Produced with attention always on the younger generation’s optimism, gritty determination, and enormous heart, this movie distills the essence of these qualities within a story of discovery, friendship, and love with its focus, as did The Wizard of Oz, on the necessity for friends, family, and home.
After a gentle alien is mistakenly left behind and becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a brooding young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas), upset over the recent separation of his parents (Dee Wallace plays the mother). Secretly bringing the extraterrestrial into his suburban California house, Elliott introduces E.T., as the alien is dubbed, to his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and his younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and the children decide to keep its existence a secret. Soon, however, government agents begin investigating the suspicious lights and sounds from the initial alien landing while E.T., who has formed a kind of psychic/kinetic bond with Elliott, falls mysteriously ill resulting in government intervention and a potentially dire situation for both Elliott and the alien.
Melissa Mathison’s wonderful script and Steven Spielberg’s inventive directorial ideas combine to paint one of the most vivid portraits of childhood since the days of Our Gang. For more than half of the movie, Spielberg keeps the adult world (apart from the children’s mother) as a faceless, rather ominous presence, uninterested in the niceties and pleasantries of existence and only concerned with furthering its own agenda. The children’s discovery and subsequent adventures with E.T. (keeping the alien hidden, playing dress up with him and teaching him rudimentary language skills, helping him forge a contraption to “phone home,” and sneaking him out of the house on Halloween night) accomplish one magical thing for them: it transforms the earlier angry, rebellious siblings into a tight, loving, bonded team who work together on their one goal: to get E.T. back to his own kind. In his enthusiasm for all things childhood, Spielberg spends too much time with Elliott at school separated for the first time from E.T. but kinetically bonded to him from afar. There is an impending biology lab (in elementary school where the kids must euthanize the frogs before they dissect them? Really?) that goes on too long (E.T. gets tipsy on Coors at home with Elliott subsequently feeling the effects at school), and there is never a satisfactory explanation for E.T.’s illness and recovery (Is it necessary to break the bond with Elliott so he can leave? Is it psychological or physiological?). But trust Spielberg to leave those kerfuffles behind with a couple of literally soaring flights of fancy and a couple of tearjerking moments that won’t leave a dry eye in the house (especially if you’re seeing the movie for the first time).
Henry Thomas (along with E.T., of course) is the star of the show as he serves strongly as the audience surrogate in its gradual love bond with the adorable alien. His emotions seem pure and real at all times, and he is utterly convincing in his affection for this alien creature. Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore likewise completely convince as Elliott’s siblings, he trying hard to grow up fast and she appealingly naïve and sweet. Dee Wallace seems a bit scattered and unfocused as the mother rattled by a recent separation and her children’s odd behaviors. Peter Coyote has a rather cryptic role as Elliott’s adult doppelganger who, unlike the rest of the adults, seems to identify with the children and their affinity for the alien.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in this 2160p transfer using the HEVC codec. The UHD transfer does a terrific job of recreating the look of the original film in theaters apart from the addition of HDR which punches up black levels in selected scenes and makes bright rays of light literally jump off the screen. Otherwise, sharpness is superb in the scenes that don’t involve matte work and opticals to combine special effects with live action where in those cases grain levels can be uneven and a tad noisy in a couple of the backgrounds. Color handling is outstanding with accurate skin tones and vivid blues and oranges in some of the movie’s most famous shots. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS:X soundtrack (decoded as DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 on my equipment) certainly won’t disappoint with dialogue wonderfully recorded and placed in the center channel. John Williams’ brilliant Oscar-winning score is spread lovingly throughout the entire soundstage and is alternately powerful and playful by degrees, one of the composer’s greatest achievements. Atmospheric effects, of course, begin early and continue throughout the film superbly routed to the appropriate front and/or rear channels.
Special Features: 5/5
The UHD disc contains no bonus material. All of the following special features are included on the enclosed Blu-ray disc in the case:
Deleted Scenes (3:40, HD): a brief montage of cut scenes
Steven Spielberg & E.T. (12:31, HD): a more recent interview with the director (most of the bonuses come from earlier editions of the film on home video) finds him reminiscing about the inspiration for the movie, the casting process, and his delighted surprise at its reception.
The E.T. Journals (55:38, SD): a two-part behind-the-scenes look at the production of the movie shot fairly closely in sequence to the story unfolding on the screen. What comes across most strongly is Spielberg’s tremendous rapport with the children coaxing performances out of them that ring true.
A Look Back (37:43, SD): on the 20th anniversary of the movie, the cast and crew share memories of making the picture.
The Evolution and Creation of E.T. (50:16, SD): again, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison tell stories of the project’s conception, and the central cast remember their experiences of how they either auditioned or got cast in the movie. Spielberg also discusses the special effects which were tweaked for the 20th anniversary reissue of the film.
The E.T. Reunion (17:56, SD): producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Steven Spielberg, and actors Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Dee Wallace, and Peter Coyote reunite to talk about their experiences on the picture and the impact it had on their lives.
The Music of E.T. (10:04, SD): composer John Williams and director Steven Spielberg meet for him to listen to some of the major themes for the movie. There is also behind-the-scenes shots of Williams’ conducting the recording of the music for the film.
The 20th Anniversary Premiere (17:49, SD): a behind-the-scenes look at the reissue premiere held at the Shrine Auditorium with John Williams conducting a live orchestra for the presentation. There are also excerpts of the performance, and the introduction of principal cast and crew at the end of the film to thunderous applause.
Designs, Photographs and Marketing of E.T (HD): six step-through art galleries on the designs of E.T., the spaceship, and the production along with production photographs and stills and posters and other marketing ideas.
Theatrical Trailer (1:57, SD)
Special Olympics Promo Trailer (1:02, SD)
Movie Soundtrack CD: remastered disc with eight cuts of music
48-Page Souvenir Booklet
Blu-ray/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Winner of four 1982 Academy Awards and one of the grand achievements of 20th century cinema, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial returns to home theaters in this new UHD 35th Anniversary Limited Edition with sterling picture quality and a new, immersive DTS:X soundtrack. Highly recommended!