Universal have brought us a classic in it's original aspect of 1.85:1 with an absolutely glorious 1080p AVC encode that can even boast the thumbs up from the man himself. Yes, that's right, Spielberg gives this particular transfer his own seal of approval. That should say it all. Here's a man who could have used a lot of retouched footage that ILM had done for the 20th anniversary re-release of the movie some 10 years ago, but he decided to remain true to the original and take it all out for the 30th anniversary. He's a purist, no doubt about that. Perhaps the notion of revisiting the footage and adding some additional CG was entertained because of Lucas having done it with the original Star Wars trilogy, but thankfully none of this footage features here. Spielberg and Lucas go way back of course, even to such an extent that in E.T., Spielberg tipped his hat to Lucas by including a boy in a Yoda costume during the Halloween even in the movie. Suffice it to say that when Spielberg's thumb goes up, it's good enough for me. Here's why.
The overall picture is outstanding. Really, it's such a relief to see that this hasn't been messed with in any noticeable way. In saying that, I'm about to contadict myself because it looks far better than this movie has ever looked, but this hasn't come at the cost of having to endure any resulting inadequacies.
Colours are, as you would hope, bright and beautiful. The treatment of the picture in this area is fantastic, with primary colours standing out and really popping against the deep and dreamy navy-blue colours of the backgrounds. Vibrancy is positively illuminating, and you can feel yourself pulled into the image's delicious colour palette like the first time you ever saw Superman against the backdrop of the white Ice. It's strikingly beautiful.
Skin tones are fantastic too, showing a slightly unnatural but perfectly acceptable warmth to them. Texture in this area is better than you've ever seen it too, with individual freckles on Elliot's face being distinguishable. In fact, I never even knew that Elliot had freckles at all until now.
Blacks are pretty good too, deep and thick, but with the occasional touch of deep blue in them. I put this down to grading on the picture from the source though, and definitely wouldn't attribute it to a mistake. The movie was never intended to look natural in the sense that we think of things looking natural now, it always had overtones of deep pinks and browns in the daytime shots and deep blues in the darker, more night time shots. A lack of contrast every now and then tends to lighten the blacks, but just a touch though. I don't personally find this to be too much of a problem, and I wonder if the lack of DNR maybe had something to do with these moments perhaps. You know what, I'll take this minor fluctuation in contrast over the alternative which may have been to ruin the whole grain structure and turning it into a pond of swimming translucent fish. DNR isn't noticeable at all, and if all we have to pay for that is the occasional minor fluctuation in blacks, I'll take it.
There are some scenes, however, that haven't quite stood the test of time. The space ship taking off for example. It's really quite poor by todays standards, but lets not forget when this was made, and lets not forget that it was made on a pretty modest budget. What this means is that some scenes that may be perfectly acceptable on lower quality formats, such as the space ship scene, on Blu-ray don't quite stand up. There is quite a considerable amount of screen-wide issues introduced with some banding, haloing and noise problems that really make the items in the foreground suffer, such as the silhouetted men. You know what though, I can easily forgive this. It's simply not a problem for me that a high quality format shows up inadequacies of the films age. Take it on the chin, move on.
Creature effects back in the day were done properly. Animatronics, guys in suits, teams of people behind the scenes with giant levers to move an eyebrow or something. E.T. is no exception. It had all of the above, and now in high definition, I can safely say that there's no need for any of the retouching Spielberg did ten years ago when he jumped on Lucas's band wagon of messing with your old movies. Thankfully Spielberg left all of this additional footage out, and the creature effects are all the better for it. The texture on E.T.'s face when he's eating his way through everything on the table in Elliot's room is outstanding. It's just the right amount of shiny to imply slight perspiration. I've never noticed that before. The fact that the creature was an actual physical presence in the room with the children meant that their performances weren't hampered by having to act in front of a carboard cut out.
All in all, this is a really excellent transfer, and one that both Universal and Spielberg should be thoroughly proud of. But for the obvious age-related discrepancies, this is one you're going to have to own folks.
E.T. Phone Home? More like E.T. Skype home. Wow, this anniversary edition sounds fantastic, and it surprised the hell out of me with a stunning DTS-HD MA 7.1 uncompressed audio track. Obviously the original wouldn't have had quite so many channels, yet it still managed to win awards and nominations for Ben Burtts sound design. Here, it deserves the works. It's an excellent audio track.
Dialogue is crisp and clear, occupying mostluy the centre channel. It's never lost behind the foley or sound design or music for that matter since the mix is excellent and always allows room for it to cut through. It's clear and precise sounding, just what you would expect from a dialogue track. There's also no noticeable ADR present, with such a fine job having been done on the original. E.T.'s voice is better than ever, rasping away and grunting with cute little noises that Ben Burtt is due a lot of credit for, since he boldly went where no man has gone before for the love of his work – he recorded his sleeping wife making funny noises in her sleep. I'd hasten to add that this isn't the only source Burtt used for the voice, just for parts of it. All in all, excellent dialogue track.
The surround arrays are used to absolute perfection. The additional channels affording the sound design a terrific and wonderful space that the movie has literally been crying out for. Ambiences are enhanced to add a real sense of atmosphere to the scene. Though the use of a cathedral-esque reverb on the voice of the mother reading to Gertie while E.T. listens in the closet is thoroughly questionable, but I'm nit-picking. E.T.'s movement sound effects are excellent. Squeeky rubbery sounds that give a wonderful crispness to the high end.
Music is using the surround field absolutely brilliantly. John Williams's score has never sounded better, completely enveloping you with depth and vibrance that is thoroughly deserving. It's rich, thick and luscious, and it adds to the audio presentation perfectly. There haven't been many more fitting musical cues than when John Williams lets that iconic theme drop just as Elliot and E.T. go over the edge of the cliff and the bike takes flight. Pure magic.
Overall, this is a fine example of restoration and a benchmark for how to add additional channels to existing material without going over the top. It never feels contrived or overused, the perfect accompaniment to a delicious video presentation.
A fantastic offering in the extras department, and with more than three and a half hours worth of documentaries and behind the scenes footage, fans of the movie will have their appetite for more wholly satiated. Mostly shot in 4:3, but also mostly in HD too.
3 and a half minutes of footage axed from the first re-release of the movie with all the CG. Worth a watch for sure, but I'm also sure you'll agree that it's a relief that this didn't make it into this 30th Anniversary edition. Though the scene where Gertie gives the game up to Elliot's mom is adorable. Can't imagine why this wasn't included in the original aswell as this one.
Steven Spielberg & E.T.
A 12 minute featurette that mostly consists of Spielberg discussing his thinking behind the movie. How he explored and implemented the ideas that ultimately led to the movie becoming such a world wide hit.
The E.T. Journals
A two part featurette amounting to almost an hour of footage comprised almost entirely from behind the scenes footage. All shot chronologically to how the film plays out, it shows how Steven Spielberg genuinely had a unique ability to work with the children and to get the best out of them for the movie. Definitely worth a watch. Some genuinely touching moments, particularly the part where Spielberg is talking Drew Barrymore through her scene when E.T. is dying.
A Look Back
A 37 minute retrospective from cast and crew all talking about the shoot. A lot of the same footage here as features in the journals, but worth watching nonetheless. You get a glimpse at Henry Thomas's screen test here, well worth watching.
The Evolution and Creation of E.T.
Another hours worth of documentary style interviews and behind the scenes footage.
The E.T. Reunion
The cast and crew all got together for the 20th anniversary re-release. This is the same 18 minute featurette of them all discussing their roles and how it's stayed with them over the years.
The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams
As if any movie that featured a score from the King of the March could be complete without a featurette of him talking about it. Few are more iconic scores than those that are collaborations with Steven Spielberg, and as such, a fitting 10 minutes is spent talking about the music for the movie here. Which is really rather wonderfully crafted.
The 20th Anniversary Premier
Oh boy would I have liked to have been there for this. The music is played live while the movie is played on the big screen to an undoubtedly spellbound audience. This is a 17 minute look at the preperation for the event. Rather amazing.
Designs, Photographs and Marketing
Some designs and photgraphs from Ed Verreaux, Carlo Rambaldi and Ralph McQuarrie. All set to silence unfortunately, and I must admit, I only lasted the first 7 minutes before I got bored and turned them off. Perhaps would be of more interest to artistic types out there. Nevertheless an interesting feature.
Needs no explaining
Special Olympics TV Spot
A minute long advert for Special Olympics featuring E.T. as a special friend providing some inspiration.
When an alien botanist becomes stranded on Earth, he befriends a young lonely boy named Elliot. As the two discover that they have a sort of psychic bond between them, they become great friends, and Elliot must help E.T. contact his homeworld to be rescued before the scientists capture him for experiments. A genuinely heartfelt look at how a broken family are brought together by a little extra terrestrial friend as they embark on an adventure they will never forget. It's a classic family movie, and one that I would guess almost everyone on the planet has seen or at least heard of.
With a stunning picture and great sound to boot, E.T.'s 30th Anniversary edition is the definitive edition to own on Blu-ray, unless yo consider the addition of a shiny steel case a deal breaker. It comes with one disc and an Ultra violet copy for you to watch anywhere once registered, if you don't own it already, or even if you do but only on DVD, pick yousefl up a copy of this childrens classic that has as much for adults as it does for kids.
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