ET The Extra Terrestrial



ET The Extra Terrestrial possesses all
the attributes of the classic fable.






About once every generation or so a film comes about that captures the imagination of the public and transcends being a mere movie to become part of the social conscious of the audience. Perhaps the reason for this is man’s need for myths and fairy tales, stories that can transport us away from the mundane into a world of wonder. In 1982 director Steven Spielberg, created such a film, ET The Extra Terrestrial.

ET The Extra Terrestrial possesses all the attributes of the classic fable. I remember standing on line for hours to get a copy to share with my daughter, now there is the definitive DVD to enjoy. There is a young boy, Elliot (Henry Thomas) who crosses paths with a young alien who is cut off from his kind. Elliot strives to help ET The Extra Terrestrial cope with this world and find his way back home. Most of us know the rest of the story by heart, which after all is the source of the controversy that surrounded the re-release in the theaters and the issue of the DVD.

Changes where made to this classic tale. Since the movie is so well loved there was a lot of resistance to this alterations. After all, would you change the Wizard of Oz because some of the scenes might be ‘too scary’ or just because technology is better now?

In a film where so many in the audience move their lips to every line of dialogue such changes where on the verge of blaspheme. Thanks to the understanding of commitment to the audience that made Spielberg a wealthy man, he made sure that both the expensive gift set and the two special editions possessed both the 1982 original and the 2002 remake. Note to Mr. Spielberg; please have a chat with your friend George Lucas. The heart of the story remains intact for both versions. There is the emotional bound that exists between Elliot and ET The Extra Terrestrial.

The little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) is still the typical younger sibling, always wanting to tag along and trying to act older than she actually is. The mother is still living in a fog, unaware that a life form from another planet is only a few steps behind her. There are some newly added scenes in the 2002 version. Among them is a cute bit with Elliot taking a bath with ET The Extra Terrestrial and some additions to the Halloween scene. Thanks to GCI ET The Extra Terrestrial 's mouth now more realistically moves in synch with his words. There are also the outright ‘dark side’ changes like substituting the word ‘hippy’ for ‘terrorist’ and changing the guns held by the government men to harmless radios. Thankfully you can compare the two with any edition you purchase.

The main focus of the cast here is the children. The adults are almost two dimensional in nature. Only the kids have any real depth to their characters. Fortunately, Spielberg was able to find children that were more than up to the challenge of their roles. Thomas as Elliot is a natural. He plays a boy that is forced into adult decisions at a time that is difficult enough for a kid to go through. His mother (Dee Wallace) is raising the family alone; she is so involved with doing so that she looses sight of the children. The only other adult really shown is 'Keys', (Peter Coyote), who perhaps represents the man that Elliot may grow up to be. He has waited all his life to meet someone from another planet and unlike the other adults he still feels the magic of such an encounter. Barrymore was literally born for this role. She is forth generation in the craft of acting, coming from Hollywood royalty. She also was familiar with her director he is her godfather. The real star here is ET The Extra Terrestrial himself. Originally a crude (by today’s standards) animatronic the CGI enhancements where able to make him a lot more real with the addition of computer generated faces able to express more emotion.

There is a lot of director Steven Spielberg in ET The Extra Terrestrial. It is obvious that this was a labor of love for him. Many of the trademark themes and directorial hallmarks are seen here. For one there is Spielberg’s view of the American family. There is an emotional distance between the parents and the children. TV is overly important in the lives of the kids and he sets the piece in a nondescript suburban setting. Most of the important scenes in this film are shot well below the famous 180-degree mark, set at eyelevel for either ET The Extra Terrestrial or Elliot. This permits the audience to better identify with these characters. It also helps the adult viewers to forget their age and literally become a kid again. This is the type of film that adults can watch with their kids and not be bored. In fact, even the children, used to the fast pace changes of most entertainment, will be glue with fascination to the TV.

There are three ways to get ET The Extra Terrestrial on DVD. Two 2-disc sets (one widescreen one full screen) and a deluxe three-disc gift set. The packaging of the two disc sets is not up to the standards of many collectors. This is a bit flimsy and the spine does not even have the name. On the other hand the package that the gift set comes in is spectacular. It is bigger than most computer operating system boxes and contains the hard cover book with a complete script, a frame of film, a certificate and the ET The Extra Terrestrial discs.

There is also a CD of the sound track in this version. Both sets have the 1982 and 2002 releases although the DTS track for the 1982 version is present only in in collector's set not the gift set. Since there is a whole disc devoted to extras in the gift box there is a notable amount of extra material for the extra money. The 1982 video is a bit more subdued than the rescan, reprocessed 2002 release. Both versions have a great Dolby 6.1 EX soundtrack. I would have enjoyed a DTS track for the original but with all you get I didn’t miss it at all. The two set has one extra not on the three discs, a 24-minute cut down summary of the other extra material. The three-disc set does have a Spielberg: A Look Back, a 38-minute retrospective. No mater which set you choose you will get more for your money than most DVDs dream about.

It took a long time to bring this beloved film to DVD but despite the surrounding controversy it was well worth the wait. Get any version that suites your fancy but do yourself a favor, get it and watch it with your kids. By the way, keep some tissues near by, its okay to cry during this one.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com



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