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E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Collector's Edition

Plenty of movie fans feared that Steven Spielberg's re-working of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) for a 2002 theatrical re-release would be a mangling and a betrayal of a masterpiece. Thankfully, it's not — and not by a long shot. In fact, as with George Lucas's "Special Edition" treatment of Episode IV's Death Star dogfight (though not his handling of, say, the cantina scenes), this is a mostly seamless technical intervention — and an actual enhancement at times — over the original. Forging two notable topics of debate, Spielberg digitally erased the FBI agents' firearms, and Elliot's mom says Michael looks like a "hippie" instead of a "terrorist." However, the FBI agents were weenies in the first place, and Michael never looked like a hippie or a terrorist — just a hobo with a knife through his head. One might be angrier that they didn't change it to "hobo." (Elliot does get say "penis breath," unaltered, by the way.) Beyond these minor details, the overall thematic arc of the movie and its high craftsmanship is still here, which is manipulative as hell and pretty shamelessly buttressed with a soaring 747 of a John Williams score, but is also skillful and impeccable and good family fun. And 20 years later it's hard not to notice the Haley Joel-caliber child performances, which are staggeringly good. To be certain, there's definitely a worthwhile debate to be had about this whole "Special Edition" nonsense, where already-solid flicks are revisited and tweaked because of ethical concerns (Lucas) or a desire to expand the story (Coppola) or a desire to digitally milk more money out of a classic (Lucas, Coppola). But "E.T. '02" really doesn't have a "Greedo shoots first" moment to rally around. Its tweaks are subsumed into the overall storytelling arc, which is very much intact. In retrospect, it's hard not to notice how good Spielberg used to be at rendering suburban life, never pushing too hard during the smaller, human moments, and orchestrating cinematic tension and release. Such can be found in moments and scenes in all his latter-period, flawed, ambitious, politically correct "mature films" — but who doesn't miss the gung-ho, pitch-perfect showoff Spielberg of old? Universal's 20th Anniversary DVD release of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Collector's Edition has been released in separate anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and full-frame (1.33:1) versions. The transfer on the widescreen edition looks solid from the restored source-print, while audio is available in both DTS 5.1 (English) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French). The 2002 version of the film is on Disc One, which includes an intro from Spielberg (2 min.); a look at the 20th Anniversary Premiere (17 min.); an alternate audio track offering John Williams' score as performed live at the Shrine Auditorium; and a brief look at our solar system. Disc Two includes the original 1982 theatrical version of E.T., and extras on board this second platter include the featurette "The Making of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (24 min.); "The Reunion," featuring principal cast members in 2002 (18 min.); several stills galleries featuring designs, photographs, and marketing materials; cast/crew notes; production notes; and the theatrical trailer. Dual-DVD folding digipak with semi-transparent cover.
—Alexandra DuPont

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