4K UltraHD Review: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial - 35th Anniversary Edition

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New to the 4K UltraHD format is the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, arriving September 12 and marking 35 years since its original theatrical release. Note the 4K UltraHD edition also includes a standard Blu-ray (which appears to be the same as the one first issued on the format in 2012) and Digital HD copy. But there's a limited deluxe package available for all the hardcore E.T. fans The deluxe version'll set you back a few extra bucks ($49.98 SRP versus $39.98—shop around for discounts) and includes premium packaging, a collector's booklet, and a remastered CD of the original Grammy Award®-winning soundtrack album.

The real treat in either edition is the gorgeous 4K UltraHD restoration of the original theatrical cut of the movie. Remember, Spielberg made the misstep of making some rather intrusive changes to E.T. back in 2002 when the film debuted on DVD. Fan outrage was not unlike that which greeted George Lucas' Star Wars "special editions" (in their numerous incarnations). But unlike his friend and sometime collaborator Lucas, Spielberg wisely chose not to dig his heels in. He's more or less disowned and disavowed the altered version, which is nowhere to be found in this new package.



As truly splendid as Allen Daviau's Oscar-nominated cinematography looks on the regular Blu-ray (this release's BD appears to contain the exact presentation as found on the 2012 one), it has simply never appeared richer than it does now in the 4K UltraHD format. And it really has to be experienced in order to appreciate, since no amount of superlatives is going to effectively communicate the upgrade. Suffice it to say that lovers of organic film (as opposed the now-ubiquitous digital) will revel in the grain and overall authenticity of this presentation. Young viewers may well reject the look of a vintage piece like E.T. the way yesteryear's kids commonly believed black-and-white was obsolete. But this kind of filmmaking, much like B&W, belongs in its own category and thankfully Universal has let it shine here.

The movie itself remains one of the most emotionally wrenching family-film viewing experiences ever created. As critics fall over themselves to praise the new It for its supposed "'80s nostalgia" and "authentic" capturing of its depicted era, E.T. is the real deal. Spielberg nailed for all time the feeling of being a suburban, middle-class preteen/teen in the early-'80s. Among the Star Wars figures and other ephemera of the time, he crafted (along with the late Melissa Mathison, whose screenplay the very model of effective storytelling) a gut-level story of selfless love and devotion that wrings true from an adult perspective as well as a child's. And the performances, especially Henry Thomas as Elliot and Drew Barrymore as Gertie, are as naturalistic and deeply felt as possible.

In fact, the emotions run strong enough the only time I personally revisit E.T. seems to be when it arrives on a new format. And the film only seems to get better with time. The humor doesn't pander or trade on any trendiness as so many of today's kid- and family-oriented features do. The intrusion into Elliot's household is every bit as scary as a horror film, with the peril experienced by both the boy and E.T. resonating as deeply as any drama. E.T. has earned a place alongside films like The Wizard of Oz and Bambi—required viewing for anyone in adolescence, and a film to cherish from thereon.

The 4K UltraHD disc contains the movie only (no features), with a new DTS: X Master Audio soundtrack to go along with the 4K scan. The standard Blu-ray features are, so far as I can tell, all doubled over from the previously-available Blu-ray edition (see details here). Keep in mind, unless you're opting for the extras included with the deluxe version, the one reason to upgrade from that 2012 BD is the new 4K UltraHD and DTS: X persentation. And if you love E.T., that's reason enough.
 
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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