If you’re an individual of a certain age and someone offers you Reese’s Pieces, you may possess a Pavlovian response to reply “el-e-ot” and stiffen your pointer finger in that person’s direction. If this describes you, then you likely grew up as an Amblin Kid, specifically, connected to Amblin Entertainment’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is issuing a re-release of the 4K UHD edition with two new bonus features, as well as three limited edition celebratory packages found at specific partners.
One night, aliens arrive in a California forest to take samples of the flora and, while fleeing from U.S. agents set on capturing them, they leave behind one of their own. Some time later, this straggler finds its way into a shed located on the property of 10-year-old Elliott Taylor (Henry Thomas), who tries to keep them hidden and safe. It’s hard to keep secrets from your siblings, though, so Elliott shares his discovery with older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore). But no matter how well one keeps a secret, Earth is not the home for the being the kids call E.T. and they will not be safe until they can return home.
Plenty’s been written about E.T. over the years, and, especially in light of the recent nostalgia-mining in other properties of late (Stranger Things; The Adam Project), I think it’s fair to say two things outright. First, its influence is far-reaching and will likely be felt through at least another generation or two of filmmakers due to the fact that the adults who saw it as kids are showing it to their kids, who will likely find something about it that speaks to them and will therefore share it with their kids. Second, when you go into watching E.T. knowing that the story itself began as a horror film before shifting to a family movie, *whew buddy* can you see where the script lends itself to go in that direction up until Elliot and E.T. discover neither is a threat. Heck, even later, as the kids band together to get E.T. back to the forest and away from the government forces **after Elliot and E.T. nearly die, mind you**, there are elements which border on the horrific in their fantasy. But that’s part of what makes E.T. as a film connect so deeply; it feels real from the depiction of a group of kids hanging out, what it’s like for a divorced single mom, what their home might look like — all of it. You watch a family film today and everything is so manufactured and put together whereas people’s homes are often a mess and lived in. So, while far tamer in its final presentation, E.T. is a scary film and would’ve likely made for a terrifying time, though I do think, all things being equal, that history is better for what we’re given versus what could have been.
Regarding the 40th anniversary edition, it’s worth noting that the only major difference from previous versions is the inclusion of two new bonus features, totaling roughly 47 minutes, and the three limited edition packages. The 4K UHD edition of the film first released in celebration of the 35th anniversary back in 2017, so the upgraded format is not new, only the packaging it comes in. One major difference, however, is that the on-disc bonus features are included on both the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs where previously those materials were only on the Blu-ray. At the time of this writing, having checked both iTunes and MoviesAnywhere, the bonus features appear to be anchored to the discs and are unavailable digitally.
So what is new and is it worth the pick-up?
What’s new is two featurettes: one is a retrospective including interviews from 2018 and the other is a recording from a TCM Classic Film Festival 2022 Q&A. These may not seem like much, but the first is a heart-warming 20-minute exploration of the film’s legacy via the perspective of individuals like filmmaker J.J. Abrams (Super 8), author Ernest Cline (Ready Player One), and film critic/historian Leonard Maltin. Much like the individuals who now instinctually react a certain way with Reese’s, the stories told in “40 years of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” speak to the enduring legacy of the film from the perspective of a fan and filmmaker. The second featurette is the longer of the two at 27 minutes and it’s a one-on-one Q&A recorded during April’s TCM Classic Film Festival. There’s been reporting on this event already and much of the content is easily searchable, but there’s something different about hearing the various stories from director Spielberg himself. As far as whether that makes this an insta-pick-up, well, that’s where a number of other factors come into play. The rest of the legacy features have been available for some time, as has the upgraded video/audio format, so those who already upgraded to 4K with the 35th anniversary may not find the value they’d want. That said, as someone who hadn’t yet upgraded, being able to watch the film in 4K UHD for the first time *and* have the additional features, it would feel worth it.
Of course, if you’re a die-hard fan, a collector, or just want more bang for your dollar, you can always opt for one of the three newly-available limited edition packages. From Target, a steelbook edition. From Wal-Mart, a gift set that includes the film and a Bendyfigs Figurine of E.T. themselves. From Amazon, the film, a lunchbox, a thermos, a booklet, and a certificate. Between the regular 4K UHD edition and the three limited editions, if you’re looking for a reason to upgrade, you can find it.
Ultimately, the 40th anniversary edition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is the same as the 35th, just with a new exterior package and two new bonus features. If that appeals to you, then getting the 40th anniversary edition is going to be appealing snap decision. But given that the information from the TCM Classic Film Festival 2022 is available online in different forms, it may be easier to just glean what you can from there and keep the edition you have. Whatever you decide, just make sure you know your options.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Special Features:
- *NEW* 40 years of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – An all-new retrospective of the film and its lasting legacy. (20:14)
- *NEW* TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening with Steven Spielberg – The acclaimed director reflects on his career and the making of E.T. 40 years later. (27:07)
- The E.T. Journals- Retrace the day-to-day experience of creating E.T. from never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage shot by Academy Award®-winning cinematographer John Toll.
- Deleted Scenes
- Steven Spielberg & E.T. – Watch an interview with Steven Spielberg, as he reflects back on the film and discusses his experience working with the actors, as well as his overall and current perspective on E.T.
- A Look Back – A special insider’s look into the making of E.T. featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, the cast, and others intimately involved with the film.
- The Evolution and Creation of E.T.
- The E.T. Reunion – The cast and filmmaker reunite to discuss their thoughts on the impact of the film.
- The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams – Interviews and footage focused on the long-standing relationship between John Williams and Steven Spielberg.
- The 20th Anniversary Premiere – Composer John Williams played the score of E.T. live at the Shrine Auditorium for the re-release premiere of E.T. This featurette gives us a behind the scenes look at this presentation.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Special Olympics TV Spot
- Designs, Photographs, and Marketing
- E.T. Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux
- E.T. Designs by Carlo Rambaldi
- Spaceship Designs by Ralph Mcquarrie
- Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux
- Production Photographs
- Marketing E.T.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital October 18th, 2022.