This review was originally written by my husband, Daniel Aeschliman, who has given me permission to repost it:
As a child of the '80s, I must begin by stating that E.T. is, in my opinion, one of the truly great movies that has been released in my lifetime. When I began acquiring DVD's, I was truly saddened to find that E.T. was not available. After Steven Spielberg reissued the movie to theaters in early 2002, I eagerly awaited the impending DVD release.
The Ultimate Gift Set version has some rather important differences to the regular two DVD version. First off, the set contains three DVDs - one for each of the released versions of the film and one for the bonus features. Additionally, it contains a CD of the score, composed by John Williams; a senitype (a fragment of film from a print of the movie in a cardboard frame - it contains an enlarged print of the image from the film strip on the top of the cardstock, and the back is numbered) of an image from the film; a "certificate of authenticity"; and finally a 200 page hardbound book "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept To Classic," which contains a reproduction of the script for the 2002 reissue of the movie, in addition to interview bits with cast and crew members, and numerous stills from the movie and behind the scenes photographs.
I will admit that I have yet to sit down and watch the 2002 edition of the movie. While a part of me would like to see it, there is still a part of me that wonders why I should watch it. The 1982 original version was a classic and is so firmly a part of me, that I don't really want to tamper with my memories of it. However, as I did view the redone versions of the Star Wars trilogy (and, ultimately, enjoyed the remakes over the originals with only slight reservations), I will likely sit down and watch the redone E.T. at some point - just not in time to do this review.
The biggest disappointment with the DVDs in this set was the amount of repetition in the documentaries about the film. The problem seems to be that there isn't a real delineation of what material will be covered in each documentary. It could have been one specifically on how E.T. came to be a film, one about the making of the film, one about the special effects, one on the release of the film and its impact, one on the 2002 release, and so on. Instead, many of the documentaries overlap each other to such a large extent that you feel you're watching the same material over and over. The worst offenders of this were the roughly forty minute long "A Look Back" documentary (on disc two) and the fifty minute long "Evolution & Creation of E.T." documentary (on disc three). With these two documentaries mirroring each other quite frequently, it becomes difficult to distinguish what material was seen in either one.
More disturbing than this, though, is the "special announcements" section of disc three. After two serious promotional clips (one from the early '80s about the Special Olympics, with an appearance by E.T., the other a more recent clip about adoption), Universal chose to throw in a lengthy promotional piece about their theme parks. It feels completely inappropriate to be marketing their theme parks on the heels of the public service announcements, and calling the section "special announcements."
The soundtrack CD seems to be the same as the individually sold 20th anniversary edition remastered soundtrack CD, though it does not come in a jewelbox. The four discs (three DVD and one CD) are packaged together in a DVD box sized fold-out digipack style case, which has four panels with trays for the discs. The booklet that accompanies the CD was simply loose in the box and there is no booklet or even chapter cue sheet to accompany the DVD.
The true jewel of this edition, however, is the book that was packaged with it. In the course of the 192 pages, a vast amount of material is presented. The book is divided into three main sections: the first details the story of how the E.T. story was created and the characters were cast, the second is an annotated script recreated from the 2002 edition of the movie, and lastly a section that details the special effects work done in post production of the 1982 edition of the film, and the work done for the 2002 edition.
Most of the material in the first and third sections are presented in a series of quotes. A topic will be presented, such as "The Script: Writing The First Draft" and this heading will be followed by two or three quotes (sometimes more, sometimes less) from people involved in that aspect of the production.
The second section provides the bulk of the book. This is where the script is recreated. It's hard to say that this is the original script of the movie, as there are some spots where this clearly is not the original script. For example, as the kids are getting ready to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, the script contains the "You are not going as a hippie!" line instead of the original "You are not going as a terrorist!" line. Additionally, some of the scenes that were cut from the movie originally (the bathroom scene and the extension of the halloween sequence) have been included in the script presented here, but other deleted scenes (such as Elliot drawing on the walls in the nurses office and Elliot in the principal's office) are left out. Other spots in the script have more inexplicable omissions - likely due to printing errors or something similar (for example, when Elliot is faking his fever, Mary checks the thermometer, asks Elliot a question, then responds to his answer, but the script contains no indication that Elliot has given any response to Mary's question).
In the end, the original version of E.T. still stands up well (my five year old daughter watched it with me, and was reduced to tears when E.T. died, but was just as ecstatic as Elliot and Michael when they realized he was still alive), and the movie itself is what is ultimately important. My vote is still out as to whether the rest of the package was worth the hype of the ultimate gift set label (it appears that not only did Universal back down on their original stance of only putting the 1982 version of the film in the Gift Set, but the book is also available for sale separately, making the only "exclusives" to the set the senitype and the certificate of authenticity). The documentaries are generally worth watching, though a bit repetitive. Ultimately, while the Ultimate Gift Set may not truly live up to its name, it is a respectable presentation for a truly classic movie.
This movie was a favorite of mine during my childhood and even after watching it for the first time in ten years, it's just as great as I remembered it to be. One of the best family films of the 80's and one of the landmark films of American cinema, E.T. combined strong special effects with a brilliant soundtrack and believable characters. Like any good movie, it does a good job at changing tones, as there's scenes that made me laugh my ass off (like E.T. getting drunk) … more
What can I say. I mean how can you go wrong when a kid meets a young A.L.F.(Alien Life Form). Then become friends and soon they start to get ill I mean come on now I do not think for one second that all that would happen so this is the best rate I could give and that is that.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is in all likelihood the most personal film that Steven Spielberg has directed. It gives insight into the director's life experiences and his childhood in particular. For the most part the film is shown through the eyes of a child. It captures a certain sense of innocence and wonderment that was rare in films of the early 1980s. It's also startlingly honest in its portrayal of children growing up in contemporary America. Rarely do films give a truthful account of what … more
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is Steven Spielberg's warmhearted classic delight for both children and adults. It tells the story of an alien creature, E.T., mistakenly left behind on Earth. When a young boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas), finds E.T. and hides him in his home, both their worlds are changed forever. E.T. teaches Elliott and his two siblings (Drew Barrymore and Robert MacNaughton), whose parents have recently separated, about caring and love while the children protect E.T. from the malevolent world of grown-ups. Elliott and E.T. become so close that they share emotions; as E.T. becomes ill, so does Elliott. The children end up going on a fabulous adventure trying to help E.T. find a way back to his home planet. The movie was originally going to be based on a story idea by director John Sayles, but after he removed himsel...