Ultra HD
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (35th Anniversary Limited Edition Gift Set)

Street Date:
September 12th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 13th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
1982
Studio:
Universal Studios
Length:
112 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the standard Blu-ray release, also written by M. Enois Duarte. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections, while both reviews share The Movie Itself, Audio, and Special Features. 

For a full in-depth review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Thirty-five years since its initial theatrical run, the story of the friendship between a boy and an extra-terrestrial still manages to bring me to tears. The bizarre alien creature that awkwardly wobbles from a tool shed towards a terrified Elliot (Henry Thomas) with Reese's Pieces candy in hand looks just as ugly and strange as the first time audiences saw it, but in the capable, brilliant hands of Steven Spielberg, the weird puppet, animatronic or little person inside a costume becomes an extraordinary and surprisingly believable being we soon grow to care for and even wish to be a part of our own lives. The fact that the film can still work its magic and be just as effective as ever is a testament to the work done by the filmmakers and of Spielberg's mastery of the craft.

Following one box-office success after another (except, of course, for the cult favorite comedy 1941), Spielberg inserted that same level of awe-inspiring excitement and child-like wonder he achieved in Raiders of the Lost Ark the prior year. Only, here, he seems to further explore what could be accomplished with the camera and ultimately perfected his unique approach, one which came to define the 80s style of moviemaking. From lens flares and the beautiful, colorful cinematography of Allen Daviau, the film is an endless array of shots which actually facilitate an emotional response from viewers as well as enhance a particular scene. The most memorable is Elliot's first actual meeting of E.T. in the backyard where Spielberg alternates between a variety of shots, clearly expressing the boy's fear and panic, and we're right there with him, experiencing the moment. And look no further for the most imaginative use of the camera than in his treatment of Peter Coyote's mysterious government agent, known only by the key rings hanging from his belt and the chiming sounds they make.

On a more thoughtful and skilled level, the cool camera device and recurring motif is actually part of a grander scheme, an allusion to one of the plot's more insightful themes. Throughout the film, Elliot's mom (Dee Wallace) is the only adult whose face is ever seen for the first half of the movie. We get an idea of why Spielberg is doing this when Elliot tries to convince his younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) that only kids can see the alien, essentially implying that the story's point of view is from their perspective of the world. The reason mom can be seen is because the kids not only have direct contact with her, but because she shares in their pain of dad's absence and in some ways there is a child-like quality about her.

The other grown-ups, including the science teacher, are faceless figures, like something out of Charlie Brown. Their presence outside of the home is one of authority, and while they're always there, they're never really seen. Mom isn't as imposing as "Keys" and her company brings comfort. It's not until Coyote's character and his ominous agenda force their way into the family home, like an intrusive invasion upon a child's imagination, that other adults suddenly come into existence. We can read more into this, if one so wishes, or simply take it as another creative feature to a wonderful classic. Either way, it's a brilliant show of Spielberg's genius behind the camera to acutely reflect the emotion of the story.

The narrative on its own digs even deeper, hitting a very personal chord for many viewers with its tale of friendship and a its push for tolerance. At face value, it's essentially a reworking of a very basic and somewhat familiar formula — a coming-of-age story about a boy coming to terms with the realities of the world. As ugly and difficult as it is navigating through this world, the boy learns that the longing for family and personal attachment is the same for everyone, even visitors from other planets.

Being a Spielberg production, of course, that attachment is made quite literal in the special bond Elliot shares with E.T., and as is also typical of Spielberg, the story brings a darker edge to suburbia, where the perfect image of the modern family is disrupted by the heartache of divorce. This is also a story about a boy confronting any abandonment issues he might have, finding comfort and understanding by befriending an alien who also feels abandoned and alone. As corny as it may sound, E.T.'s health deteriorates not from a prolonged stay on Earth, but because of a lack of familial love, the most important aspect for a healthy, happy life. In helping him phone home, Elliot and his family grow closer than ever and endure an unpredictable future together rather than alone.

During its original theatrical run, this modern fairytale of contemporary life became an instant box-office smash and quickly grew into a cultural phenomenon and icon of the decade. It endures as a magical and memorable masterpiece of cinema because the story comes with a timeless, universal message which future generations of moviegoers can continue to cherish and admire.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc 35th Anniversary Limited Edition giftset with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via UPHE.com, only the SD and HDX (1080p) versions of the Theatrical Cut are available through a variety of retailers. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a side-sliding slipcover made of a hard cardboard material and a 3D lenticular image on the front. The package includes a CD of the remastered original soundtrack and a 48-page book featuring an introduction by Drew Barrymore, cast & crew bios and details on the production. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the classic Spielberg film lands on Ultra HD with a surprisingly beautiful HEVC H.265 encode, which more than likely was struck from the recent restoration and remaster from a few years ago. And like in that previous release, the transfer is awash in an ultra-fine layer of natural grain that's consistent, providing it with a lovely film-like quality. Understandably, there are a couple moments of poor resolution and where the grain suddenly looks thicker than normal, but thankfully, they're not so terrible as to distract from enjoying the movie. Overall, the picture is incredibly detailed and well-defined, especially the daylight exteriors, showing sharp definition in the surrounding foliage and the architecture of the suburban neighborhood. Inside the shadow-drenched house, details come through without issue, revealing many of the small trinkets and pieces of furniture scattered throughout the family house. Fine lines are distinct with excellent lifelike textures on the faces of the cast and on a variety of clothing.

Of course, the real benefit in seeing the beloved film on UHD is the higher dynamic range, displaying better contrast and brightness than its HD counterpart. Immediately apparent in the opening moments, blacks are luxurious and practically oozing off the screen with lots of velvety, inky shadows everywhere and appreciable gradational differences between the various shades. Staying true to Allen Daviau's cinematography, most interior shots of the house are the deliberate result of limited and poor lighting conditions, but background information remains distinct and visible. The 1.85:1 image is also significantly brighter with crisp, true-to-life whites, making the sterilized hazmat suits pop more while also looking dramatically different from other parts of the room. Outstanding specular highlights revealing far more detailing in the brightest spots, such as in the headlights and flashlights that move across the screen or how the light glistens off E.T.'s slimy body while still exposing every wrinkle and pore. The film has never been the particularly colorful, but the palette is nonetheless greatly improved with more animated primaries and better warmth in the secondary hues, giving flesh tones a healthier, more realistic complexion.

In the end, the sci-fi drama has never looked better than it does on 4K HDR, almost as if watching it again for the first time in theaters. 

The Audio: Rating the Sound

For this latest home video release, Universal Studios has also decided to upgrade the audio to a DTS:X soundtrack that doesn't sound that much different than its DTS-HD counterpart, so I'll repeat most of what I wrote in my previous review. Nevertheless, this new track remains just as satisfying and immersive as before with a few welcomed improvements.

Without a doubt, the track's greatest and most thrilling aspect is the memorable score of John Williams, and with the added breathing room, the music energizing the entire room with richer detail and clarity while lightly bleeding into the front heights. Every time the haunting, fairytale-like motif comes on, the front soundstage fills with warmth and fidelity, generating a wonderfully engaging image. Dynamics and acoustics are crisp with sharp, almost lifelike precision in the instrumentation. Vocals are clean and well-prioritized in the center with remarkable intonation, allowing for viewers to hear every tearful piece of dialogue. Low bass is appropriate for a movie of this vintage, mostly reserved for providing depth to the music.

Equally impressive are the surrounds, utilized on numerous occasions to enhance the action with a few choice moments extending into the ceiling channels. Surprisingly, discrete effects never sound artificial or forced. Instead, they create a satisfyingly immersive soundfield with excellent directionality. Subtle atmospherics in outdoors sequences broaden the listening area, which sometimes travel into the space above, while the sounds of cars, helicopters or space ships fly overhead and amazingly move with fluid, flawless panning. The more intense sequences of Williams' score have also been slightly tweaked for greater envelopment, pulling viewers into the middle of the excitement and drama when a few key notes resonating above. It's a fantastic mix that fans will love and arguably even prefer over its predecessor.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Many of the supplements from the previous Blu-ray releases are ported over for this Ultra HD package.

A Look Back (SD, 38 min): A short making-of doc, formerly exclusive to the 3-disc DVD, features interviews with cast & crew talking about their experiencing on the production and sharing many wonderful memories. Tons of BTS footage plays in between the comments, making it a great watch for fans.

The Evolution & Creation of E.T. (SD, 50 min): A bit more recent and longer doc than the previous, showing Spielberg talking about the story's origins, the film's themes and the personal influences the director injected into it. With more BTS footage interspersed throughout, several comments from other key players revolve around working with each other and the alien creature, the casting and of course, developing the right look for E.T. and the casts' emotional response. Best bits are towards the end with comparisons of the original 1982 cut to the digital alterations of the 2002 version, which actually look awful but Spielberg defends wholeheartedly.

The E.T. Reunion (SD, 18 min): Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy reunite with the main cast to talk and reminisce on the production, working with one other and the film's impact on each person's life.

The Music of E.T. (SD, 10 min): A brief but fairly interesting conversation with John Williams, where he talks about his impression of the film and about developing one of the most memorable cinematic scores.

The 20th Anniversary Premiere (SD, 18 min): A look at the preparation, rehearsal and work that went into the 2002 theatrical premiere with a live performance of John Williams's score.

Deleted Scenes (HD): The two, now-infamous scenes which were restored to the 2002 re-release of the film with digital alterations are collected here.

Designs, Photographs and Marketing (HD): Broken into six categories, this is a still gallery of concept art and design by Ed Verreaux, Carlo Rambaldi and Ralph McQuarrie. There is also a large collection of production stills and marketing photos for fans to enjoy.

Trailers (SD): Along with the original theatrical preview, there is also a vintage TV spot for the Special Olympics with E.T. 

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Other than the UHD Blu-ray with HDR10, Universal offers the same pair of high-def exclusives as before and adds a remastered CD of the original soundtrack.

Steven Spielberg & E.T. (HD, 13 min): A recent interview with the legendary filmmaker about the story's origins, its themes and the final script. Several comments are reiterations from other featurettes, but it still makes for a good conversation about a few of the technical details of the filmmaking process.

The E.T. Journals (SD, 54 min): Another great documentary made from BTS footage and interviews shot during the production and edited in order as they would appear in the film. Broken into two parts that can be viewed sequentially or separately, fans can watch how each scene was accomplished, see Spielberg at work and enjoy several never-before-seen scenes from the set. While Williams's iconic score plays in the background, we get lots of wonderful footage of the daily activity of the kids, hear many amusing comments and get a good sense of the camaraderie of cast & crew.

Final Thoughts

Following one box-office success after another, Steven Spielberg delivered another blockbuster smash 35 years ago with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a sci-fi masterpiece about friendship, family, and dealing with feelings of loneliness. During its release, the simple story of a boy befriending a stranded alien captured the imagination of the world, quickly growing into a cultural phenomenon and is today remembered as a timeless classic with a universal appeal for future generations.

The sci-fi family drama lands on Ultra HD with a beautiful and occasionally demo-worthy 4K presentation and a satisfying DTS:X soundtrack that's effectively subtle and highly engaging. With the same healthy selection of supplements for fans to enjoy, the overall limited edition giftset is highly recommended for fans and those hungering for more HDR/3D audio goodness.

Technical Specs

  • Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack
  • UHD-66 Dual-Layer Disc / BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 2160p HEVC/H.265

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS:X
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin (Traditional)

Supplements

  • Documentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Still Gallery
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers
  • Booklet
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

  • Blu-ray Copy
  • Digitally Remastered Soundtrack CD

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