E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 40th Anniversary review (4K)

It may not be as much of a go-to option in most households for a Christmas viewing, but E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is a timeless classic as far as family films are concerned. It just received a 40th (!) anniversary release, of which we’re checking out the 4K version.

After four decades, there’s not a lot to say about E.T. that hasn’t already been said many times before. The story of the loveable Extra-Terrestrial who befriends a group of kids is as touching and emotional today as it was when it first launched, and in the world of science fiction few films manage to evoke the sense of a ‘family-friendly adventure’ like this one does – with Elliot, Gertie and Michael trying to keep their new friend safe from the government agents who also take a keen interest in what’s landed on our planet from outer space.

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This latest re-release of E.T. comes as a 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer that’s fairly similar to the previous release that came out for the 35th anniversary, at least in terms of specs. There’s a bit less compression this time around so the bitrate is a little higher, but you’d need incredibly trained eyes to spot any differences here. What’s nice is that the included BluRay looks to be remastered from the 4K source as well, so if you’re not looking to go 4K on this one then there’s a significant upgrade to be found there.

A similar story can be told about the audio mix, which features a DTS:X track in addition to the film’s original stereo track, upgrades to a DTS 2.0 format for a more spatial soundscape. This is quite similar to the previous release, but because of its age this isn’t a film that needs a Dolby Atmos track or anything like that – its scenes aren’t bombastic and heavily reliant on surround sound, and the iconic John Williams soundtrack is brilliant in its current form.

The highlight, then, comes in the shape of the included special features. Somewhat surprisingly, forty years after the original release, Universal has managed to include brand new and never seen before extra features. The previously included special features also return and have been included on the 4K disc (though in an upscaled 1080p resolution rather than in 4K), which means you have access to over three hours of additional journals, deleted scenes, interview and features next to the new material.

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That new material is very much worth checking out as well, because even though Spielberg never does director commentary for his films he did sit down to talk about the film again during the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival. The result is an almost half hour long interview about his career, zooming in on E.T. in detail as well – a must-see for Spielberg fans.

Taking a step back, another documentary features J.J. Abrams, Ernest Cline, Chris Columbus and Leonard Maltin all talking about the impact that the film had on them – which feels like a touching tribute that will resonate with anyone who’s just seen the movie, whether it’s for the first time or the tenth time. If you’re looking to move away from the traditional “Christmas movies”, then this is a fantastic gift and viewing idea this year.

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