Steven Spielberg’s all-time classic, ET – The extraterrestrial, is being released in an IMAX re-release to celebrate its 40th anniversary. In addition, the original mechanical doll that was used for the film will be included be auctioned free this winter. Audiences everywhere can either revisit or experience this ’80s phenomenon for the first time in several ways. There was even a much-maligned “special edition” version of the film released on the 20th anniversary that was based on the 20th anniversary. Star wars special editions with updated special effects, deleted scenes, and changes made by Spielberg.
The updated effects included using CGI to make ET more expressive and fluid, as well as replacing guns in the hands of the FBI with walkie-talkies, as Spielberg felt it was inappropriate for them to draw guns on a case involving children. Henry Thomas, who played the lead role, Elliot, in the film, shared his thoughts via ScreenRant. Thomas explains,
I’m a fan of the original and I didn’t like the changes. I wasn’t too worried about the guns and walkie talkies, but I didn’t like the comical ET expressions that seemed out of place. I’m glad they went back to the original version. It didn’t go together with the other performance, it’s like two different actors.”
The 20th anniversary release proved unpopular with fans. However, the changes were more subtle than the changes that Spielberg’s friend, George Lucas, had made for him Star wars trilogy for 20th anniversary reissue. Likewise, Lucas re-added deleted scenes and dialed up a lot of special effects in a big way, sometimes changing the narrative and character motivations. For ET 20th release, the deleted scenes showed extended scenes, including ET taking a bath. But the new additions and CGI mostly preserved the film’s integrity.
That 40 year anniversary version is the original unaltered theatrical release and hit IMAX theaters earlier this summer and saw a 4K UHD release last month.