Steven Spielberg was genuinely surprised when ET became the biggest-grossing movie ever. He’d intended it as a small, personal film and sprinkled it with autobiographical details – okay, so he’d never met a turd-like alien, but for Elliot’s (Henry Thomas) absent father, look at the director’s own upbringing. It seemed incredible that so many people shared his vision, his life, his fantasy.
Now, 20 years on, Spielberg’s fully aware of ET’s spell, and here rereleases his lovable-space-creature-slums-it-in-suburbia movie with a few tweaks and a diligent digital polish. All-new shots and scenes include a full-length CG ET pegging it back to his ship, ET smiling in the bath, a wide shot of the spaceship barrelling towards the stars and, most controversially, the cops’ guns replaced by walkie-talkies at the road block. All are debatable, as any purist will shout at you, but we’re talking seconds of screen time here – and there’s nothing to upset like George Lucas’ decision to make Greedo shoot first.
What really matters is that ET stands up – and how. From the pitch-perfect characterisation to John Williams’ soaring score to the magical effects, it’s every bit as good as you remember. And you know what? You’re still gonna need those tissues...