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BLOG How ET Survived Star Wars-Style Tinkering

With all the controversy about George Lucas’ changes to the upcoming Blu-ray release of Star Wars (which interests me not one bit, thank you), it seems ironic that I just saw the twentieth anniversary edition of ET: The Extraterrestrial for the first time two short weeks ago. Ironic, but not surprising.

You see, I avoided it like the plague when it came out and have ever since. I loved ET as a kid, and while nothing can take away my memories of seeing that wonderful film on screen for the first time or listening to the taped storybook reading over and over, I never wanted to watch an allegedly twisted version of my beloved tale. I never wanted my memory of ET to be tainted in the way that so many Star Wars fans feel their canon has been poisoned by subsequent tinkering (myself somewhat included, but that’s another story for another day).

But when the opportunity came to see ET on the big screen again, I couldn’t resist. When a local drive-in movie theatre (we do still have a few of those in the States, and I was fortunate enough to live very close to not one, but three of them until very recently) had a special “space weekend” and showed ET along with Aliens , I just had to go. The fact that the profits would be donated to a local science museum was icing on the cake. To be honest, I didn’t know which version would be shown, but I didn’t care. I simply had to see this double feature!

And so, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on us – but not expected to really hit until the next day – my husband and I chanced it. The crowds were sparse, and yes, the rain came just as ET ended (it was the first film in the double feature), but that didn’t matter. I still enjoyed myself immensely and even though I was hoping for the original film but got the special edition, that didn’t matter, either. In fact, it might even be a good thing, because I learned something interesting that I very much did not expect.

Now, aside from the infamous walkie-talkies-in-place-of-guns, I wasn’t familiar with the changes made to ET because I truly avoided this version. Still, though, I spotted them easily. Later, I confirmed my own memories with online articles, and I found that I was right. I felt vindicated, but not for the reason you might think. Yes, I was glad to be dead on with identifying the changes, but I was also glad to see that the popular opinion about this film agrees with my own.

Bottom line? The changes made to ET are minor. The two added scenes don’t really add much to the film, but they aren’t obnoxiously idiotic, either. And the walkie-talkies that got so much press? They’re barely noticeable. I mean, the kids are on flying bikes! Flying bikes, for crying out loud! Who’s looking at the cops on the ground? To my knowledge, I never noticed they had guns before, and if I hadn’t been prepped to look for it by nearly ten years of grousing about it, I wouldn’t have noticed the radios now! Who knew we were insane to be concerned about such a trivial thing?

I certainly didn’t, but it’s true. While I still agree with Steven Spielberg himself when he said, “When people ask me which ET they should look at, I always tell them to look at the original 1982 ET ” just because the additions aren’t necessary at all and don’t add anything to the film, this isn’t Star Wars , folks. This one’s okay. So, if you, like me, have been too scared to open this particular Pandora’s Box, fear not. It’s okay. You’ll be alright. You won’t be horrified if your kids accidentally put the “wrong” DVD in the player this time.

Now, that other franchise, well… you’re on your own there.