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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept To Classic
The Illustrated Story of the Film and the Filmmakers
Pocket paperback £15.99

review by Donald Morefield

I've never been absolutely sure whether Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) was quite appropriate as SF entertainment for a cynical and pessimistic British audience. Arguably, this touching adventure story of a lonely boy and his alien friend is just a bit too sentimental and twee for us miserably disbelieving Brits. Spielberg is a grandmaster of emotional manipulation - he frightened us with Jaws, and evoked a sense of wonder in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, while Raiders Of The Lost Ark gave us the thrill ride of a decade - but E.T. features the director's most overtly personal childhood fantasy.
   This retrospective marks the occasion of the 20th anniversary of E.T. by revisiting the world of young Elliott (played by Henry Thomas) and the famously strange yet cuddly 'alien' creature (which, originally, was created by Carlo Rambaldi), for a cinema reissue. The book carries an introduction by Spielberg himself, and includes previously unseen details of the film's production, interviews - by Laurent Bouzereau - with the principal cast and crew, an annotated and lavishly illustrated version of the full screenplay by Melissa Mathison, a look back at the film's post-production phase, and informative notes on the restoration work carried out for E.T. ("updating the charm" - it says here), which uses hi-tech CGI to redo key visual effects sequences, and digitally removes guns from the film. With its attractive page design, fascinating background commentary and range of archival b/w and colour photos, this is a worthy companion book to a marvellous film.
   Although there's no doubt that E.T. deserves another big screen outing, and is likely to find a new generation of fans, a few troubling questions remain. By sprucing up selected technical elements of his most successful movie, is Spielberg following blindly in the footsteps of George Lucas (who applied similar reprocessing to his Star Wars trilogy)? Where does legitimate re-creativity to fix the problems of artistic dissatisfaction end and pointless commercial meddling start? Should our favourite films be revamped like this, every time a newly invented technique opens up the possibilities for such enhancement? Even if the essential magic of E.T. is unaffected, has all the tinkering made it any better?
   In addition to this brand new book about the making of the film, two E.T. novels by William Kotzwinkle are now available from the same publisher, priced �6.99 each.
   E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - is a novelisation of Mathison's screenplay.
   E.T. The Book of the Green Planet - is based on a story by Spielberg.

Related pages:
tZ  E.T. The Extra-terrestrial - film review by Gary Couzens
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept To Classic
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