ET The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review) – The Digital Bits | Episode Movies

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Examination date: November 16, 2022
  • Format: Blu Ray Disc
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ET The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)


Steven Spielberg

release dates)

1982 (October 18, 2022)


Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures (Universal Studios home entertainment)

  • Film/program grade: A
  • Video quality: A-
  • Audio quality: A-
  • extra class: A

ET The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD)



The early 1980s was an amazing time for going to the cinema. 1982 in particular delivered such as Bladerunner, the thing, poltergeist, Conan the Barbarian, Star Trek II, tootsieand The Wall by Pink Floyd. Almost every week this year a new film that seemed destined to become a classic hit theaters, Steven Spielberg’s ET the extraterrestrial especially among them. Arguably the director’s most personal work, it tells the story of a humble being from another planet who was accidentally left behind on Earth by his fellow explorers. Lost and alone, the creature soon befriends a young human boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas). Together they work to find a way to bring ET back home, even as ominous US government scientists try to stop them.

As wonderful as the first experience of this film was back then, ET had begun to feel somewhat dated in the early years; suffered particularly from Spielberg’s infamous 2002 “Special Edition” re-release, which digitally replaced FBI shotguns with walkie-talkies. Fortunately, after a violent backlash, the director came to his senses and the original theatrical version of the film has been lovingly preserved for posterity. This version was first released on Blu-ray in 2012 for the film’s 30th anniversary (see our review here on the bits) and came to 4K Ultra HD five years later for the 35th anniversary (also reviewed here). Now the theatrical version ET was released on UHD a second 40th anniversary time. So… what’s the difference between the two 4K editions?

Well, they are definitely two separate discs – each with different authoring and encoding. That 35th Anniversary Edition did not contain any extras on the actual 4K disc while this one 40th Anniversary Edition includes all the goodies of the 4K disc (and even adds two new bonus features exclusive to this version). But while the former was a BD-66 disc, the new one is a BD-100, so there’s plenty of room for those extras without sacrificing the film’s A/V quality. And while the earlier disc featured a variety of language options, the new one only offers English, French, and Spanish.

ET was shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Allen Daviau (The colour purple, Empire of the Sun), using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras with Panavision Super Speed ​​MKII spherical lenses, and it was finished with a “flat” aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For its 2017 UHD release, the film was scanned in 4K from the original camera negative and restored to create a new Digital Intermediate, then rated for High Dynamic Range (only HDR10 is available for 4K discs). The result is impressive and retains all the important qualities of a classic film presentation. A light to moderate grain is visible throughout, giving the image a pleasingly organic character. It’s a little stronger on the visual effects shots, but that’s to be expected. Details are greatly enhanced, visible in everything from skin textures to fabrics. It’s so good, in fact, that it draws your eye to things you’ve never noticed before, like the Betty Boop pin on Elliot’s mother’s jacket lapel. The picture is clean and unblemished; any printing-related defects have long since been sorted out. Contrast is pretty good, with nice shadow detail for a film of its age. There are a few spots where the blacks are a bit gray, especially in night scenes, but HDR really helps with that by boosting the highlights enough that the shadows have more room to breathe. The HDR enhancement also adds more depth to the image. And the colors are much more naturally vibrant; Elliot’s hoodie is as red as red can get, while ET’s “Heartlight” glows with rich and genuine warmth. And look at the lampshade above the table in the family dining room during the children’s D&D play, its rich colors and textured facets are rich in detail.

Primary audio on the 4K disc is available in lossless and object-based English DTS:X format. It offers a big, wide soundstage with pleasant atmosphere and solid – if a little light – surround play, as well as excellent LFE. The mix has a smooth and naturally immersive quality with height channels expanding the soundstage overhead, particularly during the spacecraft sequences and bike chase. Dialogue is clear and natural at all times. You will be pleased to know that the score has been treated with all the respect it deserves by John Williams and remains here as exciting as ever. If you saw this film in a theater in 1982, hearing the composer’s rousing car chase theme kick in with a vengeance (as the kids race to get ET to safety on their bikes) will give you the same chills what you experienced at the time. Additional audio options include the original cinema mix in English 2.0 DTS and Spanish and French 5.1 DTS. Subtitles are only available in English SDH, Spanish and French.

Universal’s 40th Anniversary Edition includes the new 4K disc, as well as a re-authored Blu-ray of the film in 1080p HD (just the theatrical cut, with the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc). Each uses the same menu format and includes the same special features as follows:

  • 40 years ET the extraterrestrial* (HD – 20:14)
  • TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening with Steven Spielberg* (HD – 27:07)
  • The ET Journals (SD – in 2 parts – total 53:38)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD – 2 Scenes from the previous “Special Edition” – 3:40 total)
  • Steven Spielberg & ET (HD – 12:31)
  • A look back (SD-37:43)
  • The evolution and emergence of ET (SD-50:16)
  • The ET reunion (SD – 17:56)
  • The Music of ET: A Discussion with John Williams (SD – 10:04)
  • The premiere for the 20th anniversary (SD – 17:49)
  • Designs, photographs and marketing (SD – 6 video galleries – 45:01 total)
  • Cinema Trailer (SD – 1:55)
  • Special Olympics TV spot (SD – 1:02)

* New for the 40th Anniversary Edition

Most of these extras were created for the original DVD release back in 2002, while some first appeared on Blu-ray in 2012. The two new features of this 4K edition are the 20-minute retrospective 40 years ET the extraterrestrial and An evening with Steven Spielberg. The former features interview commentary from filmmakers JJ Abrams and Chris Columbus, as well as writer Ernie Cline and film critic Leonard Maltin, who each discuss their first experiences with the film and its legacy. The latter is a recording of a discussion with Spielberg discussing his career with Ben Mankiewicz at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. This discussion is the more interesting of the two, but both features are worth checking out.

As with previous Blu-ray releases, it is missing some extras that were available on previous home video releases, including the original Spielberg DVD introduction, the isolated soundtrack, the interactive space tour, and the re-release trailer. The long form The emergence of ET Documentary from the LaserDisc isn’t here either, nor is the 2002 special edition of the film (which fans might not want to miss, but completists might). You won’t get the 48-page collector’s book and the 8-track soundtrack CD from the either 35th Anniversary Edition 4K package. However, there is a digital copy code on a paper insert.

Four decades later, it’s all too easy to forget just how exceptional ET the extraterrestrial was practically out of the blue when it hit theaters in 1982, and surrounded by an air of advertising mystery. Thankfully, on its second Ultra HD release, the film remains as good as ever. With practically identical A/V quality to the first UHD, this is by no means a necessary upgrade. But also fans who haven’t made the leap to 4K yet ET should appreciate the refreshed opportunity.

-Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)


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