First off, let's get the obvious out of the way. "E.T.", twenty years later still has that magic. Sure, maybe it all seems sort of hokey now, this fluffy story about a dysfunctional suburban family that only finds love and truly relate to one another when a candy eating hairless Muppet shows up at their door to make long-distance phone calls and drink beer all day. But it works. For some unexplainable reason, you care that the little guy gets home, and that's enough to make it all worth seeing again. And on the big screen in a movie theater with hundreds of fellow grown up Gen-X'ers who perhaps remember where they were twenty years ago, standing in huge lines in 1982's hot summer sun to catch an "E.T." matinee. It was a phenomenon then that people will want to re-kindle and share with their own family.
Except there's something different this time around. And no, it's not the beautifully re-mastered print or soundtrack, nor is it the added bathtub scene or the glossed up special effects that make the "E.T." spaceship look like its from "Farscape" and not "Space 1999". No, the difference is much more subtle and sinister than all of these features which could have simply been released as the standard bonus bits on DVD.
In the original "E.T." toward the end of the movie we hear the kids frantic mother scream " Stop no guns no guns, they're children for gods sake" as armed federal agents pursue Eliot and his bike riding buddies who are trying to get "E.T." home. Well twenty years later, Spielberg has heard the mom's cry and committed one of the most appalling atrocities of censorship in cinema today.
They took the guns out. Rumor has it that Drew Barrymore, the five year old Gertie in "E.T.", told Steven she thought it was wrong to have guns in the film in the first place, he listened and the digital effects wizards transformed the handguns and rifles the government agents carry during the final chase, into harmless walkie-talkies. All of them. They may not be armed, but boy are they in touch with each other.
Not since Lucas wussed out and made Greedo shoot first in the "Star Wars" re-release has there been such a blatant example of how great special effects are being abused in the name of being politically correct. Double Plus good, Orwell might say about this, but he had it wrong, it's not some big brother that is going back and changing the records of our past, but the artists themselves.
Where does this end? Why stop at moral outrage, when there are profits to made? For the right price, I bet the M&M company could correct their mistake for passing on featuring their candy in "E.T.", and all of a sudden the L'il alien is no longer eating Reese's pieces, but M&Ms! That is of course until the Skittles company forks over an even larger sum of money and has them change it again.
This is a bad trend in storytelling that if left unchecked will seep into every part of our lives.
All of sudden, "Moby Dick" is a save the whales piece and "Romeo and Juliet" is a fast paced buddy cop film with digitally changed product placement sold on a weekly basis to the highest bidder.
To Steven Spielberg - what were you thinking? For the rest of us. Keep your eyes wide open, because you can't believe what you see. Its safe to phone home now, there are no guns now there never were. Double Plus good.
For Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2002 - Purple - Air Date: 3/27/02
E.T. the Extra- Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary
USA - 2002