Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spielberg Admits To E.T. Mistake

Remember what Steven Spielberg did to his 1982 classic E.T. for the twentieth anniversary edition of the film? In one scene, he cut out the guns that the government agents had when they set up a roadblock. It goes this way. Elliot had just rescued E.T. from the government. He meets up with his friends and they ride out on bicycles. Elliot has E.T. on the front of his bike. In a thrilling chase, they elude the agents in cars until they hit a road. It's here where the government has set up a roadblock. The music gets very dramatic as the scene cuts to a close ups of E.T. and Elliot as they approach the roadblock. Then it cuts to an agent with a shotgun. E.T then causes the bikes to fly over the roadblock to the astonishment of the agents as it appears that a couple of them had shotguns. In the 2002 re-release, director Spielberg cuts the close-up of the shotgun and digitally takes out the shotguns of the other agents and replaces them with walkie-talkies. (Picture from Wikipedia.)

Now Spielberg regrets messing with his masterpiece according to Yahoo. Spielberg admits he was too sensitive to parents groups. And while I can see why parents were worried about the guns in E.T., it's clear that Spielberg overreacted. Where were these parents when Bambi's mother was killed? This is what Spielberg said, "For myself, I tried [changing a film] once and lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but because I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to [some of the reaction] to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved, [I might go in and change some things]…it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T. [...] If I put just one cut of E.T. on Blu-ray and it was the 1982, would anyone object to that? [The crowd yells "NO!" in unison.] OK, so be it."

So what was the problem with Spielberg's 2002 changes? It sapped the drama out of one of the great scenes in the film. You have to view the original scene with John Williams magnificent score. The scene has Elliot and his friends being confronted with a literal dead end. Agents have shotguns, which has the meaning of death. They have cut off Elliot and E.T. That's death looking at our heroes. All of a sudden, E.T. lifts all the bikes out of the way by levitating them. They're flying like something like Peter Pan. The heroes escape. Williams' score is triumphant with the E.T.'s main theme. From disaster, hope is rewarded. That's a huge emotional payoff. The 2002 version is limp. There's no sense of the danger. Now don't get me wrong, the 2002 version was still great but let's face it, the 1982 version is a masterpiece.

This is all a disturbing trend by filmmakers to mess with their masterpieces. George Lucas has done this with his Star Wars movies. The changes that Lucas has done to Star Wars did not help the series.

Is there a pop culture movie series or television series where tinkering has improved the product? Yes. Star Trek. The original series was remastered with today's special effects. It was done respectfully without gigantic changes to the feel of the show. And the result was the shows were better. Robert Wise re-imagined his film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture(1979, 2001), and he made it a better looking movie. It comes down to respecting the original drama as to whether one should use modern CGI to modify a work. If it fundamentally changes the drama, it shouldn't be done.

1 comment:

Alex Oss said...

I *KNEW* it!!! I totally remember the close-up of a shotgun filling the whole screen, just as it filled both Elliot's and E.T.'s eyes--HUGELY dramatic.

When I watched the DVD with my kids, I was appalled it had been removed. Thank you for posting that Spielberg realizes his mistake, and that it's not just me...