The Coffee Table Accompaniment to E.T.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial: From Concept To Classic, sells itself short with its front-cover claim that it has an introduction by Steven Spielberg. In fact, it has much more from the director, who chimes in on everything from creature design to the logistics of the shoot. That Spielberg is at heart of this offering, repackaged to go with the recent 30th Anniversary Blu-ray, lends this creation much more credibility, and a heap of insight to boot.

Readers of The Jaws Log, covered here a number of weeks ago, will recall that Spielberg's public persona (warm, funny and professional) can sometimes seem at odds with how he runs his film ship (assured, demanding and singularly convinced of the certainty of his vision). There is less of that sort of revelation here, although the odd internal memo included in the main initial segment will leave you in no doubt who's calling the shots.

That there is less of that sort of 'kiss-and-tell' behind the scenes chat is not necessarily a bad thing. Film books come in all shapes and sizes (look for a different shape - the educational film book - being covered next week) and From Concept To Classic isn't ashamed to form part of The Coffee Table collection, and nor should it. Coffee table books celebrate their subject, provide beautiful insight in easy to digest form, perfect for dipping in to and out of, or leaving slyly open on a page of interest for a friend to find. From Concept To Classic does all of those things, adding beautiful presentation in to its mix of mainstream offerings.

In the middle section, which splits the pre and post-production 'making of' segments,  it does something else entirely. The complete screenplay, by Melissa Mathison, is reproduced with annotated extras and 'jump out' segments on individual elements. So, at the start, there's a small box explaining story elements which were suggested but never used. At the point in the script where the score first kicked-in on screen, there's a large exploded section delving in to the history behind John Williams' serene piece of fantasy. If you're studying E.T. in school, college or university, or want to, it's an invaluable tool to understanding film-making. If you're just after a copy of the script, it's an invaluable tool to understanding film-making. If you're still just after a Coffee Table book, the brief exploded-out segments are perfect to dip in to.

As chronicled here, Spielberg made the decision for the 2002 release of E.T. to digitally alter the print and remove any evidence of guns in the picture. In an insightful paragraph or two, Spielberg speaks of how unhappy he was that he let the two main scenes featuring firearms appear in the film in the first place and how he was adamant that it wasn't going to be a mistake he was going to allow in the restoration. This presents an interesting topic. Spielberg's intentions are doubtless noble (he didn't want guns to be shown near kids) but is there much difference to this and George Lucas' well-publicised tinkering of Star Wars? It's less obvious, and less in terms of quantity than Lucas, sure, but the vision has still been changed, history has still been altered. Does it matter?

Either way, it's commendable that From Concept To Classic covers the topic, and that Spielberg speaks frankly about the issue and many others. The auteurs' words alone make the book a worthy purchase for casual fans and E.T. scholars alike.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition was released on Monday 22nd October on Blu-ray in the UK and is available now.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept To Classic was released on Tuesday 16th October in the UK and is available now.

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