With the recent outrage over the latest changes to the Star Wars films on Blu-ray, a lot of people have been forgetting that George Lucas is not the only filmmaker ever to go back and “rewrite history”, so to speak. Back in 2002, his friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg also got into the act for the 20th Anniversary Edition of E.T. on DVD. In addition to touching up certain effects shots with CG, Spielberg also replaced the federal agents’ guns with walkie-talkies — a move that, at the time, also prompted much criticism. The difference, of course, is that Spielberg released both the original and the updated version of the film together so that fans who were unhappy could still watch it the way they wanted to watch it. However, it seems that over the last decade Spielberg has had a change of heart and he now regrets that decision.
After a recent screening of a new digital print of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg was asked about the Star Wars changes, and he responded thusly:
“George does what he does cause there is only one George Lucas and thank god for that. He’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked with as a filmmaker and collaborator, he is a conceptual genius, he puts together these amazing stories and he is great at what he does. And my feeling is he can do whatever he wants with his movies because those are his movies. We wouldn’t have been raised with Star Wars or Indiana Jones had it not been for George, so what he does with his films is great.”
However, he then went on to tell audiences that he regretted his own decision and is only planning on releasing the 1982 cut of E.T. on Blu-ray:
“Speaking for myself, you know, I tried this once and I lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but simply because I was disappointed in myself. I was overly sensitive to some of the criticism ET got from parent groups when it was first released in ’82 having to do with Eliot saying “Penis Breath” or the guns…and then there were certain brilliant, but rough around the edges close ups of ET that I always felt, if technology ever evolves to the point where I can do some facial enhancement for ET, I’d like to. So I did an ET pass for like the third release of the movie and it was okay for a while, but then I realized that what I had done was I had robbed the people who loved ET of their memories of ET. And I regretted that. (massive applause) And the only contrition that I could possibly do because I felt bad about that was, the only contrition that I really performed was when ET came out on DVD for the first time, I asked Universal, I didn’t ask Universal, I said you’re gonna do this, when you release this on DVD you have to come out for the same price of one DVD, you have to put two movies in the box and one movie will be the 1982 version and the other will be the digitally enhanced version. I’d like to ask you this, let’s do a little poll here, cause I know we’re coming out with the blu-ray of ET, if I just came out with one ET on blu-ray, 1982, would anyone object to that? (loud NO from the audience). Okay then, so be it.”
He also seemed to hint that Raiders of the Lost Ark would be released on Blu-ray in its unaltered form as well, although to be honest, I wasn’t even aware there had been any digital tweaks to that film for the DVD release. Either way, it sounds like Spielberg has learned the err of his ways and will no longer go back to tinker with finished works. Now if only he could talk some sense into his buddy George. What do you think, is Spielberg doing the right thing here, or is he merely bowing to pressure from fans? Will you miss the digital enhancements to E.T. or Raiders?