On March 22, Universal Pictures will re-release E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to commemorate the film’s 20th anniversary and (not incidentally) make a pile of money. But the E.T. that makes its way to theaters won’t be quite the same movie that millions flocked to see in 1982; Steven Spielberg has decided to make a few digital tweaks. Among the changes: Spielberg has changed a scene in which a mother comments that a child, dressed for Halloween, looks “like a terrorist” so that she says he looks “like a hippie”; and, in the film’s finale, he’s digitally changed the rifles that policemen point at the children into walkie-talkies. Frank Marshall, who co-produced several of Spielberg’s films, has reportedly said that he and Spielberg are interested in revisiting the Indiana Jones movies next and making similar modifications.
While some may be alarmed at the prospect of a director tampering with his original works, if Spielberg is determined to revisit his past films in this fashion, then it’s clear that he has a tremendous amount of work cut out for him. Luckily, we’re here to help him. Because if you can’t provide free assistance to billionaire film directors, then who can you help?
Jaws (1975) If kids are going to be upset by a few rifles pointed at them, then what are they to make of a scene in which a shark eats young Alex Kintner whole? Luckily, this one can be easily repaired: In the film’s finale, when Sheriff Brody finally blows up the shark in a fantastic explosion of fins and gore, digitally insert Alex, intact, being propelled upward out of the shark. Perhaps have him shriek “Wheeeeeeeee!” as he sails through the air before landing safely, to indicate that he has, somehow, been safe and alive within the belly of the shark. The movie is thus converted from a grisly tale of a bloodthirsty beast into a fantastic account of one young man’s miraculous aquatic adventure.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) It may be the most famous image in the film, but young children are apt to be traumatized by the scene in which young Barry Guiler is abducted by aliens in a blinding flash of golden light. To alleviate children’s concerns, digitally insert a note from the aliens, reading, “Took Barry on a spaceship ride. Back soon.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) If children are to be shielded from the word “terrorist,” then surely they should be guarded from the sight of Nazis. Digitally change all Nazis in the film into hippies. I’m not quite certain what to do about the fact that the film is set in 1939—perhaps the time frame can be shifted into the late 1960s, and Indiana Jones’ mode of dress can mark him as a traditionalist (which would, come to think of it, be right in line with his hatred of those nefarious hippies).
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) To finally address the complaints of Indian citizens who felt that the film depicted their country as a hotbed of monkey-brain-eating, black-magic-practicing, heart-ripping-out savages, change this exchange:
Willie (Kate Capshaw): Where are we, anyway?
Indy (Harrison Ford): India.
So that it goes:
Willie: Where are we, anyway?
Hook (1991) Nothing can be done to fix Hook, the creepiest film in the Spielberg canon. Nothing whatsoever. I mean, I suppose Spielberg could trim the sight gags in which men are shot dead in front of young children. And he could cut the scene in which Captain Hook points a gun at his own head and threatens to commit suicide. And the scene in which a child is stabbed to death by Captain Hook. But Hook’s problems are far too deep to be fixed by any digital manipulation. The movie should, instead, be modified to contain, every few minutes, an apology from Steven Spielberg and an explanation of why, exactly, he thought that children might enjoy a 2-hour-and-20-minute retelling of the Peter Pan story that—instead of being about a boy who never wants to grow up—is instead about a heartless yuppie’s midlife crisis and his loathing of his own children.
Jurassic Park (1993) Ian Malcolm, eyeing a gigantic mount of dinosaur dung, comments, “Now, that’s one big pile of shit!” Clearly, a euphemism is called for. Overdub the line with, “Now, that’s Hook!”
Schindler’s List (1993) An alarming number of guns and children within the same frame here. Change all of them to walkie-talkies. (The guns. Not the children. Although changing the children to walkie-talkies would work, too, come to think of it. Who’d have a problem with guns pointed at walkie-talkies?)
Saving Private Ryan (1998) This is, obviously, the film that will take the most work to fix. The opening invasion alone will have to be substantially retooled so that it becomes a battle in which a contingent of brave American soldiers, armed only with walkie-talkies, manages to claim a beach from a contingent of nefarious hippies. But I think that we can all agree that—for the sake of the children—it will be well worth it.