This is kind of a strange film. It’s good—well written and directed, appealingly acted. It’s just… odd. Basically, sci-fi bigwig J. J. Abrams (Lost, Cloverfield, Fringe) has made an old Steven Spielberg film. Spielberg produced and helped develop the story. It’s even set in 1979, for no reason I can think of except that that was the heart of Spielberg’s glory days when he was making great films like E.T., Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of “great” films like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
So in Super 8 we’re in a small town and there’s a bunch of outsider kids with bikes who make movies and deal with childhood tragedies and then some strange stuff happens but we concentrate on the human story instead of plunging right into the sci-fi and everyone ends up with their heads tilted back gazing up at the night sky, all very much ala Spielberg. Only, because Abrams is Abrams and not Spielberg, it’s all a little darker than it should be and the touching resolution feels a little more tragic than uplifting and the childlike wonder stumbles over an understanding of evil that Spielberg simply has never developed.
So… I liked this film. I loved the kids. Elle Fanning was wonderful. The human story was really involving. The sci-fi stuff was fine. But when it was over, I was sort of left thinking, “Why did that happen?” By which I mean: why did J. J. Abrams make a Steven Spielberg film instead of a J. J. Abrams one? Strange.