‘Super 8′: The Reviews Are In!

J.J. Abrams' film is an antidote to the 'emotional-vitamin deficiency' brought on by 'low-cal' superhero sequels, one critic writes.

From the Spielbergian nostalgia factor to the first-rate performances of a group of largely unknown young actors to the ultra-satisfying reveal of the monster, we’ve got plenty of reasons you should check out “Super 8″ this weekend.

But we’re not alone in our full-throated support of director J.J. Abrams’ ode to ’70s-era adolescence and alien invasion flicks. Based on a wholly original idea (a true rarity in an era of iconic superheroes, wizards and alien bots) and with no A-list talent in front of the camera, “Super 8″ has nonetheless been nabbing overwhelmingly positive reviews and is expected to earn around $35 million over the weekend.

While some critics have suggested the film’s ultimate mystery remains disappointing when finally revealed, far more have been raving about the flick’s throwback vibe, efficient storytelling, and satisfying emotional and cinematic similarity to movies like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Read on for a deep dive into “Super 8″ reviews.

The Story
” “Super 8″ centers on Joe (Joel Courtney), a middle-schooler who has lost his mom and is spending his summer helping his chum Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a zombie movie. Shooting surreptitiously one night at a train station, the kids witness a horrific accident that opens a mystery involving a science teacher, an Air Force investigation, Joe’s policeman dad (Kyle Chandler) and … something out there in the night. There are harum-scarum jokes aplenty, lots of Spielbergian camera work, a cute girl to woo (Elle Fanning), and some broken psyches in need of repair. Is it as powerful as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or “E. T.”? Not quite, no. But it’s spirited and funny and deeply entertaining, a summer movie for kids who think like adults and adults who feel like kids.” — Shawn Levy, The Oregonian

The Performances
“The pacing is superb, quick and agile without being frenzied, and the special effects are jaw-dropping. Abrams gets excellent performances from his young cast, not only from his leads — Elle Fanning, as the pretty girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and Joel Courtney, as a sensitive boy who has lost his mother — but from the supporting players. For example, Riley Griffiths tears ferociously into the role of the boy director, as a kind of eighth-grade Orson Welles. There are also two wounded fathers, well played: Kyle Chandler plays the town’s deputy for all he’s worth, and Ron Eldard, looking like a slimmed-down Gerard Depardieu, plays Fanning’s confused father.” — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The Comparisons
“There’s a thin line, though, between honoring what came before you and replicating it, and ‘Super 8′ occasionally wobbles over that line into predictability. Nor is Abrams quite sure what to make of his monster. Is it friend or foe? Can a movie split the difference and still hold on to our sympathies? Toward the end, you feel the filmmaking cutting corners, rushing past story points and shortchanging characters to get to the finale, which itself lacks the pop immensity of a movie like ‘Close Encounters’ even as it imitates it. ‘Super 8′ is a curious thing indeed: A good movie that makes you want to go home and re-watch a great one.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe

The Mystery
“Just what and who the monster is, forms the central question of ‘Super 8.’ But despite Abrams’ best efforts to ratchet up the tension, the mystery never takes compelling hold, a weakness that becomes especially clear in the movie’s anti-climax of an ending. At that point, the already thin story gets wrapped up so neatly that viewers will scarcely have time to process its plot holes. (What were those little white boxes for, anyway?)” — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

The Final Word
“How have we survived for so long on such a meager, high-cal, low-nutrition diet of processed summertime superhero sequels? ‘Super 8′ is an antidote to that emotional-vitamin deficiency. It’s also a great specimen of original storytelling grounded in a sophisticated respect for storytellers who have come before. Writer/director J.J. Abrams has described his movie as a love letter to the kind of Super 8 monsters-and-chases stuff he made as a boy, which were influenced by the ‘Raiders’/ ‘Close Encounters’ sagas of Steven Spielberg, who himself made 8mm monsters-and-chases stuff as a boy. (Spielberg is a ‘Super 8 producer.’) The loop works beautifully.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

Check out everything we’ve got on “Super 8.”

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