I liked J.J. Abrams Super 8 a lot. So much that until I finally saw Drive off a disc, I held Super 8 to be the finest movie of 2011.
Super 8 is a shamelessly nostalgic piece of film. It combines Goonies and E.T. to a coherent whole, with a bit of Cloverfield added for extra spice. And wraps the story with a well-thought out framing device: the protagonists are filming a horror movie, and accidentally capture things on film that they never should have seen.
Despite Super 8 mainly populated by kids, the actors never cross the annoyance-threshold. And the plot indeed revolves around the kids being kids, not as conventional exposition devices. Elle Fanning executes her part well, and I’m sure the rest of the crew will not be strangers on the big screen in the next decade either.
The heritage of the film is very much apparent, but it’s an homage, never a rip-off. The plot has a few holes and a few cliches, but nothing that would snap the suspenders of disbelief too harshly.
The 1979 setting is not rubbed in very strong. While the scenery and dialogue seem genuine, the soundtrack is not filled to the brim with the hits of the summer.
Bonus half a star for the most explosive scene of the year (the derailment, which gets the entire plot rolling).