Review: Does Super 8 Earn The Title Of A Spielberg Alien Encounter Classic?

It's been awhile since a movie has actually transported it's viewers back in time, and really captured the essence of that time period and made it feel real. Wow J.J. Abrams' has done exactly that, with the highly anticipated sci-fi thriller Super 8. But can it compare to the Spielberg classics of the eighties, or is it just another alien thriller?

Super 8 follows Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a thirteen year old boy whose trying to cope with the death of his mother, which is made even harder by his neglecting father (Kyle Chadler). In order to get his mind off of how things are for him family wise, Joe spends most of his time with a group of kids working on films with a super 8 camera.
While working on a Zombie movie, there's a part in the film that requires a female lead, so the guys recruit Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), who instantly catches the eyes of all the boys (Especially Charles and Joe). Charles wants to catch a train passing in the background for the scene, and they all wait for the train to come by. But when it does, a truck drives onto the track and crashes directly into the train. The gang runs from the scene, but little do they know an alienescaped during the crash. And from the their the story unravels.
What really reeled my into Super 8 was the dialogue between the characters, and the chemistry between the gang of kids. As a huge fan of The Goonies and similar Steven Spielberg films ( Close Encounters, E.T., etc.), one of the things that made those movies so memorable was the humorous and lively characters, and Super 8 manages to pull that off perfectly. The jealousy, language, attitude, teasing, and even fright of the boys makes the film very natural and believable. You really feel like you're watching teenage boys from the late seventies react to this situation.
As I said above, the characters felt very natural, and it helped that Abram's casted actual kids for the roles. Joel Courtney does an impressive job as Joe Lamb, and Riley Griffiths also impresses as Joe's bossy and jealous friend Charles. I also personally loved Gabriel Basso as the cowardly a air headed Martin, and Ryan Lee also cracked some jokes as the explosion obsessed Cary. The group basically has every different type of character to offer, and link together almost instently.
As for story, there are definitely some flaws in the story (Especially toward the end) that really take away from the fun experience. Be caution because there are some spoilers ahead. Abrams takes just about the entire movie to introduce the monster that escaped from the train, and for a while it feels like you're watching two completely different movies. One following Joe and his relationship with his friends, dad, and Alice. And on the other hand, a monsters arm randomly grabbing civilians. Once the two stories connect, it feels a bit odd and forced, and you really begin to care more about what Joe's life than the monster.
Another problem with the story is it's heart. The relationship between Joe and his dad is emphasized on in the beginning of the film, and while you think it would be a major character development though out the film leading up to their relationship becoming stronger, it instead is never really touched upon, and is really just ignored until the very end of the film. There's also a major focus put on the relationship between Joe and Charles, which seems pretty tense at first until Abrams solves it quickly and also without explanation.
What mainly didn’t feel right was the relationship between Joe and the monster. Abrams made it apparent that there was a connection between the two, considering the fact the monster didn’t do anything to him, but he really didn’t elaborate. The monster sort of just lacked personality and didn’t really play a large role in the film. And can’t help but draw comparison to E.T. again, which giving E.T. a lot of personality and giving him great connection with the audience and the actual characters in the movie is what made him such a memorable character. I honestly don’t think anyone will walk out of Super 8 with the monster as their favorite character, or even remember that there was a monster in the movie. But every other interesting aspect of the movie sort of makes up for it, and while the alien itself doesn’t play a big role, the mystery of it all does. 
While Super 8 is a great fun summer film, it just can't quite make it to the same degree as Spielberg's classics. With a great cast, and a fun script, Super 8 is one of the funniest alien films to hit theaters in a long time (Unlike films such as Battle: LA) and not too over the top (See Paul), but it still doesn't make the criteria of a true memorable classic. Nice try Abrams, but I'm afraid you're still no Steven Spielberg.

I give Super 8 4 out of 5 stars:
And here's the Super 8 trailer:

What did you think of Super 8?