So what happens when you combine a Spielberg coming of age story with a JJ Abrams dimly-lit potboiler? You get “Stand By Me”…with explosions and pissed-off E.T.’s hungry for human flesh.
“Super 8” should be a great example of “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” filmmaking. But ultimately, it separates into its component parts, the military conspiracy/Area 51 plot shoehorned into a genuinely touching coming of age story. It’s well worth your time though, as each element is expertly handled (except where they intersect). You care about Joe and Alice and the shit hand they’ve been dealt; saddled as they are with parents who are barely keeping it together (each in their own way). And the alien plotline is a slick treatment of the Area 51 myth. The casting is brilliant as well, using unknown (but quite talented) child actors who don’t get in the way of the story. Really, the only true misstep is saddling the plot with an early-80s setting. You can almost see the struggles between Spielberg and Abrams as they keep searching for contemporary analogues for modern conveniences (Didn’t everyone in ’83 have a walkie-talkie that magically worked with a large network of friends? And didn’t everyone have the ability to view videos no matter where they were?).
I know I’m not doing the best at selling this, but it’s because, with the creative pedigrees attached to “Super 8,” you expect something transcendent. But even if it’s not, it’s still solid entertainment and is one of those rare movies that will stick around in your streaming queue for more than one viewing.