The central story of the film is brilliant. Five kids on the cusp of being teenagers set out to make a film and end up capturing a monster on camera. The monster (and the military who come to find it) begin to terrorize their small town and they're caught in the middle of it all and may even hold the key to saving the town/world/each other. If that sounds a little hokey, it's because it is, but in the best possible ways. Newcomer Joel Courtney as Joe, is a standout amongst the stellar young cast. Each one of them has their own personality, tagline, and skill-set which aids in the story and gives the film a magical "Goonies" vibe.
Director J.J. Abrams has a great handle on how to direct the young kids and to stage the havoc and mayhem the military/monster causes. Say what you will about Abrams but the guy is a highly underrated action director, the scenes here are crisp, clear, and refreshingly devoid of "shakey cam" syndrome which can ruin a film. The explosions, special effects, and monster design are all top notch. Wait, speaking of monster design, the monster looks like a cousin of the "Cloverfield" monster, which looked like "Star Trek" monster, so you gotta wonder if all these creatures are related and JJ is going to reveal this in future and systematically make nerds explodes all at once.
Ahh nerds, not the candy, but the primary audience for this film. This is a film the deliberately conjures up the sense of wonder of everybody felt while watching "E.T.," "Jurassic Park," and "Close Encounters." That sense of wonder is THE NERD IN YOU, the childlike fascination in the unknown and awesome. Because JJ/Spielberg try so hard to appeal to this, they make a choice in the ending which I didn't agree with. I don't want to spoil it, but let's say it involves our hero and the compassion that "Old Man Woodward's Research" supposedly has. It felt un-earned and too heavy handed with it's emotions, too much designed to appeal to the old school nerd wonder and not the story the film had told so well up to that moment. It felt like a red flag that said "see, we're just like those movies from your childhood you love!"
This simple decision didn't ruin the movie at all, it's still great, but it made wonder just why it had to be in there. Are we as viewers craving nostalgic wonder so much, we cannot create create or appreciate it in the present? Kid's these days may not shoot films on Super 8 cameras, but they still make them and they're still awesome. They still get nervous around the opposite sex, are impressed fireworks and destruction, and possess amazing courage in the face of the unknown. "Super 8" is great film, but it could have been a legendary one if Abrams and Spielberg trusted the kids of 2011 a little more and made it about them*
**"Attack The Block" is a film about a group of teenagers fighting aliens in a london Housing project in 2011, it's getting rave reviews and comes out July 29**