*First of all, it feels good to be back updating this blog. Secondly, I’m done with school (with a Master’s Degree in Humanities). Thirdly, and on a less enthusiastic note, I’m unemployed. Whew, now that that’s off my chest, time to head on for the review. And guess what? It’s a film still showing in theaters, so this review’s pretty up to date. ;P
I’ll cut to the chase right away: this film was, honestly, pretty disappointing. One would probably expect a classic from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg’s collaboration. In the end, however, we get a movie with a plot very much like a little 1982 Spielberg film titled E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first start with…
Direction wise, J.J. Abrams proves himself to be a pretty decent director. The opening train crash is pretty intense (especially with the young filmmakers in the middle of the chaos). The scenes with the alien are quite terrifying, with Abrams applying the “less is more” approach when filming the scenes, choosing to keep the creature out of focus when it attacks.
Acting wise, the kids live their roles. Joel Courtney does a pretty impressive debut. Elle Fanning, in the words of a peer, shows the acting chops expected from her being the younger sister of Dakota Fanning. Kyle Chandler channels his grief properly against the drunk Ron Eldard. As for the rest of the kids, one would really feel that those were the actual kids whom Abrams worked with when he was still a kid making Super 8 movies.
The story is typical Spielberg. Oh, wait, let me rephrase: the story is REHASHED from Spielberg. It’s basically a troubled family who overcome their crisis through an even bigger crisis, namely an alien attack and the government keeping it all under wraps.
I believe that this film would have been much better had it stuck to the drama/coming of age story of Courtney and Fanning’s characters. There is enough tension between the family of Courtney and Fanning, as well as the light-hearted scenes of the kids filming their epic zombie movie, for the film to be engaging. Instead, we see the story develop into a Spielberg alien feature. What’s worse, the story becomes a REHASH of a classic Spielberg alien feature (see E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). Seedy military group? Check. Family in crisis? Check. An alien? Double check. I know that imitation is a form of flattery, but in this case, it simply doesn’t work.
To recap, this film is a disappointment. While it features commendable performances from the cast, decent direction from Abrams, and an engaging romantic/coming of age story involving the kids, the film is bogged by its sci-fi story and its rehash of a classic Spielberg alien feature.
3.5 stars out of 5