Viewed – 24 December 2011 Blu-ray
Current hot property J. J. Abrams (TVs LOST, Star Trek re-boot, Mission Impossible 3) is probably one of the most reliable director around at the moment, with obvious skill and cinematic knowledge going into everything he puts his name to. Combine this with Producer Stephen Spielberg, and this one promises plenty. Hyped as a throwback to eighties kids adventure movies like The Goonies and E.T. this offers up a cast of likable child actors and a small town setting that immediately feels familiar.
Set in 1979, a group of friends are making an amateur movie and witness a (very over the top) train crash during the filming of one scene. Yet this was no freak accident and something not of this world was being transported onboard – and now its loose. As the military step in to clean up the wreckage, the kids begin an investigation of their own whilst attempting to finish their movie. This has a very nostalgic feel and captures the wonder of childhood innocence well, if not necessarily as timelessly as Spielberg has done in the likes of the aforementioned E.T. and even Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Something is missing, that much is evident, and although Abrams nails the performances and feel, the imitation of such material is probably done a touch too well, and at times feels very old-fashioned and dare I say it, clichéd. Also what the movie is ultimately about is underwhelming, lacking that essential ‘magic’. The child actors were all good though, and special mention should go to Joel Courtney in the lead and Elle Fanning as his sort-of love interest.
This works however as a fun adventure movie, and perhaps unlike me if you don’t have a good knowledge of the movies this is clearly copying, then on its own merits, it’s good entertainment. It must be said however that Abrams movie is lacking its own identity, and although things come together quite heart-warming at the end … I was left disappointed.
Verdict: 3 /5