Looking at the film from a visual angle, it’s obvious that Abrams was trying to mimic Spielberg’s signature cinematography by teasing the viewer with brief, limited shots of the creature throughout the movie, but he departs from Spielberg’s technique in that he neglects to eventually expose the monster in its full, terrifying glory. Super 8’s own E.T. appears to be a hybrid of giant tarantulas and King Kong, but to describe it accurately is a difficult task, considering how it emerges only at night, when special effects are the cheapest and when dim lighting allows it to effectively hide from the view of any spectators. Most of the camera work is just downright corny and almost parody-like; take, for instance, the scene where the cashier gets dragged along the ground by some unseen entity, or the part when the construction worker in the crane gets devoured off screen as the impenetrable tree tops thrash violently in front of him, conveniently obscuring his gory demise. Super 8 takes too many cards from Jurassic Park and not enough from Jaws, indulging in PG, kid-friendly action and cheesy, off-camera deaths while spurning the older members of its audience, who craved more monster in this alleged monster movie.
If the film has one saving grace, it would lie in the better-than-average performances from its young cast, but good actors can not and should not exist in a vacuum. Regardless of whether it’s a thriller, a horror film, a ‘coming-of-age’ drama, or a science-fiction action adventure, a successful movie consists of a compelling story, intriguing characters, capable direction, and strong technical composition, none of which Super 8 has in abundance. E.T., go home already. You’re gonna need a bigger movie.
Final rating: To quote the venerable Dr. Malcolm, renowned mathematician and expert in chaos theory, “This is one big pile of $#*!”