It’s ET for the noughties! This movie, by JJ Abrams (who apparently made Lost), reproduces many of the major themes of that classic alien encounter movie. It has the energetic and investigative children, the military moving in to cover up the situation, parents who don’t quite get it, and bicycles everywhere. It’s even set very close in time, though one gets the feeling that Super 8 is actually a kind of follow-up to an alternate universe where the military gets its way.

In this movie, a group of pesky kids are filming a movie for an amateur directors’ competition when they witness a massive (and excellent!) train crash. Aware that something is terribly wrong in the aftermath, they flee as the military swoops in to start securing the site. In the ensuing days people start going missing, bizarre things start happening, and the pesky kids start to realize that something very unreal and disturbing is happening. The movie follows the various shenanigans as, being just children, they slip under the military’s gaze and begin investigating the disappearances. Their investigations and the military’s activity lead to a tense climax, resolved through the kids’ innocence and basic good sense.

The movie is darker than the original ET and more adult, but retains many of the same themes of friendship and discovery. It’s tightly scripted and the plot is tense and engaging, and the child actors are excellent. There seemed to be a few flaws in the ending and the resolution which were slightly less than satisfying, but I didn’t care because it had all moved so smoothly up to the finale and we all know roughly what was meant to happen, even if it didn’t quite seem as clear and coherent as it should – in situations like this, with a good movie that held your attention and kept you engaged in the characters, you can overlook quite a few flaws near the end.

If you enjoyed ET as a kid and are interested in a more adult, more modern reimagining of the same ideas, infused with a slightly darker and more paranoid cultural background, then this movie will suit you very well. It’s tense, exciting, well acted and well scripted, with good special effects that are used very carefully to avoid overkill. Well worth seeing at the cinema, and a good addition to the alien encounter genre.

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