Let’s get the monster business out of the way first. This world needs another monster movie like it needs another Michael Bay movie. And the monster in this movie is really no exception: it’s some kind of snoozy huge alien spider thing, basically the kind of thing you’d only be into if you’re just into monster movies. Abrams doesn’t quite succeed in giving the beast some humanity, but he tries. I can’t decide whether forced sympathy is better or worse than blind fear and hatred.
Big however, this movie is a lot of fun, and the monster business is really beside the point.1 This movie is about a bunch of awesome middle school kids living in a boring town in Ohio in 1979. Following them around and enjoying their antics is the principal pleasure of the movie. In one utterly relatable scene, the five boys sit around the one cool girl in a diner, all more or less trying to impress while genuinely having a grand time. Says one (the pyromaniac of the stable): “We need another order of fries because of my fat friend.”
The adults in the story are not interesting, which is good because they generally seem to be disposable as monster food. Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney have some great moments, and their blossoming flirtations are surprisingly mature without getting all kissy. Abrams is probably one of the few directors who can write indie-movie characters into a mainstream flick.
Oh, and stay for the credits.
Although not as excisable as, say, the shitting scene in Bridesmaids. ↩︎