Starring Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, and Elle Fanning
Directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and drug use
Appropriate for ages 15+
In the summer of 1979, a young group of friends witnesses a train derailing, which leads to the start of strange happenings in their small Ohio town.
This is a tough review to write simply because much of the discussion of the film can revolve around potential plot spoilers. With that in mind, I’ll try to give a more broad account. Just like he did with Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams went out of his way to not let audiences see what his film was really about. In this day and age when the trailer usually shows the entire film, I can really appreciate his wanting to keep it secret for us.
In this case, the lack of knowledge of upcoming scenes leads to a suspenseful reveal that doesn’t really take place until the third act. This is both good and bad. It’s good in the sense that you are really on the edge of your seat and getting to know your characters. The bad is that by the time you know what’s actually going on, the build up has to be worth the wait. For me, the reveal was a bit of let down, especially because it happened so late and came off as unoriginal.
For the first hour of the film though, I was truly engrossed. The film brings a huge amount of nostalgia with it, reminding you of your days spent with E.T., Close Encounters, and even the Goonies. And because it reminded me so much of those films, I expected a strong emotional pay off at the end, which just wasn’t provided. It’s almost like Spielberg began the film and Abrams finished it in the most emotionally unattached way possible.
I was also disappointed in the language of the film. Even though this is a horror film, it is still marketed as a kid-friendly horror film. Most movies I grew up with had a bit of bad language, but at the moment Abrams threw an F-bomb into the mix, the film became an adult picture, rather than what could have been a great fantasy pic for kids. While my son is much too young for a film like this, I would be upset if I was watching it with a young teenager. The language is just plain inappropriate for the target audience.
Language aside, though, the film definitely starts out of the gate strong, but lacks the kind of finish that most audiences will desire. It’s not that the story is bad, it’s just that sticking to the formula would have helped the movie tremendously. B