'Super 8': What the Critics Say About J.J. Abrams' Mysterious Film

François Duhamel/Paramount Pictures
Kyle Chandler in "Super 8"

"Abrams and Spielberg don't always bring out the best in each other," writes one reviewer.

With J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg's Super 8 hitting theaters today (or Thursday, if the special Twitter promotion is counted), how did the critics react to the mysterious film?

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that Super 8, set in a sleepy Midwestern town, was "an engaging return trip to Steven Spielberg's youthful world of wonder courtesy of J.J. Abrams." And for the most part, film critics agreed -- but some had reservations about the summer 1979-set movie.

"Super 8 blends the fun vibe of The Goonies with the parallel-universe thrills of Abrams' Lost and Fringe," wrote Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, who gave the film three stars out of four.

But, he said, "Abrams and Spielberg don't always bring out the best in each other. ... And Abrams has a propensity for adding plot twists that go nowhere (hello, Lost). Still, Super 8 kicks in where it counts. ... In Super 8, Abrams makes us care."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott pointed out the slowness in the non-digital age that Super 8 takes place in. "The slower, more cumbersome gadgetry of the predigital past provides Super 8 with some clever jokes and plot twists," Scott writes, later saying that "Super 8 attempts the diffiuclt feat of balancing self-conscious about teh olden days with wide-eyed, headlong, present-tense fun."

He continues: "For about an hour it succeeds marvelously. The modest letdown that follows exposes the limitations of Mr. Abrams' imagination."

Claudia Puig of USA Today says the creature feature "avoids feeling derivative, featuring some of the most visually arresting, explosive action scenes in any recent movie." Puig calls the "extended derailment scene ... astounding, more fully dimensional than any 3D fare" but the quiet moments are "the most indelible."

The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan had a more critical take on the Abrams-Spielberg team-up: "Hybrids may be all the rage for cars, but this melding of two cinematic sensibilties, though effective at moments, is finally not as exciting or involving as we'd like it to be."

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