If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Steven Spielberg must be feeling pretty flattered right about now. The much anticipated movie "Super 8," which opens today, is an 112-minute homage to the director. But the similarities start before the move even begins, with the trailers.
%photo1% If you haven't watched "Close Encounters" in a while (or ever), here's the deal: A man (played by an intensely deranged Richard Dreyfuss) encounters a UFO and becomes obsessed with a place out in the wilderness where there's been, yep, a train wreck (at least, that's the government's cover story). There's something mysterious out there, but we don't see it until the very end. There's family drama. There's haunting music. There is a great reveal. Just see it, you'll love it. Clearly, "Super 8" director J.J. Abrams did.
"Super 8" is made by the man who brought us the original TV drama "Lost" and the monster movie "Cloverfield." It's about a group of kids in 1979 Ohio making a film starring 13-year-old Elle Fanning. While filming, they happen to capture a mysterious train crash that unleashes a scary monster not seen until the end -- that has Spielberg touches all over it.
The "E.T." director served as the producer -- and the inspiration -- for the movie. So, what's been the response been to this '70s sci-fi homage?
Reviewers certainly get the references. Screenrant notes, "The storyline is simultaneously inspired by and intended as a tribute to Steven Spielberg's classic blockbusters, including 'E.T.,' 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' 'Jaws,' and 'Jurassic Park.'"
The story, viewed through the eyes of a group of adolescents, make this movie a ringer for early Spielberg flicks.
The blog Hollywood and Fine writes, "Certainly, the nods to Steven Spielberg (this film's executive producer) are there, beginning with Abrams' use of a group of kids as the film's central protagonists -- and setting the film in 1979."
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly calls the movie "irresistible" and the story, "A tale of extraterrestrial mystery straight out of an 'E.T.'-era Steven Spielberg pic."
Kenneth Turan from the Los Angeles Times is less impressed with the "E.T" redux: "You only have to compare 'Super 8' (unfairly perhaps, but inevitably) to the Spielberg film it most resembles, the impeccably entertaining 'E.T.,' to see the ways the earlier movie felt fresh and inventive while the new one has the aura of stuff we've already seen."
That may be true, but CNN points out that the mash-up of family film and monster movie is a Spielberg formula that works: "Like many Spielberg productions, 'Super 8' suggests that kids represent the best in us."
But the most obvious link between the two directors: Putting people at the center of the drama, not the monsters. As Metromix puts it, "It's in the characters' quietest moments that Abrams most effectively connects his work to Spielberg's most enduring efforts... It's the human touch that ultimately makes the difference."