My cousin described this movie as being a callback to classic Spielberg movies. I have to admit that he’s right. There is a lot going on in this movie that harkens back to a more nostalgic time in movies.
Since the movie is not part of a franchise, it has to rely on good writing to introduce the characters to the audience in as little time as possible. Fortunately good writing is a staple of this movie, and the characters personalities and goals are soon brought to light. J.J. Abrams also avoids the mistake common in far too many monster movies, of making the characters unlikable. If your goal is to tell a good story, then you better have good characters. It is not a satisfactory state of events that we leave the movie regretting there were any survivors.
The opening scene is one that I must point out specifically, as it is so simple in its execution, but the way it sets the stage so beautifully let me know that I was in good hands for this movie.
All the characters were well acted, in some cases surprisingly so. If there’s one thing I’m glad we left dead and buried with old Spielberg movies, it’s bad child actors. All the children playing the main characters know what they’re doing, and are able to portray people, not characters.
Rather than focus entirely on the monster, a majority of the film is focused around the individual character arcs and interpersonal interactions. Action is all good and fine, but a good character arc is far more valuable.
This next paragraph contains spoilers, so avoid if you haven’t seen the movie.
It’s not hard to figure out that the monster is an alien. For a good chunk of the movie I already knew that. But the movie has the decency not to give the secret away too early. There’s a difference between knowing what’s going to happen because it’s legitimately hard to hide it, really there are only so many things a movie monster can be, and seeing the movie just give up. Abrams manages to keep the alien hidden for as long as possible, and even when he reveals it, he doesn’t show the whole thing, allowing us to leave the theater with just the right amount of mystery intact.
While the first half of the movie was better than the latter half, the overall package is satisfying and well worth seeing at least once. It’s good to see that Hollywood is still capable of producing a good movie. And one that isn’t based on a franchise, even if it did require the names of Stephen Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams heading the project. Hopefully we get more movies like these, and viewers take a chance with something unfamiliar, and eventually Hollywood will realize that we don’t just want more of the same garbage.