NY Times: Filmmaker J. J. Abrams Is a Crowd Teaser

From the NY Times:

Abrams says that having Spielberg involved had an additional benefit: it enabled him to pay more lavish homage to Spielberg’s work, an obvious inspiration for “Super 8,” than he would otherwise have felt comfortable doing. Aspects of “Super 8” allude to “E.T.,” to “Close Encounters,” to “Jaws,” even to “Jurassic Park.”

Spielberg’s name, along with Abrams’s, is above the title in ads for the movie, which doesn’t have famous actors. But an absence of stars is only one of the gambles it takes. When you keep your movie under a thick veil, as Abrams likes to do, audiences can wind up confused and wary. “What people are looking for in the summer are films with really easy-to-digest high-concept premises,” says Phil Contrino, the editor of Boxoffice.com, which predicts and analyzes grosses. “Even in the case of ‘Inception,’ as complicated and convoluted as that movie was, it had a very, very basic high-concept premise: people invade dreams and change them.” He says it’s less easy to divine and distill what’s behind the curtain of “Super 8.”

There’s an adolescent romance, in which a grieving boy named Joe (played by Joel Courtney, a newcomer) reaches out nervously to a troubled girl named Alice (Elle Fanning). There’s a rite-of-passage story, in which they and their friends test their bravery. “Super 8” wants to be a lot more than a monster movie, but the painstaking drum roll that builds to its climax could mean that audiences judge it primarily — even solely — on whether the payoffs in the third act are commensurate with the heavy breathing in the first two.

Joel Courtney