In Super 8, it's 1979 in Ohio, and Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his friends are spending the summer making a horror movie. One night, while shooting at the train station, the kids witness a crash of epic proportions, a crash that has a strange effect on the town. When the U.S. Air Force arrives, that only raises more questions: What was the train carrying, and is there a connection between the crash and the strange phenomena (pets running away, microwaves disappearing, car engines vanishing, people being abducted) that have become commonplace? Joe's dad (Kyle Chandler), the sheriff's deputy, butts heads with Air Force Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich) until he gets answers. Meanwhile, the kids try to solve the mysteries on their own, while hiding that they know so much about what happened.
Yes, there's a creature, and no, you won't see it until very late into the movie. But that's not the point of the film. Super 8 is a story about innocence lost, about friends discovering something bigger than their wildest imaginations, about an alien creature that just wants to go home, about a father and son who don't see eye to eye ... In other words, it's a movie with all the classic Steven Spielberg themes (no wonder Uncle Stevie signed on as the film's producer). Abrams has expertly crafted a movie that pays tribute to the movies of his youth while adding a modern twist, just like he did with Star Trek two years ago. Super 8 is full of wonder, it's exciting, and it's a perfect movie for summer (except that it's way smarter than the average summer movie).
To spoil any of Super 8 surprises or to tell too much about the movie would spoil its charm. You want to go into this film knowing as little as possible, so your eyes can be as wide as the young stars'. And yes, you want to stay until the very end; the kids' film unspools over the end credits. From start to finish, Super 8 is a film you can't take your eyes off. It's one of the year's best so far. I'm giving it an A–.