1) This movie will remind you of a lot of other movies--a lot--but, I think, in a way that sets it squarely in the genre of those movies rather than being just a ripoff/homage. It probably helps that J.J. Abrams has enough of a style of his own (and a filmmaker universe--nice Slusho sign). There's a point when you have elements of so many other, disparate things--E.T., Cloverfield, War of the Worlds, The Goonies, and, I would argue, a smidge of Jurassic Park--that it's more than the sum of its parts, more than "a movie cobbled together out of other movies." (In fact, what the movie really reminds me of is a '50s creature feature, just with a Spielbergian color scheme.) (Yes, he produced it.) This is what Picasso meant when he said, "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal." Not that this is a Picasso; it's a solid B+ or higher. I'm just saying, the homage quality is a plus, not a liability, IMO.
2) The train crash really is awesome.
3) What happens once we've run out of filmmakers who grew up in the '70s? What happens when the people making movies are the kids who grew up on Nintendo and never went outside? What are the glossy nostalgic childhood-adventure movies going to look like then?
4) The kids are great. But the best acting in the entire movie is Elle Fanning playing a young girl playing a detective's wife in the kids' amateur movie. Truth.
5) I am completely and utterly convinced that Joe and Alice have the same mother, and this is either something that got written out, dropped, or left as subtext. Why else would Alice's father be so pissed that the kids are still hanging out? Joe's father, sure--Alice's father was responsible for the mother's death. I think both the fathers are terrified the kids are going to fall in love. I suspect there was also some rewriting, for whatever reason, around how/why the mother died, because Alice's explanation is, "My father got drunk, called in sick, and your mother took his shift." But the way the father apologizes is, "I never wanted anyone to get hurt" (what was the precise wording?). How did he have anything to do with anyone getting hurt? All he should really be saying is, "It should have been me instead of her." Which makes me think that originally, he was drunk on the job and some negligence of his got her killed. Joe's father's complete and blazing hatred at the beginning of the movie would make more sense to me if that were the case. I don't think it's implausible that a grieving man would blame Alice's father for something that put his wife at the scene of the accident but didn't actually cause it, but... it makes more sense if Alice's father did.
And look at the way Alice watches the home movie of the mother; she's looking at someone's mother when she never had a mother, she's looking at someone whose death should have been her father's, yes, and that's enough, but what if we're being told that somehow she senses that this is her mother? I swear they cast an actress who has Fanning's facial structure. And then there's something else--"Go on, leave like your mother did!" Alice is older than Joe. It's plausible that the mother left her boyfriend/husband (...and her infant child?), married the deputy, and had Joe with him. Which kind of makes her sound like an asshole, actually. So I feel like maybe these two elements got written out to make the characters more sympathetic--Alice's father isn't directly responsible for the accident and death, and the mother now isn't the kind of person who would leave her first child, because that's a bit more human complexity than a summer movie about an alien blowing shit up can bite off.
The only, only thing that makes me doubt that theory is that, when Alice's father finally apologizes, he refers to "your wife," as if he doesn't know her very well, rather than "Elizabeth." Otherwise, I am 99.99% convinced that there was a version of this story where Joe and Alice were secret siblings.
6) If you are over the age of 15, you might as well give up right now. There is absolutely no way you will be saving the world. Really high chance you might get dead, though.
7) "DRUGS ARE SO BAAAAAD!"
8) Even aliens get PTSD. But preteens can cure them.
9) So apparently Clovie has an intergalactic ancestor who was good with hardware. Seriously, maybe this guy sowed some wild oats with a sea monster. A really, really big one.
10) So... wait. Why did the alien have half the town strung up in his subterranean lair? Was he, like... stockpiling food for the journey home, or something?
I had other thoughts but I forgot them in my rage at Apple and all its products, specifically iTunes and its refusal to recognize my upgraded phone, download a restore, or even update itself. This is an ordeal that has been going on for three hours now, concurrent with a headache. Don't even get me started on the ~NEW YAHOO MAIL~ fuckery that won't even let me log into the account I use for LJ notifications. Discuss amongst yourselves while I fetch the Aleve.