Early Reviews Compare "Midnight Special" to E.T., Close Encounters, Starman, and More

Friday, 12 February 2016 - 5:30PM
Midnight Special
Friday, 12 February 2016 - 5:30PM
Early Reviews Compare "Midnight Special" to E.T., Close Encounters, Starman, and More
Midnight Special has long been on our radar as this year's Ex Machina, the sci-fi indie with impressive talent behind it that has the potential to take everyone by storm. Now, the first reviews coming out of the Berlin Film Festival go a long way towards confirming that, as the movie has drawn favorable comparisons to everything from Spielberg's E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to John Carpenter's Starman and James Cameron's Abyss.


The vast majority of the reviews are positive, praising the performances from the talented cast, which includes Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, and Adam Driver, as well as the restained, exposition-light script and sensitive direction from Jeff Nichols, who previously helmed the critically acclaimed dramas Take Shelter and Mud. And everyone agrees on the film's Spielbergian influences, even as they praise Nichols for having his own signature style.

Opening quote
"You're reminded of that helter-skelter momentum in the first half of Close Encounters, but also of the meddlesome government cronies in ET... If the search was on, or necessary, to find the next Steven Spielberg, it may be too soon to call it decided; perhaps we're agreed that carbon copies of the Super 8 school don't have enough novelty to count, and that it's probably not the Jurassic World guy. Might it be Jeff Nichols?" - The Telegraph
Closing quote


Opening quote
"Jeff Nichols' urgent, unsettling Midnight Special is a crafted progression from such beloved 1970s dramas as Close Encounters of The Third Kind or Starman." - Screen Daily
Closing quote


Opening quote
"In his fourth feature, Midnight Special, Jeff Nichols pays transporting homage to the rich tradition, spanning the late 1970s through the mid-'80s, of intelligent sci-fi emotionally grounded in relatable human dynamics. There's an explicit nod, in particular, to John Carpenter's Starman... There are quiet evocations here not only of Starman, but also of sci-fi as diverse as The Man Who Fell to Earth, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind." - THR
Closing quote


Opening quote
"It's this fundamental human component that ultimately makes 'Midnight Special' such a fascinating ride, holding our interest while Nichols refuses to adapt to the breakneck pacing of contemporary thrillers. Though the film takes place in the present, it's clearly channeling the sort of movies Nichols grew up watching, in which federal agents made a regular habit of ruining an adolescent's fun ("E.T.'s" walkie-talkie-toting G-men come to mind)." - Variety
Closing quote


Opening quote
"While much has been made of the debts the film owes to John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg (and occasionally even James Cameron's 'The Abyss,' if you ask me) its mood - and it is overridingly a film of mood - is all Nichols. It is very recognizably the same spare, intelligent style that made 'Take Shelter' so compelling and that created in 'Mud' a story that meant so much more than the things that happened within it." - The Playlist
Closing quote


Opening quote
"Nichols has cited 'Starman' as an influence, and with his film's determined pacing, sombre tone and atmospheric, pulsing electronic soundtrack (courtesy of David Wingo), Carpenter is certainly evoked throughout. But I also couldn't help thinking of the parallel journeys of an Everyman and government forces towards a decisive rendezvous in 'Close Encounters of The Third Kind' (whose main character was also a Roy) or of the childlike alien of 'ET.'" - TOH
Closing quote

There were a few criticisms, from positive and negative reviews alike, that the final sequence is jarringly conventional and a few of the homages are a little hokey. But there were only a couple of actual detractors, who went so far as to draw negative comparisons with Nichols' influences:

Opening quote
"[Jeff Nichols has] talked about how it's essentially a homage to both E.T. and Close Encounters. Sadly, the Spielbergian magic that Nichols so desperately wants to recreate is almost entirely absent from the end product and without it, there's something disappointingly lifeless instead... While some ambitious visuals impress, there's no heart behind them – and that's something Spielberg would never have allowed." - The Guardian
Closing quote


Opening quote
"Were it not for the splice-happy editing, the film might have come off as a sort of Deep South E.T. via Mercury Rising. But, regrettably, that heavy distillation has resulted in a drama with very few details to really cling onto. Nichols builds tension well but fails to add enough mystery to Alton's powers to keep momentum fully present." - The Film Stage
Closing quote

Even so, we're very excited for this movie, as it has the potential to be one of the best sci-fi movies this year, like Ex Machina last year and Under the Skin/Snowpiercer the year before that. We'll see whether it lives up to the hype (and proves its detractors wrong) when it comes out on March 18.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Movies
Midnight Special

Load Comments