This weekend’s Super 8 took number one in the top box office, earning $38 million and against the odds of many predecessors in film history, living up to the massive amount of hype to welcome us with open arms into summer blockbuster cinema. Typically, as in the case of long awaited comic book film adaptation Watchmen, hype can be a dangerous, double-edged sword because although initial sales will increase dramatically, so do expectations. With Super 8, we have wandered into that rare vicinity of cinema in which a film was worth keeping secret.

J. J. Abrams, who created worldwide phenomenon Lost, has reached into Steven Spielberg territory with surgical precision. Indeed, the influence of Spielberg in Abram’s work was most evident in Cloverfield, which had a tendency to imitate the horror of Jaws by refusing to reveal the monster wreaking havoc, while also similarly blending in humor and intimate emotion at once. The ultimate result is nostalgia no less, as Super 8 brings to mind most Spielberg’s epic and beloved E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. The mystery and charm of innocence overlaps smoothly with the mystery of J. J. Abrams, now famous for constructing plots which make sudden turns and take you where you don’t expect. Even outside of his films, Abrams’ attention to secrecy and ability to spark intrigue and fascination with the next project has clearly been mastered. Super 8 may not be the most original film, but it is absolutely a much needed reminder of what cinema used to be and what cinema is capable of.

Another cue of the nostalgic summer attitude within Super 8 is the “blockbuster” status of the film, a genre which Spielberg himself was a pioneer in. The film’s monster also reminds America of its pastime amusement with double feature monster movies with enlarged insects, rubber suits, and wretched effects. This pastime has also been noted by the Turner Classic Movie channel itself, which for the month airs exactly these monster movies in which the monster is the star. All of the awe and fantastic science fiction that Spielberg has ever given us forms a perfect union with the visceral spontaneity and strangeness and daring of Abrams. The film establishes characters worth remembering and investing in, the allure of youth, the magic of the unknown, and as a whole takes audiences on a rollercoaster of emotions and a journey into who we used to be personally, as a country, as moviegoers—and who we are now.

At long last, the obsession with comic book films brings along simply awful, awful ideas like The Green Lantern. However, since the stories have built-in audiences while the average moviegoer is bound to begin rejecting comic book adaptations, every superhero that can be made into a movie to make money will be made. Sadly, we will keep paying. It has every opportunity to take first, but Super 8 has every opportunity to defend number its position at the top box office. The childhood adventure story is more widely acceptable, and as a summer blockbuster of its own rather than a contribution to such a specific genre as comic books may very well keep its place at number one. I’d like to think it will, but today’s moviegoers don’t care much about what they see as much as escaping from the frustration’s of today’s America. I estimate The Green Lantern steals Super 8’s place—even latter film pulls us completely away from our time, the most deliberate escape we could ask for. The one film destined to manage very little is unfortunately Jim Carrey-led Mr. Popper’s Penguins. However strong a book, the live-action adaptation still seems wildly silly and simply put, strange.

Rank Title Weekend Gross
1 Super 8 (2011) $37M $38M
2 X-Men: First Class (2011) $25M $98.9M
3 The Hangover Part II (2011) $18.5M $217M
4 Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) $16.6M $127M
5 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) $10.8M $209M
6 Bridesmaids (2011) $10.2M $124M
7 Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011) $6.27M $6.27M
8 Midnight in Paris (2011) $6.15M $14.2M
9 Thor (2011) $2.37M $174M
10 Fast Five (2011) $1.71M $205M