Super 8

Posted: June 19, 2011 in Movies
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Super 8 is director J. J. Abrams homage to Steven Spielberg (who produced Super 8 ) films like E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Taking place in Ohio in 1979, it opens with a young boy named Joe whose mother just died in a factory accident. His father, a policemen, is left alone to raise his son, and there is a rift in their relationship. That summer Joe and his friends are filming a monster movie. They ask Alice, an older neighborhood girl, whom Joe has a crush on, to play a part.

One night the kids sneak out late to film a scene by the train tracks, when an Air Force trains goes by. Suddenly a pickup truck purposely drives on the tracks causing it to derail. Apparently this train was transporting an alien creature, which now has escaped.

Over the next few days strange occurrences take place. People disappear, car motors vanish, there’s power outages, and we have a few brief scares.  The Air Force, the kids, and the Joe’s father are all trying to figure out what happened.

Super 8 starts off very strong. The kids are really fun to watch and listen too. There’s lots of cultural references, music etc. In the kids bedrooms are old models, posters for Halloween (which came out in 78) Dawn of the Dead, comic books, etc. It’s a kind of movie they don’t make anymore, about a bunch of kids going out having an adventure. The movie is first and foremost about Joe, his mourning over his mother, and his relationship with his father and Alice.

Unfortunately it loses steam toward the end. The climax attempts to emulate the awe and wonder of the end scenes of E.T. and Close Encounters. It fails to do so, partly because the camera is focused on the effects of what’s happening more than what’s happening.

The monster was smartly revealed very slowly, in classic monster movie style. Upon final reveal it looked a little too goofy. Even more so in the scene where we’re supposed to sympathize with it when it suddenly has the big round Disney eyes. (See Red Letter Media’s review of Avatar) Also it’s explained why machinery is missing, but I was a little confused as why it took people. I think it was quickly mentioned that it eats people in it’s lair, which brings me back to the Disney eyes.  “Don’t mind me I’m just a big scary monster that wants to eat your neighbors,  just look into my big round cartoon eyes and feel sorry for me.”

Also regarding the change of sympathy, there was a scene/story beat missing between the kids face to face encounter with the alien and the climax. Related to that the fathers of Alice and Joe arrive at the end scene but needed something to do.

Finally I want to address the train crash. Again Super 8 is a throwback to the Spielberg films of the 80s, and the camera work and look of the small town remind us of that era. However the train crash was so modern film like, it was completely over the top. It was really hard to believe that a pickup truck would derail a train in such a spectacular fashion (not to mention all the kids survived, also there’s no bodies in the wreckage, was the train empty except the alien?) Also the kids knew the driver of the truck, who should have had screen time before that scene. A train would have plowed right through the truck, so it’s a bit of a stretch that it would have derailed in the first place, so the complete destruction we saw was just too much.

These flaws aside it was mostly an enjoyable movie, it just could have been more. 8.25/10

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Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    For all its obvious touches of Spielbergia, Super 8 feels a whole lot like The Iron Giant meets Stand By Me. In a good way. Good Review!

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