The movie Super 8 is excellent, and tells the story of a group of kids, amateur film makers in 1979 who, when filming a scene for their homemade zombie movie, witness an incredible (and mysterious) train crash, while their Super 8 camera witnesses even more. Super 8 is director J. J. Abram’s cinematic love letter to producer Steven Spielberg, and everything about it pays homage to Spielberg’s early works, especially Jaws (a small town cop trying to reassure a terrorized town), E. T. (with bike riding kids and an alien), and Close Encounters (flickering lights , the guv’ment, and haywire electronics).
It’s refreshing to see a film about junior high kids that doesn’t have them preaching about how if you just believe in yourself you can be anything you want, or resorting to juvenile humor. Everything about this film seems grounded in a certain gritty reality, and that is largely due to the amazing performances of the kids. Newcomer Joel Courtney (who plays Joe Lamb) is a revelation, and Elle Fanning counters him wonderfully. The story is about more than mysterious cargo on a train, but is about alienation, childhood, blossoming romance, imagination, and parental reconciliation.
Yet it fails to completely soar as Spielberg’s earlier works did, and I think I partly know why: John William’s music is missing, which grounded Spielberg’s films with a greater sense of awe and wonder, and a melodic hook that one is very hard pressed to find in Super 8.
Rating: Worth 6 of my 7 run-on sentences.
What’s YOUR rating? Join the dialogue, and comment below!
NOTE: I have more to say on this film, but I’ll post it in the Comments section since it contains spoilers.
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SPOILER ALERT: Here are some more comments of mine, which assume you’ve seen the movie. You have been warned.
These are random thoughts, in no particular order.
The alien in the movie was disappointing, in that it was unimaginative. Close Encounters and E.T. both had unique aliens, as have lots of movies. But Abrams went for the clichéd nasty reptilian critter first made popular by the movie Alien, and seen time and time again. I get the reasoning: The creature is hideous to look at, and we must overcome our suspicions and fear based on its complete lack of cuddliness. But I expected more.
The Super 8 film that the kids shot of the train crash had absolutely no bearing on the plot. You’d think young Joe would at least show it to his dad to prove that he wasn’t making things up. Or something. [Corrected below – one of the kids did indeed show it to Jack. Thanks, Robert!]
The other kids in the cast deserve a shout-out, too. None of these kids are the popular jock stereotypes, and their nerdy idiosyncrasies are endearing and thoroughly realized.
In addition to paying homage to Spielburg, Abrams pays homage to himself. Fans of “Lost” will recognize the Smoke Monster (though it’s not a smoke monster, of course). My wife noted the name of the character Jack Lamb, Joe’s deputy father. “Lost” featured a character named Jack Shepherd.
Call me a prude, but I wish some of the bad language wasn’t in the movie, most particularly a gratuitous use of the F-word. The rest didn’t bother me as much. It’s how boys that age talk. But that one was unnecessary.
Abrams loves to intentionally use lens flares (which are little shafts of light that show up when light bounces around inside of a camera’s lens). Go to VideoCoPilot.net and you, too, can have the same Optical Flares plugin that Abrams used. Spielburg has always been a master of stylized lighting, and in this way, among others, Abrams beautifully matched not just Spielburg’s story telling conventions, but the very essence of the Spielburg “look”.
Good review and I agree almost completely. I too was bothered by the gratuitous F-word use. Minor correction – the film was set in 1979, not 1978. Also, while it’s true that Joe didn’t show his father the movie he had shot, another of the boys did. In the evacuation center, the boy handed the film to Joe’s dad and said “you need to look at this.” I had not thought of the music and that is a good point; a Williams score would have added much.
Yep, you’re right, it’s set in ’79. I’ll change my post. And yes, I forgot, too, about the boy that handed the film to Jack. Thanks for the correction. I still think the film they shot could have played a bigger role in the plot somehow. Seemed like it should have. That camera push in to the Super 8 camera as its film ran out, laying sideways, seemed to be teasing up a bigger role. I thought the feds would find out and try and hunt down the film, or something. I guess it was just there to give us a reason to meet the stoner in the camera store.