Directed by: JJ Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Noah Emmerich
Review: Wow. This is why movies are great. Movies reach levels of greatness based on how they are able to capture things. Movies capture time periods, emotions, and memories to such a great extent that they can affect emotions in our own lives. Therein lies what gives movies their power and ‘Super 8’ evokes many of those traits.
I would imagine that most people had many a fantasy when they were kids about undertaking a great adventure. How we react to extraordinary events is often something that movies delve into and it reveals a great deal about who we are as human beings. Exactly how someone reacts in these scenarios is always a little bit better in someone’s own head, but then again, that’s why we come to the movies in the first place, to see our imagination lived out on screen.
‘Super 8’ centers around a small town, one of those small towns that harkens back to Speilberg-ian towns of his films from the 70’s and 80’s. It is a town that seems to take on a character of its own, it is cut off from the real world and things happen here that don’t happen anywhere else. Right from the start we are given a feel for how small of a town this is when there is an accident that has occurred at the local plant. We aren’t given any details of the accident, rather all we see is the “Days since last accident” sign taken down back to 1. Then we are taken to a funeral where our main character Joe Lamb’s (Courtney) mother has passed away. Putting two and two together you can guess that it was his mom that was a part of the accident.
Four months later, in the heat of summer, Joe and his crew of friends are shooting a movie together. They decide to sneak out one night to get some night shots at a train station. It is here where they become witnesses to a train crash which causes the military to intercede and take over the town, leading to the town being evacuated.
It’s not till Joe’s love interest Alice Dainard (Fanning) goes missing that Joe and his crew feel the need to trudge back into town to rescue her from ‘whatever’ it is that took her in the first place. This of course leads to lots of different action and adventure as well as knowledge about what it is they’re confronting to save Alice.
Directly influenced by Speilberg movies of old (Jaws, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, E.T., to name a few), the movie only suffers from not being directed by Speilberg himself. If there is a weakpoint of the film it exists in that it doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as Speilberg’s does. What makes Spielberg such a genius is his constant ability to put the audience in the shoes of the characters by making them have just as little information as the characters have. Whatever it is that has taken over this town doesn’t need to be explained. Nobody needed to know why Jaws was terrorizing the beach, just that it needed to be sent away. The aliens in close in encounters and E.T. were never known exactly why they came to Earth but in E.T.’s case, we know he just wanted to get home.
That’s the small fault in this movie, too much is known, too much is explained, too much of a bow is wrapped around the experience. Where Speilberg show’s restraint as a director, Abrams shows none. This is not a problem for the film, just a difference from the films it will most likely draw comparisons to. The ending also could’ve used a bit more work to feel a bit more organic, but such things don’t detract from the overall experience. It’s a movie that is definitely worth your time.