PG-13 | 112 mins | Sci-fi, Adventure | June 10, 2011 (USA)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Director: J.J. Abrams
Producer: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Ryan Lee
Sure, there is an alien in the movie, a kleptomaniacal one I must say, but it really is a story of kids and their relationships.
The movie is set in 1979, basing on a newscast referencing the Three Mile Island accident, and a bunch of kids in small town Lillian, Ohio is making a monster movie in the Super 8 format (that’s an old movie format that you can’t watch right away, it needs to be viewed on a projector after it was developed). The main kid, Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney), has his mother get killed in a steel mill accident involving the father of Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the cute white trash girl. The fathers, Kyle Chandler as deputy sheriff Jackson Lamb and Ron Eldard as scary Louis Dainard, hate each other and both have estranged relationships with their children.
Alice gets pulled in to do their film, and chubby child director Charles (newcomer Riley Griffiths) rounds up the gang to do shooting at the train tracks late at night. They accidentally film a train crash instead. What emerges from the train wreck is out of this world, I mean literaly. Bizarre things start to happen and the kids try to solve the mystery like Sooby Doo. A battle ensues involving machine guns and tanks, that impossibly fires repeatedly because they're manual loader tanks (YOU GEEK! I know...) and not powered by Prof. X.
Much of Super 8's poster has been dedicated to two prominent names in film: J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. Were they just banking on these names to make a fortune and make up for its likely senselessness? I didn't think so.
Like any other, the film has issues, yes. Like those tanks; and the Air Force freight train that ridiculously ran at that impracticable speed! No wonder it got derailed. And that the monster is racist because it didn't abduct anyone other than caucasian. Of course it's a collage of different amazing movies, according to sour critics, but it has its own original tone to it, according to me. Their point was: a group of kids in their early teens (Stand by Me), they pursue the mystery that haunts their town (Goonies, or Scooby Doo if twas TV), and they get into trouble with the military dealing with an alien (E.T.). Abrams has pieced together all those with a storytelling technique that is his own, and that's genius and original. He is like a student of poetry, you study the works of the standards like William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda, and you take from that and make a style that is your own.
The acting was superb! What do you expect, J.J. Abrams is good at casting. Except for Elle Fanning, the kids had little or no prior experience at acting but they were authentic. Joel Courtney especially was very good in his role. Like kids often do in their part of the world, they swear, they are bitchy to one another, fight over girls then get over it.
It's a movie for kids that appeals to adults too. There are problems to the film, but that and the cranky comments about Super 8 still doesn't take away from the feel-good glory of the film. I sat back and enjoyed the Spielbergian nostalgia that it brought. I felt like a kid again.