The trailer for Super 8 debuted almost a year ago, and like a lot of film maker JJ Abrams' other films they worked hard keeping the creature and details of the story a secret. The movie does contain a space monster in it, but the main story of Super 8 is about a group of teenage friends in a small town.
In particular the film follows Joe Lamb, a boy who lost his mother to a steel mill accident just four months prior. Joe befriends Alice, whose father played a role in Joe’s mother’s accidental death. The two fathers want their children to have nothing to do with one another, but Alice and Joe find ways to see each other including helping make a zombie movie with a group of friends. While filming the zombie movie the kids witness an air force train wreck that lets loose a monster in the small town. Weird incidents including missing motors, power outages, missing dogs and disappearing people becomes commonplace among the growing military presence.
JJ Abrams publicly stated Super 8 was his attempt at making the “Spielberg” type movies from the '80s, like ET. Did Abrams succeed? No. The tone is reminiscent of the '80s but the magic and innocence of a film like ET is missing. That is not to say that Super 8 is not a good movie, there is a lot to like. But it misses its opportunities to be a great movie, especially at the end.
The strength of Super 8 is found in the teenage story. The kids are all believable and quite good in their parts. The drama between them is played well and the relationship between Joe and Alice never feels forced and is, at times, quite touching. The dialog between the kids is snappy and playful but true to their characters.
Where the movie loses its way is the alien subplot which seems to be added for plot convenience. Unlike movies like ET where the alien plays a significant role in the lives of the characters in the film, in Super 8 the alien is truly a separate story almost altogether. It feels like it was added on to make the movie more epic or they didn’t trust that the small story of childhood friendship was enough to carry the film. If they needed to add the alien subplot I think JJ Abrams could have put the subplot to better and more creative uses. As it stands now, the more the creature was featured in the movie, the further away from the main story the film went. Not to mention that the final act falls prey to many common plot points of escape and heroism that I didn’t buy from the characters.
In addition, Super 8’s drama is weighty. So while the movie did have some lighter moments sprinkled in, the bulk of the movie has a dark emotional tone to it. The death of a parent at a young age is a tough subject to tackle, and Super 8 did it well, but I think it definitely held down the “fun” factor that those '80s movies did so well. The creature in the movie is certainly menacing too, so don’t go expecting a friendly cute and cuddly alien.
My favorite part of Super 8 may very well be the end credits when they play the finished short movie the group of teenage kids were making during the course of the movie. I wish more of the fun and inventive nature of this film had been present during the movie itself. By coming out and openly wanting Super 8 to be compared to all-time classic movies did the film a disservice, because on its own merits Super 8 is a good movie. JJ Abrams would have been better served concentrating on making a great modern day movie instead of trying so hard to make a film like one from the '80s. Nevertheless the movie does have enough heart and thrills to recommend seeing it. Most people will have fun with Super 8.
FILMS LIKE SUPER 8 – Iron Giant, ET and Stand By Me
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.
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