Alright so there has been a lot of hype about J.J. Abrams latest work that was released this past Friday. Abrams, who is best known for producing Lost and Cloverfield and directing the latest Star Trek, has taken on another project that centers on yet another unknown creature that’s terrorizing a certain part of the world. I know you may be thinking that this sounds like another Cloverfield, which as many people have commented was not one of their favorite movies. I assure you though, that Super 8 is a science fiction movie that is perhaps the modern day E.T. of this generation.
Super 8 is one of the few movies in a while that has not been a sequel, based on a book, or a superhero blockbuster. The picture starts off introducing a few problems that the main character Joe, (Joel Courtney), faces when his mother passes away. At her funeral, the various mourners of the group provide background information about the relationship Joe and his mom had and the relationship Joe and his father have, as well as the problems they are going to face in the near future. In an attempt to relieve some of the sadness, Joe’s other friends Charles, Carey, Preston, Martin are discussing the incident and what the body looks like, all in an immature, childish manner that is very representative of the age category the gang falls in. In addition to discussing the death, the childish nature of Charles further reveals itself as his mind immediately jumps to filming his movie about zombie’s and how CJoe will not want to help him.
Now jump to four months later during every kid’s favorite time of the year, summer. The gang, now on summer vacation, begins to plan more of their zombie movie and the extra scenes that Charles has planned. During the walk home, the gang’s hobbies, nature, and comedy styles are revealed as they discuss their roles in the movie and what they are most excited about. Upon arriving home, the relationship between Joe and his father Jackson, (Kyle Chandler), who feels that Joe’s running around with his movie making friends to be a little disturbing and weird. Despite his father’s feelings Joe decides to continue helping with the movie and the fifth kid of the movie, Alice (Elle Fanning), the beautiful girl that plays the leading lady role in Charles’ movie. Once Alice has joined the crew, the scene that was made famous by the trailer follows, and the creature is released from its confines.
What separates Abrams work from most other creature films is the lack of rampaging chaos that we have seen in the past (i.e. Godzilla, Jurassic Park, and Cloverfield). Instead this film’s focus is more on capturing that childhood wonder, the magic of summer, that summer adventure spirit you and your friends may have had growing up, and the hardships kids can sometimes face when their parents have issues. I found myself reminiscing about my summer adventures when I was in daycare and the times I shared with my cousin as we played various games, imagined ourselves in various quests, and behaved in childish ways that at once seemed serious, but are now humorous. The young actors have really captured that energy in this film, especially Joe and Cary who seem more childlike than any of the gang. Although there are some overdramatic parts, the characters for the most part seem to be acting naturally as if this movie is just another one of their adventures, which makes this movie even more relatable to that fun summer past.
Now you may be thinking, “So is this just a movie about summer adventure with only a little alien reference?” Well the answer to that question is no it’s not just about the kids. Abrams has integrated the creature into the movie so as to drive the story and keep the audience wondering and involved in the movie. Instead of just having 2 hours of monster destruction, Abrams has instead decided to keep the audience wondering what the creature looks like and what its intentions are throughout most of the movie. The various delinquent acts it performs throughout the movie, which have been revealed in some of the movie trailers, keep you asking what in the world it is trying to do. Though most science fiction fans can figure out the motif behind the creatures work, others may be wondering what in the world the creature is thinking and where it is doing all of this work. However don’t think that this monster is just a creature hiding in the shadows. Abrams has made sure to still have some scenes that will make monster film fans smile in excitement and cheer in delight. There are various scenes where it seems that E.T. has met Michael Bay, as explosions fill the air and buildings get smashed and destroyed by an organic alien and not a rampaging robot. These scenes are exciting and suspenseful, but not overdone, and provide yet another level of entertainment to the film. An even bigger plus to these scenes is that the camera is constantly jumping around or glitchy like we saw in Cloverfield, so you won’t be getting sick to your stomach or missing out on any of the scenes.
Overall Super 8 has a variety of qualities that make it a great film. With its balance of mystery, suspense, action, and youthful charisma, this movie again reminds me so much of Spielberg’s E.T. movie, but darker and a little faster in pace. Yes there are still some flaws to the film, such as predictability, some overacting during the chaos scenes, and some cheesy dialog, but these things are not constantly hitting you over the head throughout the movie. Again fans of the rampaging monster movies may be a little disappointed in the lack of uber chaos scenes, but the suspense approach really works to keep the audience members into the movie. To wrap this up I give this movie a 9.0 for a fun, exciting, and well developed movie.
Recommended audience: E.T. lovers, Abram fans, suspense/sci-fi genre lovers, and anyone looking for a nostalgic summer movie.
Avoided audience: Action Lovers, science ficition haters, and anyone who gets annoyed by middle school children.