Super 8 was certainly a pleasant surprise. Going in I had no expectations; before the release I’d barely heard of it. I had heard the name J.J. Abrams and before this I was wholly indifferent to his work. I liked Star Trek but not Cloverfield and I absolutely hated Lost. Then I read reviews of Super 8 that compared it favorable to Spielberg’s output from the 70’s and 80’s and I knew I had to go see it. Jaws, E.T, The Goonies(which I know doesn’t quite count, but close enough), those were the movies I grew up with, wearing out the VHS tapes with repeated viewings; if Super 8 could manage to evoke similar feelings then it was a must see. Super 8 did not disappoint. Though it is comparable to those movies it is more than a nostalgic throwback, it takes the themes and style from movies like E.T and Jaws, but is definitely its own story. For better or worse, Super 8 is a modern take on the themes from those classics, and while not perfect, it is eminently entertaining. Super 8 is likely the best movie of the summer.
Super 8 is about the young Joe Lamb, a boy dealing with the loss of his mother and a distant father. He and his friends spend their time making monster movies, with Joe doing the make-up and special effects. The kids are wonderful. They act like kids while not being unbearably annoying, which is quite the accomplishment. During a secret late night shoot the group of young teens witness a train accident that sets the whole plot into motion.
The story of Super 8 is, reduced to its simplest, Jaws meets E.T., though that is not to say there is nothing original in it. What is shares most with those movies is that Super 8 is a film about people, not events. In this age of dime a dozen CG monsters and empty spectacle, Super 8 is memorable because it actually makes you care about the characters. They are people, with lives that exist outside of this film, not exposition devices. You care about Joe’s young romance with Alice. You care about Jack, Joe’s dad, and his struggles to make up for his lost wife. You even care about Joe’s friends. The depth that these characters display is wonderful in what is supposedly a big summer blockbuster.
But this is an age of dime a dozen CG monster and empty spectacle and Super 8 does not escape. The monster in Super 8 is well done and like the monsters from Jaws and Alien is kept off the screen for the majority of the movie. Those films reason for doing this was how fake the monster looked; Super 8’s is much better, but the choice does help heighten the tension. There is nothing to complain about with Super 8’s monster. The spectacle, though, is dissonant. Why have just a train wreck when you could have the biggest train wreck in movie history? Why have one tank when you could have 30? In some movies, movies that offer nothing but spectacle, this is laudable, but in Super 8 it is ill-fitting and distracting. However, this is a minor complaint because in this movie the spectacle is not empty. It is not just a monster menacing some kid, that monster is menacing Joe. The superb characters lend more weight to the spectacle than other blockbusters.
Super 8 is fantastic. It is an absolute must see, especially for those with fond memories of Spielberg’s classics. It is more than a sad imitation of something better, but the continuation and evolution of a style that has thankfully not been abandoned entirely.
- J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 Scores a “Spielbergian” Triumph – But What Does “Spielbergian” Mean? (thebrowntweedsociety.com)
- “Super 8″ Movie review! (plantoprosper.wordpress.com)
- Super 8 (attebiz.wordpress.com)
- ‘Super 8’: 5 Classic Spielbergian Moments (moviesblog.mtv.com)