Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee
Plot Summary: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined. [IMDB]
I remember when the first teaser trailer of this film came out in theatres—I absolutely had no clue about what this film could have been about. All that was shown was a tiny bit of a train crash and something breaking free from a train cart. I had several guesses in my head, from a sequel to Cloverfield (produced by J.J. Abrams) to a sequel for The Incredible Hulk (the one starring Ed Norton). As soon as the title, “Super 8”, and the name J.J. Abrams popped up all I could think about was that this movie would remain a mystery for quite some time.
It’s quite ironic that when the teaser came out all I could think of was that it was a sequel to some film. Yet now, having been released in a season filled with sequels, it stands alone as an original film.
What did the mystery of Super 8 hold? Read on to find out.
If there’s one thing J.J. Abrams is good at, it’s keeping audiences guessing during a film. For a good portion of Super 8, until the big reveal during the climax, you are kept in the dark about just what escaped from the train. What Abrams does with it is that he only shows silhouettes or appendages (i.e arms, legs) of the creature. So for a good portion of the film I was just so focused on guessing just what the creature was. That is a selling point for a film like this because it really helps draw you in and buy into it.
And I was sold on it.
Now if there are films to compare this to, classic sci-fi films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T, among others, come to mind, but those would probably be the easiest comparisons. I mean it’s only fitting that J.J. Abrams’ producer is Steven Spielberg, as this film is most certainly an homage to those films of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Despite that, this film still manages to stand on its own and holds its place among sci-fi films.
Do I think it can stand the test of time much like those two? I’m not sure. But it is just as enjoyable as those films.
Aside from the mystery of the creature, what really sells Super 8 are the characters. From the start of the film we are shown who the main cast of characters will be and how one of them has gone through a pretty devastating event in his life. What we’re also given is a small example of the really great dialogue that is written for them. The first scene also serves as an introduction to future plot points and story lines in the film.
As for the cast themselves, they were great. All the actors playing the kids were really good. From the main boy Joe Lamb, to his best friend Charles Kaznyk, to their pyromaniac friend Cary, all of them have their own unique quirks that make them charming and fun to watch. With child actors, it’s a tough thing to sell to audiences because their performances can vary. You will have some really great performances from some, and down right terrible to just passable from others. But with this film, all the kids were great, and it was because of the dialogue they were given. It is snappy, witty and felt natural with the actors and setting of the film.
However, if there are some things this film could have improved upon, the first thing, for me at least, was having a bit more focus on the father-child relationships. These are a focal point at the end, but aren’t really focused upon because the children and fathers are separated for most of the film. It’s not that what they did with those characters was bad, it’s that I felt Abrams could have gone the extra mile with those characters. It would have had a greater emotional resonance with me.
The other thing I felt Super 8 could have improved on was the use of the characters in the climax. Some secondary characters feel like they’re just there so that the main character isn’t completely alone, while others are just written there to be fodder. (You’ll know what I mean if and when you’ve seen the film.)
By the end of the film, it feels a bit rushed despite the film’s run time of just under 2 hours. I think it could have used an extra 10-15 minutes, but that’s just me.
Overall, Super 8 is another great film of the summer. It’s a film that will stand out among the rest, simply by default, because it is among the few blockbusters not based on any existing properties, and it is a really good film to boot. I highly recommend this it to everyone.
If you’re a J.J. Abrams fan, this is up your alley. If you’re a Spielberg fan, I say the same thing to you. For everyone else, see it as well.
GO Rating: 3.5/5