Film Review – Super 8

Super 8 (M)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

While watching Super 8, audiences might get the feeling they are looking at a visual love letter to Steven Spielberg, something that should probably have never been seen by anyone but the legendary director. It is like J.J. Abrams made this expensive tribute for Spielberg’s eyes only and it was leaked into multiplexes by mistake.

The similarities in themes and style between Super 8 and movies in the past told from the kids’ point of view that were made under Spielberg’s watchful eye such as The Goonies, Poltergeist, Gremlins and his own film E.T. are not subtle. Yet this film, like so many of Spielberg’s, successfully taps into that sense of imagination and adventure that is so sorely lacking from many films these days.

There have been few directors that have gone down the path of making a film about kids for kids without talking down to its core audience. In a time when box office figures rule and studios push crude and potty humour filled films to appeal to undemanding audiences, it is refreshing to experience Super 8.

A handful of kids in a small Ohio town in 1979 are filming a zombie movie on super 8 film during their summer break. Charles (Riley Griffiths, a standout in his first acting role) is the bossy director, troubled Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is the make-up effects artist and Alice (Elle Fanning) has just been recruited to play a role that was added in another last-minute re-write.

While out at night filming a pivotal and emotional scene, the under aged cast and crew witness a truck versus train crash that sends carriages flying and exploding around them. The kids leave before they are caught by police but the debris at the crash site is soon being sorted and scrutinised by the Army.

Locals go missing, dogs run away and a large, swift alien creature begins causing havoc around town. Joe’s dad Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), who has beef with Alice’s dad Louis (Ron Eldard), becomes as suspicious as the kids and goes rogue to find out what is turning their peaceful town upside down.

The difference between this film and other live action films for young adults is that it’s characters are smart and well-rounded. They have hobbies outside of video games and they work towards achieving their goals. A great message for the youth of today. Sure, the characters sneak around at night crawling in and out of each others windows without parental supervision and film around crash sites; but they are not out to harm anyone.

There are some delicious references for film buffs and we even get the finished version of the film project at the end and it is a hoot with its amateurish and shoe string budget charm. The reveal of the creature is unsatisfying and underdeveloped. A version of this film without the creepy crawly could have worked fine on its own with just the dramatic arc of the characters, snappy dialogue and terrific performances. Spielberg might want to give the alien obsession a rest for a while and Abrams may want to focus on stamping his own signature on future work instead of his idol’s, but Super 8 is still a splendid adventure with plenty of nostalgia.

 

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