Super 8

Release date: June 10, 2011
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Screenplay by: J.J. Abrams
Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard

There should be no doubt in the mind of anyone who has seen any of J.J. Abrams’ works that he is on his way to becoming a great filmmaker. With Spielberg as a producer and Abrams writing-directing, Super 8 successfully presents a film that is as thrilling and mysterious as it is touching and sincere. While Spielberg only produced, the air surrounding every scene is truly reminiscent of his earliest features and makes for a beautiful and engaging piece of cinema.

Set in a small Ohio town, Super 8 takes place in the summer of 1979 – where a group of kids are attempting to film a zombie movie for a teen film festival. Led by the chubby and domineering Charles (Griffiths), the group includes: Preston (Mills),  Martin (Basso), Cary (Lee), and most importantly Joe (Courtney), who happens to be the make-up and special effects expert. Joining the kids is the beautiful older schoolgirl, Alice (Fanning), who has agreed to co-star in their short film. While Charles comes from a large and loud family, Joe and Alice both share a similar home life. Due to his mother’s recent death in a factory accident, Joe lives with his neglecting father – and city deputy – Jackson Lamb (Chandler), while Alice lives with her drunken father Louis (Eldard).

Slipping out late at night to a nearby train station, the kids begin to film their latest scene – using a passing train for “production value” as Charles says. As the train speeds by, only Joe notices a pickup truck driving onto the tracks and driving straight into the train – causing one of the most intense collisions ever seen on film. Camera and equipment tossed aside, they run to escape the falling wreckage and explosions surrounding them. Once Joe retrieves a piece of the wreck for himself and they all reconvene, the kids run off to avoid getting into any trouble as a military team approaches.

Once the disappearances and incomprehensible events begin to set in – as well as an unwelcome military entry – the kids begin to suspect that it wasn’t an accident at all. Once they finally see the footage of the wreck however, they realize that the camera captured something breaking free from the cargo that they could have never imagined.

While the ensemble cast is truly marvelous, Courtney and Fanning shine the brightest. Although it is Courtney’s first feature film, there is a brutal honesty and innocence in his acting – as if he truly believes he’s in the midst of these events. Connecting with his character is simple, as his scenes are presented with such a tender approach. Fanning, already a stunning, young actress, provides the sincerity needed for her role and does a stellar job with every scene she’s in. The rest of the children offer plenty to the story – especially comic relief – and both Chandler and Eldard take their roles as fathers very seriously, adding to the tension of the film.

Super 8 masterfully mixes a story of childhood friendship and coming of age with science fiction, action, romance, and plenty of laughs along the way as well. It is impossible to watch this film, and not see the influence that Spielberg’s earliest works had on Abrams – most notably Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and even Jaws.

J.J Abrams has often mentioned that Super 8 was inspired by the way that he made Super-8 movies with friends during his youth, and it is impressive to see how beautifully he executed Super 8 – a film that was so close to his heart.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Juan Barquin

Just yer average twenty-something college student with no time on his hands who ends up watching (and writing) too many movies and shows for his own good.

14 Responses

  1. Mirella says:

    Damn, now I NEED to watch this right now D:

  2. Dan O. says:

    Abrams remembers the simple rule that a majority of his contemporaries have forgotten: action and mayhem have meaning only when an audience cares about the people trapped within the maelstrom. And I cared for all of these characters, even that drunk dad that gets arrested in the beginning. Nice Review! Check out mine when you get a chance!

    • Juan Barquin says:

      @Dan O., Exactly! It’s unfortunate that a lot of writers have throw out lead characters who have no likable qualities and if you can’t make any connection with a character – whether it’s deep and personal bond, or just a simple fear for their survival – what’s the point of watching? Surprisingly enough, I actually cared more about him than I did about Joe’s father and I really do wish that the relationship between them had been explored a little more, but we can’t have everything sometimes haha

  3. amy says:

    Heh, I also caught Jurassic Park. The sound the alien made, it sounded like a T-Rex to me and that feeling was cemented with that bus scene.

    It also reminded me of The Host a lot, having the military something to do with the “monster” and the monster being a misunderstood creature – with girl held up at the monster’s nest and all.

    I didn’t like it as much though, I liked the little kid, but the first big action scene with multiple big explosions took me out. I like the chemistry between Joe and Alice – it reminded me of that scene on ET xD

    ps: you should answer some of these comments…

    • Juan Barquin says:

      @amy, YESYESYES I’m surprised I didn’t think of The Host earlier but you’re definitely right. And yeah, the sounds are a bit like Jurassic Park haha. I also noticed quite a few other little ones, even Jaws (sheriff looking for a creature of sorts, involved in disappearances/deaths).

      For some reason, the technical work during the explosions just made me think of Spielberg’s work on SPR. It’s actually really fascinating to me to see how far things have gone in a little over ten years. Plus, at least you care about the characters in this explosion unlike anything Michael Bay will ever create lol

      A lot of people didn’t really get as much as an attachment to it as I did, but there was just something about it that got to me.

      • amy says:

        @Juan Barquin, I agree with Joel and Elle being the best of the film, though. Elle was even able to act well in her in-movie role O_O, her monologue prior the accident… it was good. LOL

        Also… did you see David Gallagher in there??? LOL

        Dale Dickey was also in a scene xD

    • Rodrigo says:

      @amy, My brother and I watched Super 8 today. While I actually enjoyed it, my brother didn’t. Reading your comment, I think that once he saw the train scene, things in the film went downhill for him.

      • amy says:

        @Rodrigo, I think once explosion would’ve been fine, but it went on and on and they kept running and running, and it became an “oh really?” scene. Our suspense of disbelief could work with Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis (or maybe any of the dudes in Expendables).

        But as of lately, it seems like Hollywood is intent in making us belief kids can survive big explosion xD and the next one in line might be Lautner. xD

        • Rodrigo says:

          @amy, I agree, there’s a good amount of defying-logic scenes in Super 8. But it wasn’t as bad as say, Harrison Ford surviving a nuclear explosion while being inside a damn fridge. LOL.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, LOL. True. Super 8 is still a good flick though – if you count only action summer blockbusters, it’s def. one of the best xD

        • Rodrigo says:

          @amy, For the few films I watched during 2011, Super 8 ranks as #4, below Win Win, Midnight in Paris and Apes. Hell, I even placed it above Thor and Horrible Bosses after cooling off.

  4. Rodrigo says:

    Watched the film today. Really loved it thanks to the directing as well as the lead actors, really great acting from Courtney.

    For a second, I thought Joel Courtney looked familiar because he looked similar to the kid version of the lead character from Butterfly Effect, but turned out I was wrong, lol.

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