Super 8 is Super Great
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 1 Comment
Let me be clear about one thing: the less you know about Super 8 going into the movie, the better. Part of Writer/Director J.J. Abrams’ charm is his ability to surround his projects in complete mystery. Though Super 8’s marketing wasn’t nearly as mysterious as his previous film, Cloverfield, or “1-18-08,” as it was known for most of its time after being announced, Abrams still doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on from Super 8’s trailers. The initial trailer only showed a truck crashing into and derailing a train, and hinted at something trying to break out. That was enough to pique my interest.
The next trailer that was released revealed a bit more of the story’s plot, which centers around a group of kids in Lillian, Ohio in 1979. While the children are filming a movie on a deserted train station, they witness a train being derailed, and start to notice odd happenings taking place in their town shortly after.
That’s all I knew walking into the movie, and that’s all I want to tell you about the plot. What I will tell you is how Super 8 exceeded just about every expectation I had of it. Steven Spielberg produced the film, and the superb special effects and cinematography are clear evidence of his involvement .The characters in the movie, especially the main character, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), are exceptionally developed, and you can count on each character to have certain quirks and various personality traits they’ll consistently bring to each situation. The way each kid felt unique and interesting reminded me a little of The Goonies (which coincidentally involves Spielberg as well), and the adventures they go through in this film is just as memorable, though not as lighthearted, as those in The Goonies.
The film’s pacing was perfect, supplying a stellar mix of action, suspense, emotion and relieving moments of comedy. Just when the tension starts to die down, and you start to feel comfortable again, something will smash through the wall and send your heartbeat soaring all over again. You never quite know what to expect in this movie, save for a couple blatantly obvious deaths waiting to happen.
Because the story is told from the perspective of a group of children, the world and the chaos of the plot’s events are told from a very pure and unique angle. The kids are curious as to what’s behind the crash they witnessed, and go back and forth between trying to uncover the mystery behind it and finishing their monster movie. There’s a moment where army tanks and vehicles are surrounding a house in their neighborhood, and instead of being intimidated by the military’s presence, the kids seize the opportunity to have real military vehicles as a background for a scene in their movie.
One element that I enjoyed in both Super 8 and Cloverfield is the sheer sense of wonder. You are never explicitly told what’s happening in Cloverfield, and same is true of the first half of Super 8. The movie begins with a surprisingly somber opening, but you never truly find out what actually happens until midway through the movie. The events of the beginning are constantly mentioned, and many relationships between characters and entire families are heavy impacted by those events, but Abrams just dangles bits and pieces of information for you to put together on your own. The same can be said about the nature of the movie’s monster; you’re never really sure what it is until two-thirds of the way through the movie.
Do yourself a favor and check out Super 8 while it’s still in theaters. I can’t remember the last time I was so satisfied walking out of a theater than after coming out of Super 8. Though the ending might come off as cheesy to some, I felt it was entirely appropriate and especially significant given the context of Joe’s emotional struggles. Super 8 will tug at your heartstrings, bring you to the edge of your seat, and keep you engaged from beginning to end.
Think there’s a little bit more meaning behind this film? Check out this great read from Jeffrey Marks about the film’s symbolism, here.