super 8

Super 8 [2011] is writer/director J.J. Abrams’ nostalgia driven action sci/fi that evokes the thrills and emotions of classic summer blockbusters a la Steven Spielberg (who just so happens to produce). While filming a super 8mm zombie movie a group of young kids witness a train crash that leads to mysterious and unexplained happenings in their small town.

E.T. Meets The Sandlot + Lens Flares. The look and feel of this film screams classic Spielberg. The emotional tone and pitch perfect humor work beautifully through a majority of the story, and the spectacle and thrills are pure blockbuster magic that is the reason we go to the cinemas. It all feels so right, from the chemistry of the cast to the heartfelt dramatic moments through the loud and marvelous action sequences. The score lulls the audience in to every important moment and is usually a great cue for a high emotional points while also being able to sit back and support the more thrilling moments without upstaging or being upstaged.

Real People in Extraordinary Circumstances. The ensemble is absolutely wonderful, with first timer Joel Courtney leading the gang of middle schoolers that includes a brilliant Elle Fanning. While the children are off on their adventures the always comparableKyle Chandler takes charge as the Deputy Sherriff trying to figure out what the hell is happening throughout the town. The writing for these characters is handled very well, no dialogue seems out of place and all of the weight on these individual’s shoulders never feels corny or trope-y. There’s always room for a quip or some smart ass comment between friends but the heartfelt moments that come from time to time land with an impressive and necessary depth. One can tell there’s a whole lot of love behind the making of this production and it can be felt as the journey moves along.

Some Things Just Out of Place. This could have been one of the essential, memorable, forever remembered cinematic contributions to fall in line with the likes of Spielberg’s canon if the latter half of the film didn’t shift so drastically from what makes the first half so magical. The story really excels when it follows the kids making their movie, falling for one another, and discovering the mysteries of the train crash. When things inevitably move more towards the creature things become more generic. While the action and spectacle is impressive and works well there’s something drastically lacking from what is experienced from the first hour. Watching these individuals deal with heartache, young love, friendship, and so on is so much more powerful than watching them run away from tanks and seeing an alien monster tear cars apart. Again, these scenes are tense and thrilling and serve their purpose to the story, it’s just unfortunate that the story had to be a creature-feature at all. This could have been a phenomenal coming of age tale without the extravagant science fiction elements, and I feel confident in saying it could have been one of the great films had that been the case.

Something to Be Proud Of. J.J. Abrams does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of what makes films like these so wonderful. With a strong script and surefire direction, along with extremely helpful hands guiding him in the right direction, Super 8 ends up being a lovely and special kind of film that will always be worth experiencing again and again. It’s pure blockbuster goodness with a real heart and soul, even if it doesn’t quite measure up to the films of the past that inspired it.

Super 8 is super great.