Super 8

After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.

I guess I’ll continue my streak of pre-review comments about the state of movies, or whatever. All I have to say this time is that IMAX theaters, especially when not filled and when you’re seated well, are infinitely better than regular movie theaters. I can not stress this enough. The extra money is so worth it to travel farther and pay a little more. People need to do this with movies of this scale.

J.J. Abrams has released his first complete brain-child, something completely his own. Well, sort of. For a long time he’s had the idea and the characters for a movie about a group of kids making movies in the early 70’s. This was not enough to bring people into the theaters, or to hold a serious plot. So, this second idea of a monster movie, which Abrams also has had in his pocket for a while, was thrown into the melting pot, and Super 8 was born. The combination of the two ideas is actually pretty obvious while watching the movie. It’s almost one half characters, one half monsters. But the synchronization and blending of the two was done well enough not to detract from the actual movie.

Something about the story and production of the movie that has gotten a lot of attention from critics is the comparison and similarity of this movie to classic Steven Spielberg movies like E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Firstly, the people are right. The camera work and angles, the similar story idea about a kid and an alien, and other aspects really are very similar to said movies. But the last time I checked, those were incredible movies, and this follows suite. It is like a band covering another, and doing it well enough to be called their own. That’s the best analogy I can make. Secondly, while very similar in some areas, it sets itself apart with it’s new-age effects, and I think the characters are immensely deeper than those of movies past.

If there is one thing that made this movie as good as it was, it was the cast, the group of kids specifically. Most of them had not seen much work, so finding such a great combination of people is awesome to see. These kids were incredible. They bring thoughts of The Goonies, a pack of friends that are just an absolute joy to watch go through some crazy adventures. These kids’ on-screen presence was palpable, begging to be called perfect. Joel Courtney, the new-coming lead role, was great. You can feel both his pain and his compassion throughout. His cast of movie-making buddies, with Riley Griffiths playing the control freak director, Ryan Lee playing the wacky pyromaniac and Gabriel Basso playing the quirky actor, are virtually a non-fictional group of friends making movies together. Last, but definitely not least, we have the enchanting Elle Fanning, who from her first time being on-screen in this movie, completely blew me out of the water. She is an older kid brought into the  gang’s movie to play the leading actress, and even her in-movie acting is insane. Since her role in Somewhere, which I thought she killed, she seems so much more mature and grown up. She is so lovely and adorable, much more-so than her sister, who is nothing to scoff at herself, I can only wait patiently to see what her extremely young career can blossom into. Kyle Chandler also turns in a very solid role as Courtney’s absent, mourning father.

As far as the actual monster goes, there are some holes that can be punched in it’s story-line, but as a whole it does its job to thrill, and even scare us and put us on the edge of our seats. There is more I’d like to say, but that is flirty with spoiler territory, so I won’t get into it. There is also the ending of the movie, which I thought left questions unanswered, and maybe wanting a little bit more, but won’t take too much shine from the whole thing.

One specific scene I was very excited for was the train crashing scene. Abrams and Spielberg both said in an interview that they loved the idea of doing their own trail derailing scene in a movie someday, and it really shows in the early part of this movie. The crash scene itself is spectacular, awe-inspiring. The other effects are great as well, with a typical Abrams monster, that you get to see a lot more of than Cloverfield.

As a side note, I was really hoping that the soundtrack would match the potential of the visuals of the movie, but I think it was a little disappointing. Probably the only forgettable thing about the entire movie, which is a great thing to say.

Be sure to stay for the credits!

My Rating

 – Super 8 is almost a tribute to movies of its own in-story time, with a near perfect cast and characters, and delicious looking special effects. While the meshing of two ideas, characters and a monster, struggles at points, and the ending is slightly disappointing,  the overall product is wonderfully nostalgic, while successfully being its own work of art.


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