I’ll state the obvious first: J.J. Abrams loves really good Steven Spielberg movies. He loves them so much that he decided to make one himself instead of waiting for Spielberg this time. Along the way he also got Spielberg to produce.
I don’t mean any of that to be negative—“Super 8” is a very good film. It manages to be heartwarming, hilarious and tense all at the same time. The fact that it’s a love letter to classic Spielberg films is not a detriment because it takes all the best parts of those films and gives the audience a great experience.
The film’s plot begins four months after the death of 13-year-old Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) mother. Joe and his father Jackson (Kyle Chandler) live alone and struggle with grief over the loss.
At the same time, Joe and his friends Charles (Riley Griffiths), Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Cary (Ryan Lee) are trying to shoot a low-budget zombie movie that Charles wants to enter in a film festival.
One night, Charles convinces Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) to star in his film and she drives the boys to an old train depot. While shooting the film the kids witness a military train go off the rails. They flee, but soon strange things start happening in the town and as military personnel arrive, it becomes apparent that something is out there.
The film’s strong suit is the interaction and banter between the young group of friends. I found myself really believing that these were real middle school kids. The awkwardness around someone of the opposite gender, the ribbing between friends and the liberal use of curse words was all there and all very real. At the end of the film, I found myself caring about what happened to these kids as they made their movie and confronted the monster responsible for the strange happenings.
The monster itself, along with its motivation and history, is interesting but ultimately less so than the interactions between the characters. While it is not a horrible part of the film, I almost got the sense that there was a monster solely because it was expected.
The way in which the answers to that mystery are given is probably the biggest flaw in the film’s story. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll simply say that the answers are basically dumped in front of the audience in one scene. It’s a bit of a hiccup in the narrative structure. Overall, it felt like a concept that was not very fleshed out and I can’t help but think that the movie would not have been hurt too badly if it had been excluded.
There is a very specific thing I want to mention, what with this being a J. J. Abrams film, and that’s his use of lens flare. Many jokes have been made about Abrams’s liberal use of it … and this film is no exception in that regard. At first, I thought the lens flare was unnecessary. After reflecting on it (pun intended), however, I’ve decided that it fits in a stylistic sense. It does give a mystical sort of vibe to the visuals. For example, as the camera pans down on the old train depot the kids go to, the lens flare almost bathes the shot in a blue glow.
Admittedly, I was less than impressed at first. But as I thought more about it, I realized that the glow really set the mood for that scene and the movie in general. The shots are given an air of mystery and wonder, even if only subconsciously. So for this film, I will acknowledge the good use of lens flare.
When all is said and done, this is a film that should be seen. It’s a great story that will keep you entertained throughout.Contact Carlos Serrano.