Super 8 (2011)
Super 8 (2011)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: J.J. Abrams Actors: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, AJ Michalka

 


 

“S

uper 8″ takes a winning formula and replicates it to a successful degree – but very little originality finds its way into the film. Comparisons to other movies are almost unavoidable, and though Steven Spielberg’s canon will certainly be included, such derivation works against the overall entertainment value of director J.J. Abrams’ efforts. The child actors are spectacular and their youthful exuberance keeps the excitement and adventure going even when the plot can’t quite catch up.

It’s a shame that the rest of the film, especially the monster, doesn’t provide an equal level of vivacity. In fact, the weakest link is the appearance of the alien menace that is slowly revealed with the adage “less is more”; but this tactic actually hinders the audiences’ ability to perceive their own terrifying vision due to an uncanny resemblance to a rather famous creature from Abrams’ previous production. Perhaps the intentionally nostalgia-fueled premise will overcome much of the film’s shortcomings with general audiences, but discerning critics are likely to brush aside the veil and see the heavy repetition just below the surface.

In a small town in Ohio, young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) attempts to move on with his life after his mother, Elizabeth, dies in a steel mill accident. With his deputy father (Kyle Chandler) becoming increasingly more distant, Joe fills his time by helping his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) create a Super 8 movie for a film festival. When a military train derails and releases an otherworldly force onto the unsuspecting town, Joe and his friends embark on the adventure of a lifetime to uncover the shocking truth surrounding the catastrophic incident.

“Super 8” would probably be a lot of fun for anyone who has never seen a Steven Spielberg movie. Unfortunately for Abrams, who desperately wants to be the next Spielberg, just about everyone has witnessed the moviemaking magic of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and more. However, Abrams chooses many other films to copy: like “Jaws,” the monster is revealed very slowly; like “Jurassic Park,” the creature prefers to torture its prey from inside vehicles that it rolls across the street; and like “War of the Worlds,” the relationship between a single father and child is distant, strained, and rife with misunderstanding. Borrowing from other films, “Super 8” also resembles “The Goonies,” “The Iron Giant,” and most upsettingly, “Cloverfield.” The entire project is painfully and obviously derivative.

As with countless films, the military assumes the role of the villain, the mysterious monstrosity is misjudged by the multitude, and the group of kids is entirely too brave, adventurous, and lucky. One of the only clever factors involves the use of the movie-within-a-movie gimmick, which by itself isn’t unique. Here, the student film is intentionally bad, providing plenty of humor. It also mimics the way the whole movie is designed: Charlie adds a wife for the detective in his movie to help the audience care for the lead character. Similarly, Alice becomes a love interest for Joe (plus the attention to the relationship with his detached father); Alice is asked to cry on cue for extra emotional drama; when she watches footage of Joe’s mother, she cries genuinely; and when Charlie demands they shoot scenes with the train wreck in the background for production value, it parallels the incredible amount of destruction, explosions, and use of computer animation for the alien colossus employed generously throughout.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10