E.T. with more explosions!
Super 8 is the story of a group of friends who must be no older than 13. The group are all movie fans who want to make their own, and are led by their friend Charles (Griffiths), who’s directing the film. His friend Joe (Courtney), is the special effects expert and the main protagonist of the film. Joe and his father have been dealing with issues since the death of his mother, which happened six months prior to the movie starting.
One night the group sneaks out to shoot a scene for their project, and bring along a classmate, Alice (Fanning), to play a part in the film they are making. They go to a local train stop to shoot the scene and while there the group sees a major train crash after a pick up truck hits a locomotive head on. After this the military comes to clean up the mess, the situation gets even more suspicious as people and appliances begin disappearing.
As this happens, Joe and Alice become closer to each other however Joe’s father Jackson (Chandler) doesn’t approve since Alice’s father was partially involved in the accident that took the life of his wife. However he has to deal with the whole city being taken on by the mysterious government disaster since he is a deputy sheriff.
When I first saw Super 8 footage I had a feeling that it was going to be very similar to Cloverfield, when I saw the more recent trailers I was disappointed to find out that it was just about a group of kids. However, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie after acknowledging that the film was going to be different than what I had intended.
The story is a bit divided, it is partially an adventure, coming-of-age story of a group of friends and young love, and partially a military monster movie where a town comes under attack. Both of these stories seem to be homages to films from an earlier era, and J.J. Abrams does well, but the coming of age story is far more exciting then all the attention towards the alien monster.
Not to say that there weren’t any good scenes with the monster, it’s just that the story of the friends was more compelling and really gave the movie its heart and soul. That’s the film’s main strength, the wonder, curiosity and excitement of being a kid is all portrayed here, raising the picture above just monster flick.
The characters in the movie are well written, with the dialogue being superb. Everything feels very natural between this group and there is a fine level of camaraderie between everybody. The romantic aspect of the film dealing with the young love between Joe and Alice is well done also.
One can always get a bit nervous when child actors come on the screen, since the talent isn’t always there, but they seem to have gotten some of the best for this movie. Joel Courtney plays a great protagonist and Elle Fanning is a natural in front of the camera. Kyle Chandler is also good as the father who is depressed and has to take care of the town and his son at the same time.
As for the action scenes, while it’s not happening every minute in this flick, when it is, it’s exciting, thrilling and in your face. The special effects look great, especially the large train crash, which is one of the highlights of the movie. Abrams directs the movie to only show a little bit of the monster at a time, similar to Cloverfield, and it works pretty well. I think the monster itself could have had a different design, but it still worked.
Some may scoff at the ending of the film but I think it is the only ending that could work. The film is about the innocence and adventure of being a kid and the ending of the movie embraces that idea and uses it to end the story.
Overall, I loved Super 8, it’s whole alien escapes plot that I was originally excited for wasn’t that great, however the performances and story of these young characters made up for it in full. 4 out of 5.