Movie Review: SUPER 8

What can I say? It’s a terrific movie. JJ Abrams, clearly trying to channel some of the magic from vintage Amblin Entertainment films, has made a monster movie with the heart of a Spielberg narrative. The result isn’t perfect but it’s still a wonderful film.

It’s said that Abrams had two separate films in mind, then decided to combine them: one film about some kids making a movie, and another about an escaped monster from outer space. The two distinct films are present in SUPER 8, and admittedly when the two finally combine inextricably the product isn’t necessarily as strong as its parts. The kids’ story is magical, completely channeling some of the small-town and childhood magic from films like E.T. and Jaws and Goonies. The fictional small steel town outside of Dayton feels as real as Amity or the California suburb of E.T. It helps that the kids are great. Elle Fanning is of course the most experienced of the child actors, but they’re all terrific and their interplay works very well. Kyle Chandler — who plays the deputy sheriff of the small town and father of the main boy (Joel Courtney) — is perfectly cast. From Friday Night Lights we already know that Chandler has parental gravitas and skilled acting, and here he is dead on. It’s when telling the story of the town and the kids that Abrams most successfully brings to mind the best elements of Spielberg.

The monster aspects are also well accomplished, but not nearly as much so. Abrams here deviates from the craft of his mentor Spielberg, instead relying on monster cliches from his own Cloverfield and Star Trek (indeed the monster here looks sort of the same, and we even have to suffer through the same roar-into-the-camera shot as seen ad nauseum in those other movies). That said, action scenes are taut and interesting, and ultimately the mystery of the monster is pulled off — if not quite as seamlessly as the other elements of SUPER 8. Ultimately the film works well, though some may wonder if the two separate storylines wouldn’t have been better off without each other.

This summer has seen some decent movies: THOR, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS among others. SUPER 8 is heads and shoulders above these other movies and will likely be the best film you see this summer. See it before your soul is irrevocably tainted by CGI monstrosities like the next Transformers movie or, heaven help us all, THE SMURFS. Abram’s newest movie doesn’t quite belong in the pantheon of Spielberg masterpieces, but it’s a film with heart. More of these, please.

11 thoughts on “Movie Review: SUPER 8

  1. I agree. I thought it was well done. It doesn’t quite have the full magic of Spielberg’s best from that era, but I enjoyed it.

  2. I thought it was fun, but the more I think about it, the more it bugs me. The monster in the end was a waste. The build up was cool, but the whys and hows are just downright stupid. The superfluous battle scene for no reason, the empathetic telepath that eats sentient beings, who can build a freaking spaceship but can’t build a refrigerator to keep its food from spoiling. If they had some reason how this all-powerful monster could have been in captivity in the first place and then went on a rampage when it did escape (like the capture and death of offspring), the movie would have been much, much more satisfying.

  3. We just saw it. It’s quite the thrill ride.

    The kids, in particular, do a really good job. I found myself thinking several times, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what I would have done (as a kid)” I know it was intentionally that way, but the scene where the 2 kids are watching the home movie of the mom, very powerful.

    I have to agree with J Stapley, the ending conflict with the monster was unsatisfying. I was sort of expecting Joe to somehow HELP the creature instead of … um, what he did. “There there, it’s going to be all right.” Also, the Super 8 movie at the end: totally awesome!

    Least favorite aspect: that all the dogs ran away. Clearly these filmmakers do not actually have dogs.

  4. I can hardly wait to see this. I’m a fan of both Abrams and Spielberg, and am a veteran Super 8 user myself!

    Yeah, Susan!

  5. so it was a super fun watch, obvi. I liked it. All 4 of those boys were great.

    So, is it lame to complain about the train wreck? Way too over the top. I’m a believer in suspension of disbelief, or whatever, but it was too long, too crazy, not enough injuries for how over the top it was.

    The monster: meh.

  6. Yes, definitely meh on the monster. As for the train wreck, I guess I don’t really know what those end up looking like, but that train did seem to be transporting a lot of explosives.

  7. You guys should see Unstoppable. There’s a scene where they’re trying to derail the train before it crashes into a populated area, and apparently the devices used to derail trains explode when the trains hit them! Actually, that’s wrong–they explode BEFORE the train hits them. It’s awesome.

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