Posted on 8/06/11 05:49 PM
Super 8 (2011)
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler...
Directed by: JJ Abrams
Synopsis: 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. (Source: IMDb)
Thoughts I Had Before Watching: Well, it wasn't that long ago when we really found out what the movie was all about. There was all this mystery hype around it, with the strategic viral campaigns and sneaky merchandising. The very first time I heard about "Super 8", I assumed it would be "Cloverfield" all over again. And I don't like monster disaster movies. They're just not my thing. But then, as the puzzlement slowly dissolved itself, it started to look like much more than that. First came the all-kids cast, which made the film much more interesting. Then the fact that it was a movie a bit about filmmaking. Amateur, but still. And the fact that it seemed not to focus much on the "alien", but rather on the mystery around it, kind of like the way the whole movie was promoted. Of course, it was released in Mexican theaters two months later than in the US (thanks very much, distributors), and by then, it had already received the praise and the reviews, and the comparisons with Speilberg's 70s work. I mean, all of that didn't make me want to go and see the movie badly, but it became a plausible option to watch and enjoy. Again, Friday movie night, as all of my movie viewings are, and "Super 8" was there. After watching it, I can say that it was a very surprising and pleasant experience, and that the movie is a very refreshing (yet by no means original) option to a summer filled with sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and adaptations.
Storyline/Script: "Super 8" (I loved the title, by the way) follows a gang of kids as they film a zombie movie. On one of their shootings, they are witnesses of a train wreck, which contained an experimental secret that now went loose on the town and it started to provoke all sorts of mysterious happenings. What I liked the most about the entire movie, is that way before it starts with the alien thing, even before it starts with the train crash (that is basically what puts the whole film into motion), is that it lets you get involved with the characters, their lives, their concerns, and it makes you care for them. What I liked the most is that, above everything, is a movie that revolves about them, and not about invasions, or explosions, or running away to save your life. It's all down to the core of the people. And that, you have no idea how I appreciated it. All the way from the first scene, the funeral, you know it's a characters journey. And you stick with them the whole way through. You like them, care for them, want them to be safe, and, at the end, in my opinion, the alien invasion (sub)plot ended up just serving as a background for a story about juvenile friendship and love. Now, while it's certainly refreshing the way it was carried, the plot was by no means an original or groundbreaking one. With obvious homages to Speilberg alien films of the 1970s, the movie is an effective mashup of "ET", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "The Goonies", and even a little bit of "Alien". It works, yeah, and it gives the movie and incredible retro-vibe in all aspects (you know, it makes you think "Gosh, where did these type of movies go?"), but it gives you the feeling that it's all been done before. 23/30
Acting: It's all about the kids. Everything. Forget about Kyle Chandler, or Ron Eldard, or any other adult that might've appeared. The kids steal the show. And, come on, it was always their show in the first place. Joel Courtney is Joe Lamb, the lead kid who's not really a lead because the movie is not really about him. He has, however, the biggest emotional burden. His mother has died, and he is in love with the daughter of the guy responsible for it. Oh, and he also witnesses a train crash and his town is being invaded by a strange extraterrestrial. Yeah, he's got it touch. But, he manages to carry everything amazingly well, never feeling like just another annoying child actor, but with surprising depth and likeableness in his performance. Same for Elle Fanning. Wow, I mean that girl can act. It must be in the family name. Hers was probably my favorite performance of the movie, as the fragile yet incredibly strong Alice. Riley Griffiths, as director wannabe Charles, is also great. I mean, every single one of them was. They were more vivid than any of the "professional" actors that were there, and transmitted more emotions than I think I've seen done by a young cast. Truly remarkable. I mean, it's by no ways Oscar material, but it brings life and depth to a movie that otherwise could have ended up being flat and clichéd, other than lively and clichéd.26/30
Behind the Cameras: JJ Abrams knows how to manufacture a movie. He doesn't only know how to direct, which is pretty evident here, especially in the first half. No, but he's good at everything that involves getting a movie done. I'm sure he was very involved in every process of pre-production (as Steven Speilberg probably was. His marks are all over the place), as well as in every part of filming, editing, and promoting the movie. Man, can he know how to merchandise something. Whether it is Lost, Cloverfield, or this, he can surely make up hype about something. He's the mind behind everything that's "Super 8", with all its highs and its lows. Besides him, there's an incredible production, that make a movie that had everything to become an action, explosion-filled blockbuster, entirely the opposite and still get away with that. And I can't get over its retro feeling. I mean, from the lighting, and the way it was filmed, it was all very raw, and in a very filmmaking way, very beautiful. The special effects, oddly, weren't perfect, and they may even seem sloppy at points, especially when the alien is now present, but I think the rest makes up for it. 18/20
Entertainment/Fun Factor: It wasn't what I expected it to be. At all. But it ended up being better. I was hooked up with the characters from the very first scene, in the funeral, and all the way until the (epic, yet seen-it-done-before) finale. It was extremely entertaining, very fun and funny, and the suspense and nail-biting effect never decayed. I can't help but to picture that's how the epic summer blockbusters used to be when they were first out in theaters, you know, like "ET", or "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Pure, raw entertainment. Now, "Super 8" will by no means become the epics these two became, but it serves as a good reminder of what the good old times used to be.18/20
Highest Point: The performances from the incredible talented young cast. The retro vibe throughout the entire movie. The hilarious final short film during the closing credits. Don't you dare miss it.
Lowest Point: More than merely being influenced by them, "Super 8" at times feel like a bit more than an homage (verging on rip-off) on older and better teen/alien adventure films.
Would I Recommend It? Yes. It's probably one of the most entertaining and best movies of 2011 so far, and I think it should be seen. Probably there will be people that won't like it, or find it, I don't know, overrated, already done, or even dull. But everyone should give "Super 8" a chance. It deserves it. I found it a refreshing movie, that, yes, uses methods and stories and techniques already used a thousand times that are starting to wear out, but it shows us how they are supposed to be used and why these stories and clichés have become what they are now. It's because they work. It's an extremely entertaining piece of film, and while I've my doubts whether it will last, or be remembered several years from now, I know that the hype will last at least as long as JJ Abrams doesn't tell us anything about his next project.
My Final Rating: 85%