Forget the trailers that make this film out to be an action-packed monster flick. Super 8 is a film that is more than that, giving off a magical movie feel that’s enthralling. J.J. Abrams directs this project, doing his best imitation of Spielberg’s style, and it works well enough to keep audiences consistently entertained and engaged. The cast of children are all terrific in their roles, from Riley Griffiths to Joel Courtney, and especially Elle Fanning. It’s a popcorn film with undeniable heart that almost reaches greatness.
Abrams, director of Star Trek and Cloverfield, lays out an accurate town set in the late 70s. A group of budding, youthful filmmakers set out to make a monster film to send to a film festival, not knowing the real deal is coming to town. Although the plot isn’t exactly fresh, the dialogue is wonderfully comedic, making many reminisce about the good times of childhood. The kids are hilarious, and admirable in their passion for film, and strength to get through life’s mountainous road bumps. The effects are solid, as Abrams uses CGI in a tasteful manner, never overdoing anything. The actual monster itself is handled well enough, as it’s kept in the shadows, and is revealed in bits and pieces until it’s showtime.
The acting all around is solid, and the children do a terrific job, as the film is from their point of view. Joel Courtney, playing Joe Lamb, is a middle-schooler that has recently lost his mother, and escapes his empty home by being the “make-up artist” for his friend’s film group. Joe has a sense of loneliness about him, a disconnection, in certain moments and Lamb does well to convey those moments. Riley Griffiths plays Charles, Joe’s film-directing friend, and he does so in a way that you could picture him as an old pal from your own childhood. Charles is funny, and highly dedicated to his monster movie project with a strong, naive drive that can only come from a child. The real standout is Elle Fanning, playing Alice, the daughter of a drunk that is blamed for the death of Joe’s mother. Alice is a bruised soul with a strength about her that makes her seem older than the rest. Elle Fanning, like her sister Dakota Fanning, is so engaged in her role that you can’t help but admire her talent. From her impromptu audition in Charles’ monster film to her watching Joe’s old footage of his mom, Fanning, as Alice, makes us empathize with her.
Super 8 is not a monster film more than it is a coming-of-age film, and it works. It’s an adventurous ride that will make you reminisce about your own childhood. Like E.T., the alien/monster symbolizes something more: a lack of effort to understand children, that may isolate them. Although E.T. did this with more finesse and impact, Super 8 does an okay job with a message that’s still as important today.
Look out for a cameo from an actor from 7th Heaven
Stick around during the credits
It’s a good film, but there’s something that prevents it from breaking through the barrier and entering the realm of being a potential classic. The story is a throwback to Spielberg’s adventure films, but it doesn’t quite capture the same magic, and doesn’t add anything new. There are also some implausible moments, even for a film with a monster in it. For example, someone survives a head on train crash with no real explanation.
As the creature is revealed slowly throughout the film some may think that, maybe because of expectations and the advertising, the creature wasn’t what they expected.
The ending is a bit of a let-down because everything done at the end is typical and safe. People are forgiven and things are let go. Some think that if the film were in the hands of Spielberg, it would succeed in the parts where J.J. Abrams failed.
Film Recommendations:E.T. War of the Worlds Stand By Me
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