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Friday, June 10, 2011

Super 8 Review

Super 8 is a fun, roller coaster ride of a movie that hearkens back to the great Spielberg movies of the 1980’s like ET, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Although Steven Spielberg only produced Super 8 and it was written and directed by J.J. Abrams, it still has Spielberg’s mark all over it. It's as if Abrams was trying to make a Spielberg movie out of reverence and respect. If that's the case, then he was successful. In the process, J.J. Abrams put his own mark of suspense driven story-telling told through the eyes of characters we can relate to.
What I Liked about Super 8:  The film is set in 1979, a year I remember well having been 16 at the time. I felt Super 8 did a remarkable job at presenting that time in American culture. Not only did he give us the clothes, the cars, even the neighborhoods, but he also gives us an accurate portrait of middle-class, middle school aged kids during that time period. The characters were refreshingly real and I could easily remember scenes from my own teenage years that were remarkably similar, minus the train wreck, the monster and all of the exciting stuff, of course. But, if I had gone through any of the catastrophic events that happen in this movie, I think me and my friends would have reacted and behaved much like the kids in Super 8. My point is they were real-life, not your usual Hollywood cut-out characters. The title Super 8 refers to a low budget zombie movie the kids are making throughout the movie. As superficial and amateurish as their ill-fated movie is, it’s all they care about and it defines their friendship, just like real kids tend to do with whatever they’re into. The budding romance between Joe and Alice was subtle and sweet and expertly acted by Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning.
I also liked that the monster isn’t shown clearly until close to the end. We get just enough glimpses and human reaction shots to keep us begging for more. Producers of horror movies should take note. The kind of restraint shown in Super 8 and Jaws and Close Encounters is what keeps the suspense alive and makes it all the more satisfying when we do see the monster in all of it's glory.

What I Did Not Like About Super 8:  Sadly, J.J. Abrams felt the need to pepper the dialogue with many curse words, most coming from the mouths of the kids. Sure, many teens use fowl language, but not all do, especially not back then. Realistic or not, this movie wouldn’t have suffered at all if the language had been toned down. There are also a few references to drug use by one of the older teen characters.

Who Should See it?  I don’t recommend this movie for younger kids. For once, I’ll agree with the PG-13 rating. 13 and up might be a good rule for most families when it comes to Super 8. Besides the bad language I’ve already mentioned, this movie also has some very scary moments. In this sense, it’s much like Jurassic Park with it’s All-American characters getting chased by something extremely scary. Many scenes had me jumping out of my seat. Plus, the monster is quite large, slimy and disgusting, perfect nightmare material for little kids.
Super 8 shows very little real blood and the gore is minimal. As far as modern monster movies go, this movie is actually tame. Thankfully, Abrams has bypassed the gross-out scenes and worked hard at scaring us silly with old fashioned suspense, off-camera action, and jarring music.

In Summary:  With the exception of the bad language, Super 8 is the first great movie of the summer of 2011. Although the movie trailers emphasize the mysterious monster and the action that follows, this movie is first and foremost about a group of young teens trying to deal with the ups and downs of life. Their world is literally turned upside down in this movie, but they never cease to be the relatable characters that we care about 10 minutes after the opening scene. J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have hit a home run by giving us a truly great movie like Super 8 in a year filled with Hollywood's usual big-budget movies that have predictable, worn out plots. I just hope next time they'll go for the grand slam and leave out the profanity.

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