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Before I start, I'll make a point to explain what films Super 8 channels, therefore proving that, now and again, they do make them like they used to. This movie very much harks back to the whimsical Hollywood kid/family movies of the late 70′s and 1980′s. Super 8 aims to recapture the emotional beats of those sort of movies that you wanted to be in, the giddy adventurous heights of The Goonies, the genuine sense of friendship achieved in Rob Reiner's classic coming-of-age tale Stand By Me, and also, of course, this is a movie dedicated to the works and stylings of a one Mr. Steven Spielberg. His stamp was certainly on the likes of The Goonies, and its his Sci-fi classics, particularly E.T. and Close Encounters, to which Super 8 owes a lot to. I am all for movies paying tribute to classics of a genre, and particularly movies I love (these kind of 80′s movies have an undeniable charm to them that has been lost from many Hollywood movies over recent years). But I was worried that Super 8 would get bogged down with all its intentions of paying respect to the Beard and movies past. But thank God, J.J. Abrams' knows how to keep a movie on the rails, ironically. What a movie needs is heart, and this has plenty to spare.
The plot of the movie very much exudes a Stand By Me vibe, which I found was very strong, something I wasn't really expecting. The year is 1979, and young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) has recently lost his Mum in a tragic accident, and his relationship with his father (Kyle Chandler) is far from healthy (wouldn't be a Spielberg-esque movie if there wasn't a parental problem). Joe plans to spend his summer helping his friend Charles (a Chunk-channeling Riley Griffiths) film a zombie movie. Not that I've ever done that. One night whilst filming a pivotal scene, the group of friends, including Joe's crush Alice (Elle Fanning), witness a disastrous train crash, catching its mysterious cargo on their Super 8 camera. Soon enough, military men are taking over their small hometown, with suspicious happenings taking place, leading the kids to take it upon themselves to investigate the unexplainable events.
The first half hour of the movie or so does an absolutely amazing job of establishing the setting and presenting us with these characters. The camaraderie between the group of friends is one of the most natural on-screen since, heck I'll say it, Stand By Me. It's what grounds the movie in reality once the sci-fi action begins, mostly because it feels so natural and is tremendously witty. It's probably true to say every one of us has had friends like these in the past, and maybe even the present (particularly if you yourself has made a zombie film lately). The kids all have their own personalities and the acting is incredibly impressive. Joel Courtney is unbelievable as Joe, conveying the confusion a kid would have from losing their Mum so tragically and having to cope with a father who has trouble finding the time for him. He is the character who guides us through when things become out of the ordinary. We also take his journey with him, as he discovers himself and finally comes to terms with the loss in his life. And all it took once a little alien infestation. Elle Fanning is the most mature out of the cast, evoking memories of Jodie Foster in the likes of Taxi Driver (the mature-ness and the edgy-ness, not the teenage prostitute...ness), whilst Griffiths is the scene stealing fat best friend that we really haven't had since the 80′s. The adult cast very much play second fiddle to the young cast, but Chandler is a particular stand-out, adding complexity to the father role that adds authenticity to the father-son relationship.
The strongest element of the story does lie with its development and portrayal of young innocent friendship, but it certainly delivers thrills that Spielberg would be proud of. The action follows very similar beats to the likes of Jaws and Jurassic Park. The thrills and suspense are played out in the Jaws fashion of less-is-more, by gradually revealing the mysterious creature as the movie progresses. The thrills come fine enough, and the action is incredibly well executed, the train crash is awe-inspiring and chaotic, and the alien attacks leave you on the edge, one scene evoking memories of The Lost World's High-Hide T-rex attack. However, if there is something to criticise about this movie, it is that the sci-fi elements of the story aren't as deftly handled as the more emotional and human elements of the story. There are moments when the sci-fi doesn't seems to blend too well with the coming-of-age story. The alien itself isn't particularly impressive once it's revealed, a close cousin to the Cloverfield creature, but one which can't match the personality of say E.T. But all this doesn't matter too much when you remember why the alien is there in the first place, it is to push Joe and his friends to mature and find themselves amongst the scenario of a terrible crisis. Sure, we don't all experience an alien encounter in order to force ourselves to grow up, but the human journey is what remains important to this movie, and is what keeps you hooked, not the alien action.
J.J. Abrams' certainly knows what is important to keep a movie interesting, involving and exciting. It all comes down to characters, emotion and heart, then you let everything follow suit (something Sucker Punch failed to do). Super 8 is also a very personal film, as what these kids film-making activities is what Abrams' would've done at their age in that kind of environment, a common thread he shares with Mr. Spielberg. The atmosphere and spirit of this movie is pure nostalgia, it feels like it was made in the late 70′s, it would very easily fit in the ranks with the films it hails as its influences. Yet despite all the references, the action, the impressive special effects and cinematic technique on show, it is the characters and the spirit of the movie that stays with you once you've watched it, even if it can be described as schmultzy (wouldn't be Spielberg otherwise). And that is the best way he could have paid tribute to all those films, and particularly to Steven Spielberg, as that sense of satisfaction and warmth is what the best Hollywood movies leave you with. And to be honest, they all came from the 70′s and the 80′s. Super 8 is one of those films that reminds you why you love movies. And for that J.J., I thank you.
5/5- It isn't perfect, but it's the heart of the movie that stays with you at the end of all the sci-fi adventure. Abrams has crafted a nostalgic, heartfelt and thrilling movie with a huge heart and emotion to spare. This is purely movie magic.
Star - Director JJ Abrahams
Run Time -112 minutes
Certificate - 12A
Blockbusters - £2.99 per night
Genre - Action/Adventure
Country - USA
'Super 8' is JJ Abrahams homage stroke tribute to Steven Spielberg, simple as, in substance, texture, oral and visual, playing magpie with the great mans works and sticking them all together to make a rather enjoyable and traditional action adventure movie for all the family, stuff that Hollywood doesn't seem to want to make anymore. JJ, the creator of the Lost TV series and the director of the last Mission Impossible and Star Trek films, admits he did just that although was that because Spielberg was producing Super 8 and so wanted to impress the boss, but he has all but made a Spielberg movie and so it's either that or the boss was not so hands off enough and there were two directors' chairs.
JJ has a history with Steven and when a young amateur filmmaker at college he was asked by the Spielberg family to cut together the directors home movies for a project, which the college kids gratefully did and so first contact was made, their stories growing up in South California very similar and so an infinity of sorts. Super 8's themes of monsters and aliens from outer space hiding out in small town America with a bunch of vulnerable but adventure seeing kids being right in the middle of it, is what Spielberg is all about; this feeling like the Goonies meets Close Encounters with a sprinkling of Cloverfield, the movie JJ Abrahams produced with his Lost TV money. Super 8 also has a distinct Stephen king feel to it and if I didn't know better I would say he wrote this.
Joel Courtney --- as Joseph "Joe" Lamb
Elle Fanning --- as Alice "Ally" Dainard
Kyle Chandler --- as Jackson "Jack" Lamb
Ron Eldard --- as Louis Dainard
Riley Griffiths --- as Charles Kaznyk
Bruce Greenwood --- as Cooper
Ryan Lee --- as Cary
Zach Mills --- as Preston
Gabriel Basso --- as Martin
Noah Emmerich --- as Colonel Nelec
Amanda Michalka --- as Jen Kaznyk
Glynn Turman --- Dr. Woodward
It's 1979 and 14-year-old Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) has just lost him mum in a factory accident in the small town of Lillian, Virginia, his dad, town sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) blaming his friend Luis Dainard (Ron Eldard) for the death as he was drunk and absent from the same work place so maybe stop the accident happening.
Four months on and Joe and his friends are wasting away the long summer holidays by making a zombie movie, in Super 8 film, of course, casting 12-year-old Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) in the lead role, the daughter of Luis, both dads banning their kids from being anywhere near each other so furtive filming required.
Charlie (Riley Griffiths), Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Cary (Ryan Lee) are awarded various roles in the production by Joe as the kid's setoff for the old train depot just outside of town where they plan to film a romantic scene, both chubby Charlie and Joe having a crush on Alice. But the station is not deserted today; a train barrowing through and smashing into an SUV on the track, deliberately driven in front of the train, causing the mother of all crashes, nearly wiping out the kids. As the explosions settles down young Joe witnesses something strange in the most secure of the train carriages that survived, something big trying to smash its way out of the metal cage. The man in the SUV has also somehow survived the impact, Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman) their biology teacher no less, warning them to flee before it's too late.
The military are soon on the scene, this top secret stuff, the kids escaping back to town. And in that town strange things start to happen to the locals, all the dogs fleeing town and people disappearing, metal objects having a mind of their own, especially weird cubes at the crash scene.
Joe's dad is not buying the official military line and begins to investigate, everyone in the town now being affected by this strange force. And when the town losses power and the military evacuate the it under the false premise of an out of control forest fire and little Alice goes missing its pretty clear that whatever is amongst them is more than a match for the locals and the army put together, and the kids are not going to leave Alice to the monster.
I really enjoyed this and it's great to see someone making Spielberg movies once again, a classic family adventure tale of old that not only injects you with that sense of child wonderment and escapism from the world around through friendship and imagination but is genuinely entertaining. Spielberg always talks about his childhood being idyllic and creative and you presume that's where his love of filmmaking came from. But he never tried to over-sexualize or use excessive violence in his films and that's where Super 8 really appeals.
It's a standard kid's sci-fi storyline idea for why the enemy is here but a clever one on how it's going to leave, leading to an excellent final scene that sucks in many of Spielberg's past movies, the viewer box-ticking them through the enjoyable 112 minutes. I believe the bike from ET cameos here with another flight as well as many of JJ Abraham's previous work getting the nod in various scenes.
For its surprisingly low $50 million budget it has only done $250 million back to date, only half what Transformers did? That I can not understand. Maybe it wasn't marketed right and went up against another blockbuster but it is the best big budget family film of the year. The thing with well placed family movies is the parents take the kids and that's four times the admittance fee going to all concerned.
The acting is good from the kids and the sheriff and co cut straight from that Stephen King style movie as they let the kids run riot on the screen. The script is occasionally cheeky and knowing for a kid's movie but we did that as kids anyway, right? Yes there is plenty cliché on show amongst the rewarding nostalgia but that gives the film a welcome warmth as it all flows beautifully as the enemy within is revealed and the kids and parents drawn closer together to fight it. It is the type of movie we need to see more off and probably the most recommendable film of the year to families.
Film4 - "Monsters, aliens, trains and a small town that doesn't want to know the truth. What more could one ask for from a summer movie?"
Top Critic.com - "Super 8 is the most intensely Spielbergian film you'll ever see that Steven Spielberg didn't actually direct himself. And it's early Spielberg!"
The Guardian -"It's nowhere close to E. T. - what is? - but amongst the hullabaloo of summer, Super 8 is something to cherish: a beautifully made homage to better times, and better movies".
SFX Magazine -" For big kids, a chance to relive the classic films that forged their love of sci-fi. For the kids of today, it's a film they'll want to show their kids another 30 years down the line".
The LA Times - "The young cast are all outstanding, ably supported by the adults in the background, and the nostalgia of the piece is genuinely intoxicating".
Imdb.com - 7.4 out of 10.0 (99,456 votes)
Metacritic.com - 72% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 82% critics approval rating
= = = = = = = Special features = = = = = =
-The Dream behind Super 8-
As you would expect its JJ being very gushing about Spielberg and his moviemaking skills and the cast and crew also chip in to talk about him and their hit movie.
-The Vision behind Super 8-
A bit more from 'JJ' on his relationship with Stephen and that early home movie encounter.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Super 8 is a 2011 Science fiction / fantasy movie written and directed by J.J Abrams and starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Kyle Chandler.
The movie begins in the summer of 1979, at the wake for Joe Lamb's ( Joel Courtney ) mother, Louis Dainard ( Ron Eldard ) comes to the wake but is escorted out and arrested by Joe's dad, Deputy Jackson Lamb ( Kyle Chandler ), we later learn that Jackson blames Louis for her death as she was covering for a shift he didn't show up for, due to being drunk.
Roll forward four months and Joe's friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) convinces Dainard's daughter Alice (Elle Fanning), who both he and Joe secretly have crushes on to star in Charles Zombie movie he is filming on "super 8" film, Alice steals her father's car and takes Joe, Charles, Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), and Cary (Ryan Lee) to an old train depot where the group plans to film a scene.
However things go terribly wrong when a pick-up truck drives onto the train tracks in front of an oncoming train, causing the train to derail and the young group to narrowly escape with their lives, after the crash something breaks open the train doors and escapes, the group notice the truck is driven by one of their teachers Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman), their biology teacher who warns them to run and threatens them with a gun, they indeed flee before the military arrive, but Joe takes with him a strange white cube that is one of thousands scattered around the crash site.
As the days go by, strange things happen in the town, some of the local people go missing and the military increase their presence in the town, Deputy Jackson is placed in charge after the local sherriff goes missing and the townspeople begin to want answers, meanwhile the boys while trying to complete their movie, realise that the key to what happened may be contained within the Super 8 footage on their movie camera, however the military have ulterior motives for the town and an unwelcome visitor.
I'm kind of a fan of JJ Abrams work, I liked Cloverfield and also liked his remake of the Star Trek franchise, so when I saw trailers for Super 8 earlier this year I was intrigued to see what he came up with this time.
One of the appeal's of the movie is he really went with a cast of relative unknown's and there isn't a high profile movie star anywhere to be seen, you can tell he really wants the movie to stand on its own two feet and not rely on the star power of an established Hollywood player.
Super 8 starts out well enough, the young cast seem to gel well together and the story gets moving at a reasonable pace, the sequence of the train crash is harrowing and while maybe slightly over the top it is compelling viewing and will leave you not wanting to turn away for the duration.
Abrams REALLY likes monsters, as was first displayed in Cloverfield, and now in this movie ( The Monster in this movie even kind of looks like the monster from Cloverfield ), however the two creatures couldn't be more different in many ways ( I won't spoil it as to why ), Abrams masterfully manages to convey the "Jaws feeling" of seeing the monster without actually seeing the monster, until towards the very end, something I think elevates the enjoyment factor of the movie.
While it certainly won't win any academy awards, Super 8 is a great example of the genre and if you're looking for a good science fiction action movie, with a pleasant undertone then this could be a good choice for you.
Cited as one of the summer blockbusters, Super 8 arrives with great credentials. JJ Abrams has already cut his teeth on the increasingly ludicrous, but initially promising, tv series "Lost" and has gone on to do the unthinkable - he made Star Trek appealing to the masses. A couple of years on, and he is now becoming a Hollywood name, and is joined by the great Steven Speilberg on this throwback to the 70s. Half monster movie, half children's fantasy, Super 8 takes us 30-something's on a thrilling ride back to our childhood, when kids played outside, BMX's were the toys of choice, and walkmans were a new invention.
Set in the summer of 1979 (the year I was born oddly enough), 13 year old Joe Lamb indulges in a spot of amateur film making with his best friend Charles and a handful of, frankly, bizarre teenagers. When they rope Alice in to play a wife in their zombie movie, Joe develops a crush on her. Things take a weird turn though when, during a love scene, they unwittingly film an explosive accident that unleashes a monster on the town. As the monster whips up a frenzy, bringing down the town's resources, the inhabitants find themselves under siege from the US army.
As Joe's grief-stricken father forbids him from seeing Alice, the two are drawn closer together, and they discover more about the monster that is stalking the town. When Alice finds herself in danger, and the town faces destruction, it is left to Joe and his merry band of oddities to outwit the monster and bring the town back to peace. With pets and neighbours going missing, though, that might not be as simple a task as they might have hoped.
This is very much a film of two parts. The early development stuff is brilliant, and places you right back in Spielberg's early material. Think ET with dead mothers, bigger aliens and a better budget. However, when it becomes Abrams film, approximately mid-way, proceedings become a little stifled and daft. He attempts, too late, to develop a rapport between his protagonist (as well as the audience) and the monster, which ultimately fails the film when it comes to wrapping the whole affair into a nice little gift wrapped box.
The timeline is nicely done. Film posters and references to disco music from that era, as well as some excellent set pieces, put it firmly in its place. This is definitely 1979. Amusing asides to Blondie and cassette tapes also give it a more 70's feel. Even the opening sequence where an accident is highlighted on an old counter board give it a relatively nostalgic feel from the outset.
Fortunately, the film doesn't suffer from the big expensive effects, albeit there are many. The heart of the story only fails in the very last act, but is present for much of the film. It is an excellent hark back to the films that I grew up with, where the kids were resourceful and didn't rely on computers for adventure. It also boasts great performances from much of the young cast, as well as the older players. A notable mention though must go to Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota, who is absolutely brilliant in the role of Alice.
Other key players include Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Bruce Greenwood and Riley Griffiths. The film plays for 112 minutes, although to its credit, it felt much more like 90 minutes.
This is a review of the film only.
Question: what do you get if you cross The Goonies, ET and Cloverfield? Need a clue? Well, you're reading a review about it, dummy!
Yes, Super 8 is about as Spielbergian as you can get, with a small smattering of JJ Abrams thrown in. From Its 80s, small town America setting to the father-son issues; from its focus on kids setting off on a wild adventure to the "coming of age" tale it's got Spielberg written all over it. It's no surprise, then, to discover that this was produced by his Amblin Entertainment or that he was Executive Producer. It's clearly JJ Abrams' love letter to a director who has influenced his career. Meanwhile, the rampaging monster motif and the idea of seeing the action through the lens of a camera is unmistakably the mark of Abrams himself (both used in extensively in Cloverfield).
In Super 8, a bunch of kids sneak out at night to produce a film for a film competition. They unwittingly witness a train wreck, deliberately caused by someone driving onto the tracks. Soon, strange things are happening in the town; items are disappearing, all the dogs leave town and people are going missing and the Army is taking an unusually active interest. Needless to say, the gang are intrigued and start to investigate.
Super 8 is surprisingly dark at times and is probably not suitable for young children (it carries a 12A certificate) who may have nightmares at some of the sequences. For the rest of us, though, this darker tone is a welcome antidote to some of Spielberg's more over-the-top sugariness. Sure, you still get that typical Spielbergian "happy ending", but that was always going to happen and for once, I'll let it pass because in between times there are some dark issues dealt with.
Super 8 is not a scary film in the horror movie sense of the word (although that darker atmosphere does give it a tense edge). There are a few "jump" moments, but these are obviously telegraphed, often by way of a musical cue. It works well, though, with a nice blend of humour, dark atmosphere, camaraderie and mild shocks.
It's also a pretty satisfying action film. Whilst it might never quite capture the sense of excitement and awe typified by The Goonies, it is still fun to watch and has plenty of action sequences. There were a few times when things seemed to drag a little and I found my attention wandering (the set up is particularly slow), but on the whole, it kept me entertained for most of its running time.
In keeping with its 80s setting there's a pleasingly old-fashioned feel to the film when it comes to effects. Although the invading alien is rendered in very good CGI much of the film is done for real, relying on action and acting, rather than super computers rendering massive amounts of data into images. The monster itself is computer generated but, in a nod to both Spielberg's Jaws and Abrams' Cloverfield, this is kept hidden for much of the film and only glimpsed, meaning the film is not effects heavy.
Of course, films like this stand or fall on the children who take those crucial central roles. And, just like Spielberg did in The Goonies, Abram takes a bunch of kids who might not be the most talented actors in the world, but who have a certain something to make them fun and endearing. There is an enthusiasm and rawness behind their performances that make them a lot of fun to be with. They might not be the coolest kids in the world, but their gang looks a heck of a lot of fun to be in. Inevitably, some get more screen time than others but Abrams coaxes some cracking performances from some very inexperienced actors.
Of course, some of the kids are more accomplished actors, but at no point does bad acting scupper the film. Best of the bunch amongst the boys is Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb, which is a good job, since he has the lead role and is on-screen for most the run-time. He is both endearing and vulnerable - again, a typical Spielbergian kid. At the weaker end of the scale are Riley Griffiths as Charles and Ryan Lee as Cary. Yet whilst their performances are a little more stilted and self-conscious, this can't stop their natural enthusiasm and boyish charm from shining through.
The gang might be male-dominated, but when it comes to acting, the sole female Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota) shows them the way. She is head and shoulders above everyone else in the film (including most of the adult actors). Whether acting properly, feigning bad acting (in Charles' movie) or suddenly morphing into a zombie (for Charles' movie), her performance is incredibly assured and steals the film from under the noses of everyone else. If she manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of child stardom (drug abuse, being typecast as a "child actor") then she's someone who could be bothering Uncle Oscar in the not too distant future.
The real criticism of Super 8 is that it doesn't do anything that we have not seen before, and, with one exception, doesn't do it as well. Virtually all those films I mentioned at the start - The Goonies, ET - are better than Super 8. The Goonies is a superior action movie, ET a more touching alien movie and Stand By Me (another film this is being compared to) a superior coming of age tale. The one exception is that it's a better monster movie than Cloverfield, a film which I thought was massively over-hyped. Those professional reviewers who are claiming that this is a more touching than Stand By Me or more thrilling than The Goonies should hang their heads in shame.
Super 8 is fun and entertaining while you watch it, but unlike those 80s classics which stand repeat viewing it's one that you will watch once and then never return to. A good popcorn movie, but not the classic some are claiming.
Director: JJ Abrams
Running time: approx 112 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2011