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Super 8

A 2011 movie directed by J.J. Abrams.

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If Cloverfield and Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a Baby...

  • Jun 13, 2011
J.J. Abrams is a name that always raises eyes in the sci-fi community.  Teaming up with Spielberg, he first grew interest in Super 8 with one of the most remarkable trailers we've seen for a film of it's genre in a while.  Where so many trailers are hell bent on showing you as much of the movie as possible, the trailer for Super 8 only showed one small snippet that didn't actually spoil anything, but rather made people curious as to what exactly it was.  This marketing ploy was used for Cloverfield.  The difference between Super 8 and Cloverfield, however, is that Super 8 manages to be a very good film where as Cloverfield wasn't nearly as amusing.  Here the focus is much more centered on characters and situations and even brings child actors to light without making us cringe.  Put simple Super 8 is fun and manages to exhibit some nice film making technique.

The only thing we know about Super 8 for sure is that a bunch of kids go off to film something by the train tracks and they witness a train crash.  In one of the cars was a monster that got out and survived.  What the trailer doesn't show us too much of is how the government has come in and is trying to keep this under wraps.  While there is certainly a mystery going on surrounding the monster himself, it's not quite as amusing as the characters.  There are a bunch of kids who filmed this on a camera.  In a lot of movies starring children there is usually a moment where you wonder if the kids are really kids.  Very few movies are honest with their teenage characters.  You either get results akin to a Disney movie where the kids are just a little too good and sometimes you get some absurdity like you do with just about any teen sex comedy out there.  Here the portrayal of teenagers seems a bit more honest and mild.  The characters are immature, yet curious.  And while at first it seems a little annoying, J.J. Abrams makes sure that just about all of them play some key role.  The kid who fashions himself a pyro-maniac for instance, isn't just there for show.  He plays an important role in the movie at some point.  The movie is a little too heavy on the testosterone, though.  And it doesn't really go anywhere with the small love story, but it doesn't really have to at this point.  But the more honest teenagers here are better than the overtly sexually crazed boys you see in just about every teen comedy these days... or the Disney type where it seems they can do nothing wrong.  It's refreshing and honest. 

Super 8 isn't the fastest paced film, however.  We spend a great deal of time with the monster being hidden.  Which most certainly evokes the Cloverfield like appeal and it's perhaps the only actual issue I had with the film in and of itself (that and J.J. Abrams still has a few annoying camera angles where you get the glare of light, but it's not as bad here as it was in Star Trek).  The monster is not particularly scary, and most of the moments are much more apt to remind you of old horror movies from decades ago where a character is investigating, only to have the monster sneak up from behind (we, of course, only get to see the monster's shadow) and the character turn to the camera and scream.  Moments like these feel cheesy.  Though it doesn't seem like J.J. Abrams is trying to scare the viewer so much.  These moments are sparse and even more so there appears to be more of an air of mystery.  Not just WHAT the monster is but WHY it does what it does. 

It is no secret that Steven Spielberg produced this film, but it is clear that J.J. Abrams admires Spielberg as a director.  Not only can Spielberg fans see glimpses of movies such as E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third King, but even the idea that the children are the heroes and the childlike sense of wonder is very prominent here.  Aliens, intelligent children and daddy issues are all trademarks of Spielberg films and they're all here in Super 8.  And for the most part it comes together.

The beginning moments of Super 8 in particular are actually quite amazing.  J.J. Abrams is no hurry to jump into it.  He really manages to evoke the idea that these kids just stumbled onto something by accident.  And several moments can keep you in suspense where you're not quite sure what is going to happen next.  The child actors do a fantastic job, however.  Their performances are believable and most of the characters are rather likable.  The only thing that may turn some people off is the Cloverfield of approach of NOT letting you see the alien being for the longest time.  By the time you actually DO see him, however, you don't particularly care. 

One thing that most certainly lets you know it is Steven Spielberg produced is that it has one particular Spielberg trademark that has always irked critics about Spielberg in particular.  The affinity for happy endings and turning near impossible situations into somehow light and fluffy endings.  Generally speaking, I've rarely had a problem with happy endings.  And while I don't have a big problem with the happy ending here,but  there is something strange about the sudden change of heart the alien has come the end of the film.  It doesn't feel like it's come out of no where but the shift is too sudden--almost Deus Ex Machinaish.  In Steven Spielberg films (that he has directed, not produced) he has often been criticized for this.  And while there is nothing wrong in having an affinity for Happy Endings, it would at least help if there was a bit more logic.  By the time the credits roll Super 8 leaves more questions than answers.  And this would actually be fine... if it was made clear it was supposed to be that kind of movie. 

Nevertheless, Super 8 is fun, though.  It's got a lot of cool effects, although some of them are bombastic (the train wreck is a little too over-the-top for my tastes) and it has some well timed and good humor.  It's fun overall and entertaining.  The only thing J.J. Abrams really lacks in paying homage to Spielberg is that the childlike sense of wonder isn't really there.  And if you're going to pay homage to Spielberg, that's probably something your film might want to have. 

At the very least Abram's knows how to cover up his flaws.  It may be missing that childlike sense of wonder, but it certainly has that childlike sense of innocence.  And while the ending is a little iffy, there is a rather touching and heartwarming moment.  It's actually a good movie.  It evokes a little mystery, but mostly it keeps things a lot simpler than most films of its kind.  We look at simplicity as something bad these days, but people often forget that simplicity is what generally made most of the movies we love so well work (this is especially true of anyone who has ever loved a Spielberg directed film).  Abram's may not have the same charms as a director that Spielberg has, but he's most certainly getting there.  The influence is certainly there.

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June 15, 2011
Love the title of your review, Sean! Will have to check this out :)
June 14, 2011
Lots of good work was done on this review.
June 13, 2011
Very cool review. I especially liked the part where you broke down its teen aspects. Well said, since that was the part of the film that saved it for me. THis is definitely a love letter for Spielberg; not bad, just a little uneven.
More Super 8 (2011 film) reviews
review by . June 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
J.J. Abrams has mastery over marketing gimmicks and he knows exactly how to attract viewer attention. If you remember the ploy he pulled off with “Cloverfield” then you would know that he does the same thing with “Super 8”. He keeps the trailers vague as to tease and to arouse viewer interest. Well, Abrams is a great creator of cinematic hype but I have to say, this is not the movie as advertised. As much as I can appreciate the marketing skills of Abrams and his intentions …
review by . April 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Let's make a hit, says JJ Abrams. So much for making a good movie.
JJ Abrams has made hit movies. Has he ever made a good movie? With Super 8, he wrote, directed and produced two movies, and sacrificed the good to make sure he had a hit.       Super 8 begins just fine, the story of a group of young teens making a movie about zombies. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is determined to enter his movie in a film contest. He’s the director and writer. Joe (Joel Courtney) is his best friend and make-up specialist.  When Charles recruits …
review by . February 18, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I had read Wookpak's review of this film an am definately in agreement. I have not seen The Goonies and or Cloverfield but I can say that there are a lot of similarities with this film to ET. A bunch of High School kids are filming a zombie movie in 1979. The mother of one of the boys (Joe Lamb) died in a factory accident. The boy's father (Jackson Lamb) is the sherriff and at his mother's wake we see the sherriff arresting a blond haired man (Louis Dainard) that came to visit. It turns out that …
review by . July 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     For each talented director, there is one film, or perhaps many films, that the man or woman was destined to direct. For J.J. Abrams, director of the recent reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise, his film is "Super 8". I knew the man was talented as both a writer and a director; a sci-fi geek who is always ready to explode with knowledge and insight. He has a fondness of the works of Steven Spielberg. And now, he's made a film not only about his fondness, but …
review by . June 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Super 8 aspires to be a lot. After the first few scenes of the film you can see the attempts at the charm of Spielberg’s charm from the 80s and 90s trying it’s hardest to fuse with Abram’s sensibilities about portraying suspense on the screen and his way of establishing mystery. Super 8 isn’t a bad film, in fact I actually really liked it. However I don’t think it’s as good as it thinks it is, or even as good as collaboration between two of the strongest filmmakers …
review by . June 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Super 8 clearly distinguishes itself from the other summer movies in the last years by simply approaching the old-school style of filmmaking when the story, the atmosphere, the narration, the feeling counted more than the tons of exploding cars and buildings we get to see today. Super 8 is a nostalgic reminiscence of the old-school cinema, a piece of little emotional film that addresses audiences of all ages.      The story develops around this group of kids from …
review by . January 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Set during the summer of 1979 in a small town in Ohio, SUPER 8 revolves around Joe Lam (Joel Lamb) and his friends as they attempt to finish a Super 8 zombie movie for an upcoming Super 8 Film Festival. While filming one night at the local train station, the boys and the star actress of their production are witness to and somewhat involved with a horrible train accident that unleashes a mysterious creature. Soon after, all the dogs in the town run away, people start disappearing, and all kinds of …
review by . June 18, 2011
4 Stars: Something this way comes
There are some things in this world that  humanity was never meant to  understand, never meant to  find out the truth, never meant to  grasp the reality of something more than the world  that we have built for ourselves and the prefabricated lies that we have been feed to make us believe the singular truth. The one all consuming truth that  in this world, in this universe we are the only life that exist, we are the only thing that lives and that Earth, our home  …
review by . June 14, 2011
It won't be for everyone, it won't be for those looking for sci-fi action flick. It is a fair expectation from the few details we gathered from the trailer. In that regard it has every opportunity to let you down, but if you are looking for strong story telling with a loving nod to film makers delivered in the hands of children than you are in for a treat. It has been a while since a movie has come out without any marks of irony, sarcasm, and pop culture references leaving only a well done …
review by . June 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Going into a Steven Spielberg film, we expect a number of distinctive thematic elements: Ordinary characters in extraordinary situations; strained parent/child relationships, especially between fathers and sons; a childlike inquisitiveness at the unexplainable; friendship, the loss of innocence, and coming of age; overt sentimentalism; and in some cases, excitement/awe/terror at the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Super 8, produced by Spielberg, …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Abrams has refused to reveal the plot of the film as he wants to keep it a mystery and let the images speak for themselves.[citation needed] What has been confirmed is that it will take place in 1979 and it will be a homage/tribute to Spielberg's '70s and '80s science fiction films with a mystery and supernatural feel from Abrams.

Abrams revealed the plot will follow a group of children in the 1970s as they film a movie with a Super 8 camera but while they are filming, they spot an alien escape from an Area 51 cargo train and it runs loose in their small town.

Few filmmakers have ever had a run at the tables like Steven Spielberg, whose output from 1971'sSugarland Expressto, say, 1982'sE.T.displayed an amazingly unforced melding of huge set pieces and small human gestures. Even at their most chaotic, they somehow felt organic.Super 8, writer-director J.J. Abrams's authorized tribute to classic Spielbergisms, hits all of the marks (Lived-in suburbia backdrop, check. Awestruck gazes upwards, check. Parental discord, check. Lens flares, amazingly huge check), but its adherence to the formula squelches much of its own potential. Appealing as it is to see a summer movie that retro-prioritizes character development over jittery quick-cut explosions, the viewer is always aware at how furiously it's working to seem effortless. Set in 1979, Abrams's script follows a group of movie-crazy kids ...
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Movies, Movie, Steven Spielberg, Jj Abrams, Science Fiction Films


Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: 10 June 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 112 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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