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Super 8

A 2011 movie directed by J.J. Abrams.

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"The Goonies" Collides With "Cloverfield" And "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" ....

  • Jun 11, 2011
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 with this film as a tribute to Spielberg’s past films such as “The Goonies” and maybe even “Gremlins” with a (very) little “Signs” thrown in, wrapped around a “Cloverfield” meets “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial”, there is just something missing and I feel that I’ve seen the movie before. “Super 8” is not as advertised and is an exercise of ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery‘.

The film is set with the backdrop in the summer of 1979. Five friends in a small town in Ohio are on a break from school and the group is trying to finish an amateur zombie flick using 8 mm film. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the writer and the director, his friends Martin and Preston (Gabriel Basso and Zach Mills) are the actors while Cary (Ryan Lee) and Joe (Joel Courtney) is the cameraman and makeup/effects respectively. Desperate to give his movie more of a creative edge in story, so they ask a girl named Alice (Elle Fanning) to play Martin’s wife. While they are filming along the train station, they see a pick up truck that drives right into the path of an oncoming train which causes a wreck. Soon after, strange things occur as citizens and electronic/mechanical components begin to disappear and the air force also arrives to clean things up.

              Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard, Ron Eldard as Louis Dainard and Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb in "Super 8."

             Kyle Chandler as Jackson Lamb and Noah Emmerich as Nelec in "Super 8."

It is hard for me to really describe my feelings about this movie. I know it is a love letter to Spielberg and so I cannot criticize it for being one. It starts out really well, and while I thought all the elements were built around a cliché with strong influences of Spielberg’s direction, I cannot really say that the film has no merits. It has the usual themes of puppy love, friendship, ‘coming of age’, forgiveness and working together; and admittedly the film is well-acted. The film has a very endearing tone that is truly charming and effective in a way it goes forth with its themes. There is something good in the movie but the problem is it just never surfaces to make an impact.

I enjoyed the interactions in the film, I could truly believe that this group of friends had some solid chemistry going. You can feel that they knew each other for years and the actors performed very well as the group. Even the ‘puppy love’ plotline was fun to see and I was really entertained to see this relationship develop between Alice and Joe. There is also the usual rivalry for Alice’s attentions, and the script had some subtle moments of credible comedy that made me laugh (the hot sister and the stoner provided added fun). However, once we get to the other core of the film, then it all falls apart.

                 Gabriel Basso as Martin, Ryan Lee as Cary, Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb and Riley Griffiths as Charles in "Super 8."

                 Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb and Ryan Lee as Cary in "Super 8."

Let me just say that I think Abrams is a talented director at times but as a writer I am not sure. (sorry, 2009‘s “Star Trek” was not the masterpiece everyone is saying it was) I mean, he has this good set up (however clichéd), and I liked the way he injected certain human selfish motives that could’ve been the catalyst for the alien’s hostility. Then he incorporates ideas that just made the film slowly fall apart and drown in cliché. There’s this army colonel intent on covering up the secret, there’s a scientist who intends to atone for his mistakes, two fathers who are intent on keeping their children apart (really?), and then there is a town evacuation. I also had issues with some of the story’s developments as to why this scientist did this just now (in the real world, he would've been under surveillance) and what was the purpose of the alien being moved?

Abrams also suddenly renders the characters in a cartoonish tone as soon as chaos broke out. I feel that the film had turned a quick change in mood and tone, and Abrams just barely manages to keep things together to have one device feed the other. Some elements however humorous, felt forced and out of sync in the film's second half. Abrams also hints at several other subplots but none were credibly incorporated into the script; he introduces some creature characteristics and alien science but I felt that they either came from nowhere or were underdeveloped. The viewer is left to ‘see‘, but never to really ‘see’. (I cannot discuss this without spoiling the film) It also requires a suspension of disbelief in the part of the army's inept ability to engage the monster. (seriously, the military kept this monster for almost 20 years)

                    Zach Mills as Preston, Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard, Riley Griffiths as Charles, Ryan Lee as Cary, Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb and Gabriel Basso as Martin in "Super 8."

                   A scene from ``Super 8.''

If you are wondering about the creature effects, well, it looked quite similar to the ones in “The Mist” and “Cloverfield”. I would go as far as Abrams imitates the style in “Jaws” as we don’t get to see the alien in full view until the bus escape. The alien has immense strength and speed, and so there was one scene where the army was wildly shooting at something unseen, as with “Cloverfield” but I ask, to what purpose since we already saw the alien? I do have to say, the effects and set designs were very cool, I did feel that I was in this period of 1979 and the atmosphere did have that Spielberg influence. Abrams also knows how to film mayhem and chaos as the train wreck looked convincing and the monster scenes did feel very intense.

“Super 8” is not a bad film since it did have some good moments but it certainly isn’t as advertised. It isn’t a sci-fi feature but rather a drama built around the backdrop of a monster film. I agree with a fellow reviewer here (@), there is more than one movie here; there is the teenage flick with all the nice elements and then there is the alien story that appears rather disjointed and undefined. Abrams is a gimmick director and I guess I shouldn’t complain about him playing a tribute to Spielberg, but I just feel that I’ve seen all this before and there is nothing to see here. To its credit, the teen ‘friendship’ and bonding part was very good, and it did have its share of intense moments. Which is just too bad, it wasted its potential. I feel that there is an excellent movie around here somewhere and you‘ll find it during the end credits. It is an amateur zombie movie which is maybe called “Romero Warehouse”…

Timid Recommendation, RENTAL is Advisable [3 Out of 5 Stars]

Teaser poster for "Super 8" Poster art for "Super 8."

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November 27, 2011
Haha the goonies yes!! I knew there was something i was missing that i just couldnt quite place! Great review William, as usual you are drawing my attention to all the things i missed in the movie. That may be due to the fact that the alien/monster thing looks like a mix of a spider and optimus prime...odd...
August 17, 2011
Honestly, I'd take this one any day over Cloverfield crapola, Lost, or Paranormal Activity. Then again, most of what's playing at the local office is nowhere near as good as this film either. Abrams actually deserves a thumbs up this time around. Good review but I would've ranked this one atleast a four.
August 17, 2011
I know what you mean. When I saw this, all I saw was another homage and I am rather jaded when it comes to gimmick movies. It wasn't a bad movie at all, but it was just rather empty. Now if the movie was actually the zombie movie they were making... ;P
June 26, 2011
I feel your disappointment when I read your review. "Not as advertised" is mentioned a few times, which leads me to think it may have fallen victim to hype and expectation. I do find Abrams to be as sneaky as you described .. watching the alien in Super 8 often reminded me of the smoke monster from "Lost". It isn't a perfect film by any means but I do think it is being seen and reviewed through a bit of a tricky filter. Abrams did set himself up though.
June 27, 2011
Yeah, I really wanted to like this film....it was almost like one part of it was good while the other, I dunno, I didn't exactly care for. I even forgot about the smoke monster in "Lost". A good movie for sure but I am glad you understand, you nailed it when you said "reviewed through a bit of a tricky filter".
June 19, 2011
" I know it is a love letter to Spielberg" quite possibly one of the hottest lines I've heard in a review lol I wish I thought of it first. Funny thing is I really enjoyed this film solely for the execution by the actors but I definitely completely understand what you're sayin pakman. I felt I had seen this film before also and of course E.T. automatically came up and the monster extremely resembling the cloverfield monster for me had me goin "Wow,, again?" but the Goonies is definitely the one it most reminded me of that I hadn't thought of at the time but great review pakman I totally agree .. Only thing I can say is Abrams trailers are a clever and beginning to get a bit repetitive but at least he doesn't completely screw your mind over the way M. Night does with his
June 21, 2011
Hey, Sonic! glad you could stop by. I have to say, I agree with you in a way...
June 18, 2011
Excellent review, Although AI absolutely loved this film I can agree with some of your points. I wrote a full review and A QT, check them out whenever you have a chance.
June 19, 2011
I will. I am running late because it was my birthday and the celebrations went a little longer than expected LOL! Be right by, bud! (I think I saw your QT already)
June 17, 2011
Awesome review, William! You make me want to see this one!
June 21, 2011
Just keep your expectations low. I try to see things to help the reader decide if the movie is for them or not.
June 28, 2011
Nods, I know what you mean. I was never interested in it until I read your review. My expectations were already low to begin with, lol!
June 16, 2011
I love your title here - it sums up exactly my girlfriend and I's reaction when we saw it last night. Now I have to come up with a different title! ;)
June 17, 2011
I agree even though I haven't seen the film. The title stands out to me.
June 21, 2011
thanks you guys! :)
June 15, 2011
In terms of cheesiness I actually found out through an interview that Super 8 wasn't actually meant to be serious. It was intended as a B-Movie.  Doesn't make it much better in my book (that whole concealing the monster and having the shadow loom was a little... too cheesy)

  But the alien theme with Spielberg, I can get behind that because every director has their interests or obsessions.  Christopher Nolan seems to be extremely big on dead wives, strangely absent wives or dead lovers (but it is never the MAN that is absent or dead).  Case in point the only film where someone isn't haunted by a dead love or something along those lines (or where the wife/girlfriend doesn't die) is Batman Begins.  And even then he uses the death of Bruce's parents as compensation for that.  But Memento, The Prestige, Insomnia, The Dark Knight and Inception are all movies that deal with characters who either do not have wives (Insomnia) or whose wives were killed (The Prestige, Memento and Inception).  In the Dark Knight it's Rachel who, while not a wife or even really a girlfriend, is still someone that Bruce has strong romantic feelings for.  The next Batman movie might not do that... because Nolan will find himself in a situation where that possibility isn't there.  On the other hand what he does NEXT just might involve that... unless, of course he decides to kill catwoman.  And Nolan has done the "Dead/Absent Wives" thing in his directed films at a much more alarming rate than Spielberg does alien themed stuff in his directed movies.  By that I mean Nolan has only ONE movie where he hasn't gone in that direction.  Even though he's directed less at least for the longest time Spielberg only had two movies we could point to with aliens: E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  After that Spielberg had resisted Aliens for nearly two decades despite it being his biggest interest.  In particular, I'd say Steven Spielberg has a MUCH bigger interest in the disconnect between fathers and sons than anything in his movies.  It is prevalent in a whole lot more movies than aliens.  Even movies where a man has no children Spielberg makes sure that, at some point, he has to express how nervous it would be for him to be a father.  I don't think any of his films express the disconnect between father and son more clearly than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

So I'm not too down on Spielberg especially considering that a HUGE portion of his filmography doesn't even feature aliens.  Right off the bat the only movies that come to mind with aliens are E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A.I. Artificial Intelligence (maybe), War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  And with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spielberg didn't even want to do aliens... George Lucas did.  I'm sure there are probably more, but my point is that with his big breath of films people only focus on the aliens because, it seems the ones featuring aliens just happen to be the standouts.  But so many of his films and productions are devoid of Aliens.  But I also think there's a big difference between Spielberg as a Producer and as a Director.  I have little interest in Spielberg as a Producer.
June 21, 2011
Hey...where are the comments about Abrams and that you agree with most of what I've observed?! did you edit your marvelous comment?
June 11, 2011
I'll wait for a rental. excellent review WP.
June 11, 2011
thanks for the read. It may be a good idea to read the other reviews (we agree with most of the points) but it is always nice to read others input too so you can decide if you want to see it or not.
June 11, 2011
I will, but I usually I take your word on films after I read your review.
June 11, 2011
If Spielberg is involved with another alien movie I'm going to write him a letter telling him that he can go join them in space because I don't want him making movies here on Earth anymore. LOL! In all seriousness though, I haven't been a fan of Spielberg's latest films (either those he's directed or those he's produced) for about a decade now. And J.J. Abrams stuff just feels too flashy and gimmicky much like M. Night Shyamalan's films. I love "E.T." and I love "Goonies", but this one just isn't for me.
June 11, 2011
LOL! I like Spileberg but lately I agree, he seems to have gotten a little lazy. Where's the guy who made "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan"? He even produced Transformers 2. I am sssooo with you about Abrams. He is too gimmicky and when I hear "written and directed by JJ Abrams" it doesn't even excite me at all the way it was meant for some people....
More Super 8 (2011 film) reviews
review by . June 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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, …
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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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