Saturday, June 11, 2011
Super 8: Like a Really Fun Rollercoaster Ride
Super 8 is so classically made that you can almost count the seconds to the moment where the scare will happen. So many times in the movie, you're waiting, waiting, waiting, then BAM! The alien comes and does its damage. It's not unlike being on a rollercoaster: part of the fun is waiting for the drop to come. You know when it's going to come, but that doesn't make it any less thrilling and fun to experience.
With Super 8, JJ Abrams stops being merely a skilled director of movie franchises. He really sort of comes into his own here albeit while relying on the godfather of summer blockbusters, Steven Spielberg. The Spielberg influence is so strong in this film, but Super 8 is definitely its own film. When it's not trying to scare you, it's making you laugh. In fact, if you take out the alien, you have a pretty funny film about adolescence. Personally, I found just about all of the kids to be likable in their own way although I've already heard people complain one kid here and another one there, but really, the kids really made the movie for me. They at least display much more range than Kyle Chandler who plays the father to the main character of the movie, Joe Lamb (played by Joel Courtney).
The film centers around a group of kids, lead by Charles, the aspiring filmmaker who wants to make a good zombie movie and is obsessed with improving the production value. What was refreshing about all this was that the kids are all pretty smart and they're enjoyable to watch, not unlike the kids in ET. Joe Lamb is best friends with Charles who is skilled with applying zombie makeup to the young actors. Charles gets Alice Dainard (played by Elle Fanning) to be the lead actress of the film who immediately becomes the object of affection for Joe. Alice and Joe then begin to develop a bond between each other and they become the emotional center of the film.
The film also features the classic Spielbergian father/son conflict between Joe and his father Jackson. Jackson, a police officer, is now the only parental figure of Joe's life and struggles to take care of his son while attempting to be an effective police officer as well. The both of them are also grief-stricken over the recent, unfortunate passing of Joe's mother/Jackson's wife. Their relationship is clearly JJ Abrams attempting to channel Spielberg in the best way he can and even though you can see the evolution of their relationship coming from a mile away, for the nature of this film, it works.
And that is the case with the majority of the film. Unless you did not grow up watching classic Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters, ET), then you pretty much know what to expect from Super 8. But let's face it, do people make movies like this anymore? Do people even try to make an original movie featuring classic sci-fi elements in a summer blockbuster/family film? There have been quite a few great blockbuster films over the last decade, but the '80s were the best time for family/summer blockbuster films and Super 8 is one of the few films I can think of that actually succeeds while copying that formula.
I sort of struggled coming up with the right rating for this film, but for now the rating I give for this film feels about right. Overall, I would give this film an 8 out of 10, but considering just how absent these types of films have been from the last 10-15 summers, I must go a little higher than that. You must see this film. You will have fun and so will everyone you know.