“Super 8” Movie Review

     “Super 8” is a solid yet unspectacular summer offering from “Star Trek” Director J.J. Abrams and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg.  Its funny because with Spielberg attached in the capacity of producer, you really get the idea Abrams sole purpose for writing and directing this feature was to pay tribute to his idol.  Can’t really blame him for that though.  If I were a young up and coming director, paying homage to a legend like Spielberg doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  What “Super 8” offers when it is at its best is an original entertainment lost in the inevitable summer crowd of sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots.  Whereas films are made these days to introduce younger viewers to old concepts, Super 8 is a period film and transports all of us late thirty somethings back to 1979 when Spielberg was making films like “E.T.”.  Yes, there is something really familiar about Super 8 as the nostalgia can’t be denied.

     The film’s plot was shrouded in secrecy throughout its marketing campaign in order to leave audiences guessing rather than already knowing.  I really respect that about this film.  I’m so tired of watching a film and realizing the best parts are already spoiled.  You won’t have to worry about that when viewing Super 8, in fact you still won’t know whats going on at least an hour and a half into the story.  If there’s a knock on the film its that it takes awhile to get going.  The story is like a giant puzzle that only comes together at the very end.  I have to figure this was a huge gamble on the part of the filmmakers in this day and age.  Most audiences seem to want to know exactly what they are about to pay for and prefer to know details upfront.  At the time of this writing, Super 8 had become the number 1 film for its opening weekend, grossing $37 million with only Spielberg and Abrams names in the trailers, commercials, and posters. Score!

     Super 8 refers to the type of camera many aspiring young filmmakers were using in the late 70’s to hone their craft.  Charles (Riley Griffiths) is one such kid.  He and his friends spend much of their free time making their own monster movies.  After recruiting his friends to film a key late night scene at a train station, including his best friend Joe (Joel Courtney) and a girl they both have a crush on, Alice (Elle Fanning), the group witnesses a brutal train crash that happens right in front of them.  A word on the train crash.  The effects guys outdid themselves on this one.  The sequence is breathtaking and awe inspiring with the kids barely escaping death and as it is occurring you really believe someone is going to die, its that intense.

     Following the train crash, strange things begin to happen in the small Ohio town the film takes place in.  People begin to go missing.  There are power outages.  Every dog and animal leaves the city.  What are they running away from?  These questions are the ones asked by one of the town cops, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), who also happens to be Joe’s widower father.  Things become even more complicated when the military arrives and takes the city over, yet provides no answers.  As I stated before, Abrams story leaves the audience in the dark too, but rest assured, the film is brought to a proper and satisfying climax. The film is a throwback and Abrams believes in getting his audience to care about the characters first before introducing them to the antagonist.

     Fans of Abrams or those who follow his work will immediately recognize his constant use of lens flare throughout and that is just one of his signature touches as a filmmaker.  The real story here is the kids and how differently they cope with life’s everyday issues.  All of the kids in the film deal with devastating tragedies, yet they are resilient.  They stay positive and are able to find constructive things to do on their own, which is a huge difference when compared to the spoiled iPod, iPhone, PS3, X-Box generation of today.  It was refreshing to watch Super 8 and be reminded of just how simple things used to be. GRADE: B