All right I’ve called in with my reaction and tweeted it as well, time for the full review! I don’t think there was an embargo on releasing reviews on the film… anyways, like 2 people read my blog so I don’t think Paramount will mind or find out haha.
The first time I heard about Super 8, I was sold just on the names involved in the project (Steven Spielberg AND J.J. Abrams? Word?). I know people give Spielberg a lot of slack for War of the Worlds and Indy 4, but I really liked both of those films. J.J. Abrams is someone I’ve had a love/hate relationship with haha. I love the way Abrams shows enough in the trailer to get you intrigued, but doesn’t spoil the whole movie. At the same time, something about Abrams just used to irk me. Maybe it was me just hating on how popular he was or his demeanor or the legion of super hipster fans he accumulated over the years (there was a shit ton of “indie hipster” types at the screening lol). Despite that, I always thought that his work spoke for itself. Mission Impossible III and Star Trek were both very good films, would Abrams continue to show growth with Super 8?
What makes Super 8 such a special movie is the wonder and joy of a spectacle. Abrams just knows how to put together thrilling scenes with beautiful visuals that get your heart pumping. As with MI:III and Star Trek, Abrams shows that he knows how to keep the ball rolling. Super 8 has a good pace throughout and with Abrams’s sure hand guiding it, the movie never gets boring or lost within the narrative. His biggest weapon is that he knows what audiences want to see and he also knows the importance of restraint.
On a visual level, this movie must be seen on the big screen. The visuals (besides the direction) are the movie’s greatest strength. There are some spectacular shots during certain sequences that made my jaw drop. Combine this with the sound design and it leaves an impact, trust me. The sound system at my theater was a bit too high, but the force of what happens on the screen hits you in the chest like a ton of bricks. Basically, IT WAS AWESOME! It feels like a cliche to say it, but the Michael Giacchino score was great as always. It enhances the scenes at hand without becoming distracting or obvious.
The casting of Super 8 was inspired to say the least. Kyle Chandler (who I fucking LOVE as Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights) puts in some great work here as the detached and bad ass father. I hope that after this film Chandler receives the attention he so deeply deserves. The child actors surprised me the most in that they didn’t make me cringe or facepalm from poor acting haha. Matter of fact, they were a lot more entertaining than I thought they’d be from the outset. This kid Joel Courtney, who plays the lead character, Joe, was pretty phenomenal. He had some flat line deliveries, but it was amazing to see him hold his own against Kyle Chandler in some scenes. Elle Fanning was also very good, although the first scene we see her in I was thinking in my head “oh boyyyyy, here we go” because she was AWFUL haha. She gets infinitely better as the movie progresses, thankfully. I also dug the casting of several character actors whom you might recognize if you see the film.
The main thing to take away is that this is clearly an affectionate homage (to a fault) that Abrams wanted to pay to several classic movies that came before him. This was Abrams trying to create his own classic. While I don’t think he always succeeded, he certainly succeeded enough. There’s enough character, visuals, and thrills to satisfy even the most ardent movie goer.
As much as I love the film, I had a lot of problems with it that took away from the movie as a whole. Not enough to ruin it, but enough to irk me to say the least.
Something that irked me visually was the lens flare. Is J.J. Abrams turning the lens flare into his motif or his signature? A way you can easily identify his movie if you don’t know the director? Because if so, it’s really annoying. I guess this would only bother people who follow film, a lens flare is when a light source shines directly into the camera lens and creates a white/blue line on the film. Ordinarily, a lens flare is a mistake or accident, but just like Abrams used lens flare all the time in Star Trek, it’s here in Super 8 as well. The one funny story about lens flare that I heard was that on one of the Star Trek special features, they showed how he had a guy whose job was to specifically shine a light into the camera at certain times and after the takes Abrams would say “hey, nice lens flare!” LOL which is hilarious because usually directors get pissed if lens flare occurs during a scene.
One thing that really took away from the movie for me was how the characters seemed a little weak, they only work because the actors elevate the material and pull it off. The relationships aren’t as strong as they should be because the narrative jumps around quite a bit. There are a lot of subplots that need attention throughout the film and that takes away screen time from developing the characters. There are certain scenes that are clearly supposed to be character arcs that just don’t feel earned or deserved. One of them even made me roll my eyes in the theater.
Another problem that disappointed me was how derivative the film felt at times. Just off the top of my head Super 8 alludes to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Signs, Cloverfield, War of the Worlds, Stand By Me, The Goonies, etc. For the most part, J.J. Abrams makes it work, but I can’t help but feel that the movie isn’t as satisfying as it could have been due to how little the movie has to say on the themes it evokes. On an emotional level, it feels like Abrams has nothing new or original to say and that’s disappointing to say the least.
I was also a little sad that most of my initial reactions/thoughts to the trailer ended up to be true. The film obviously has a certain mystery element to it and I was disappointed that there wasn’t more to it that you couldn’t ascertain from the trailer. Once again, this might be coming from a film fan’s perspective. This probably wouldn’t bother those who don’t constantly analyze and stress every little bit of detail about movies.
While it seems like I had a lot to complain about, most of these issues are not as major as I make them seem. There is an overwhelmingly large amount of good compared to the bad. I just feel like Super 8 could have joined pantheon of classic summer blockbusters, but instead has to settle for being a great film. That being said, it still doesn’t take away from how amazing the movie is as a whole.
With Super 8, J.J. Abrams proves that he can create a great film on his own (despite how clearly influenced he is by previous movies). Mission Impossible III and Star Trek were good films, but they were his take on already established franchises. This is Abrams’s first foray into original territory and for the most part he succeeds. With Super 8 he combines thrilling sequences, beautiful visuals, a fantastic score, and a top notch cast into a great summer blockbuster. There are sequences in this film that just beg and scream to be seen on the big screen. The 2011 hit list continues to grow as the year goes on, Super 8 is just another notch to add to this excellent year in film.
Super 8 trailer! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!