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Grab Bag Review: ‘Super 8′ Has Production Value But Is Not Mint


Upfront Impressions: Kid actors did very well, fantastic train wreck, decent monster, great movie within a movie (The Case), and overall a good homage to Spielberg.

Okay, so the headline is a little inside if you have actually seen the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, I will do my best to keep this spoiler free. The last thing I want to do is ruin what could be a good experience for anyone.

The movie opens with people talking behind me which prompts me to move seats immediately. That is just how most movies start for me nowadays. But, I digress. Super 8 is a film about a boy who has recently lost his mother, and his friends desire to create a zombie movie with a super 8 camera, and a military train wreck that unleashes a monster onto the small town.

Synopsis: After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.

I went into this film knowing full well that this was writer/director J.J. Abrams homage to Steven Spielberg and the films of Amblin Entertainment. So for me, this was right up may alley. I had some decent expectations for the film. I don’t think I was let down in regards to the homage portion of the film. Except for the fact that the plot wasn’t flushed out as well as I had hoped. Spielberg is a great story teller, so you kind of hope for a lot more story and growth with the characters. I’m okay with a film giving the big reveal at the end. Getting the information towards the end of the second act, instead of filtered through the middle portion of the film, didn’t work for me. I don’t want to give away too much here, so I will just say that the third act (ending) kind of let me down.

When the train wreck happens, which you have seen in all the recent trailers for the film, you start to get excited. The wreck is unbelievable. It’s at the beginning of the film, very dramatic, and very well staged. Probably one of the best train wrecks on film to date. After that, most of the other effects are kind of off screen or blurry or heard from a different vantage point with lot’s of lens flare. The train wreck is hands down the best part of the film. Worth seeing maybe just for that alone in my opinion. After that, you are following the young boy, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) as he struggles to stick with making his friends movie and maybe getting closer to Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning).

The city has some strange things taking place. People are missing, dogs are running away from town, appliances are missing and the military is doing it’s best to not keep people calm and stirring up just as much trouble as the creature that they are looking for. During all of this, the kids are still kind of doing their own thing. I was maybe hoping for them to be out there in the thick of it and looking for an answer and the monster.

The first comment from the person who went to see this with me was, “It felt a lot more like The Goonies than E.T.” Which is true. You don’t have the connection that Elliot had with E.T. Yet, The Goonies had a mission after the first 10 minutes of the movie. In Super 8 you don’t have the kids getting concerned about what is happening to their town until about halfway through the film. They are still filming their super 8 movie, and moving on in their lives until one of their own goes missing. Suddenly they want to figure out what’s going on and become the kids that we want to care about, that we want to see succeed. If I were to compare it to any of the Amblin films, I guess it would be sort of like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In that film, you don’t get to see the aliens until the end. Up until that, you see families connecting pieces of something that you don’t really know what it could be. It was worth it at the end though, to see those aliens. Up until then, you were paying attention to the things that were happening to the people in the film to see if you could put those pieces together as well.

Super 8 had an ending that felt very rushed. Yes there is a payoff. You are waiting for something throughout the movie, and you will get it at the end. I was maybe hoping the kids would piece it together for the audience or with the audience, in some respects. I think it is kind of neat when the kids in a film start to figure things out that the adults couldn’t. If they would have been on the mission from the beginning, this could have been a great ride. Instead it is kind of all thrown in at the end of the film.

Overall it is definitely a good homage film. I don’t know if younger audiences will react to it in the way those who grew up on the Amblin films would. It may be lost on them. It pays enough respect to the time and films of that generation. Not a lot of pay off throughout the movie and a jammed packed plot wrap up at the end. And, last but not least, stay for the credits. You will get to see the final cut of the movie within the movie, the kids zombie film The Case. That was great. Funny and exactly what I would have made at that age if I had the tools.

3.5 out of 5

About the author

Michael Cantrell

Film enthusiast and observer of miscellaneous web findings. Living and working in the Inland Empire, Southern California. Acquired a Bachelor's degree in Television/Film, which is sitting in a file cabinet hidden from the world. General film interests are with independent films, comedies, science fiction and drama. Contributor over at http://whennerdsattack.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593327042 Sam Olecki

     I agree with your review 99%, except you gave it one bag more than I would’ve.  It was like E.T./Goonies/Cloverfield combined then sprinkled with Close Encounters.  Train wreck was SWEET but the kid melodrama was syrupy sweet and too much for me.  Awesome review man!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks. I still think its worth a view for those who might be on the fence. I think if someone doesn’t see it this coming weekend, its a rental for sure. I gave it 3.5 for the kids acting, train wreck and zombie movie. I wanted so much from this film. It had potential. Too much focus on the kids clouded the story of the monster.

  • James Fitzpatrick

    I wanted to see this movie just because of all the hype and I was fairly
    disappointed. I can’t say I wasnt entertained and the movie did flow fairly
    well, however I’ve seen this film in various facets throughout my young
    36 years and I think I wanted more from Super 8. The acting was good, the special effects were adequate and like in Goonies you have the weird awkward child, the fat kid, the nerd, the “poor me my mom dad and my dad is to distant to know I am alive” kid and the girl (whom I was rather impressed by…Dakota might not be my favorite Fanning anymore). Super 8 was definitely a matinee film, not a lose for the day but it is not the best movie I have seen this summer so far.

  • Ronan

    The lukewarm reviews I read about this the less excited I am about it. Maybe that’s why I shouldn’t read reviews before I watch a movie. Too late now. I’m sure it’ll still be good though. Spielberg + Abrams has to equal a decent film right?

    • Anonymous

      Its still a good movie. I think you will get enjoyment out of it. The third act is where things fell apart for me. I would still recommend seeing it.

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