Super 8 is a children’s movie…
I mean this in the best sense of the word…
A movie for people who thought “why are there no more movies for kids like the ones Steven Spielberg made?
Directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek XI, Mission Impossible III) the first teaser made Super 8 appear to be in the vein of Cloverfield (produced by Abrams), but make no mistake, it is not primarily about a monster.
It is a movie about a group of children who are spending the summer making a title giving super 8 movie when a big train accident happens.
But was it an accident?
And what the hell was in this train? A
nd why is the military sealing of the city?
What started out as a film project very fast turns into an adventurous sci fi story.
Abrams and the mystery
2009 Abrams managed to breathe life into Star Trek, a franchise that had run stale and was caught in an unimaginative corner. What he did was to make an old concept fresh, attractive and interesting to the current moviegoer.
But instead of jumping directly into Star Trek XII he decided to direct a smaller movie (50 million budget, a third of Star Trek’s) based on a screenplay by himelf.
And as usually he marketing was deliberately confusing:
Was it a prequel to Cloverfield?
Was the Cloverfiled monster in the train?
Why did the official websites release stories about super heroes?
The lost cinema
Being involved in Lost Abrams became known as a man who was keen on creating mysteries and not revealing much to the public – a rare thing in current movie culture where movies like Transformers are already showing everything in their trailers.
Abrams has repeatedly voiced his sadness over this oversaturation of information and he tried to restore the sense of going ito the cinema, not really knowing what exactly the movie would be about – similar to Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
But as much as he tried to reestablish this experience Super 8 seems to have become a victim of exactly this seeing as many people were curious about the movie but then ultimately disappointed with what they got.
What is even more interesting than the movie to me is the fact how much the opinions were split about what we saw and how a big part of my group was very disappointed or discarded the movie as piece of crap.
In that hindsight let this review be less about the story but just a general heads up what to look for – without giving away too much of the plot of course.
The overall themes (at least in my eyes) are forgiveness and wonder. As usual with Abrams there is a daddy-issue that is driving the story and you get a fair chunk of stereotypes, the one that sticks out the most being the drunk father who doesn’t want his daughter around the protagonist. But contrary to most children’s movie (where said father figure seems to be mandatory) the father at least has some good sides, buried underneath.
The second theme is about wondering what might be out there, very much in the style of old Steven Spielberg movies and it is no coincidence that Spielberg was he producer on this movie.
What Abrams did is he made a movie like Quentin Tarantino, a throwback dedication to a movie style he grew up with. But contrary to Tarantino he is not lost in style over substance, his character still are characters (special congratulations to whoever was responsible for casting, none of the child actors are bad) and you relate to them and feel the excitement.
Plus there are a lot of “characters reacting to things we don’t see”-sequences that are typical of early Spielberg movies. And the reaction sometimes tells us more about what we see than the actual image (just try to watch Jurassic Park and see how long we watch people in a car looking before we finally get the first image of a dinosaur) – only this time J.J. has added his Star Trek lensflares. And flares make everything better!
I just wish that Abrams will start to think more about the mystery he creates and what eventual revelation it will hold. Best thing would be to get an external story completely elaborate and surprising and have Abrams make a mystery out of it because with his movies the revelation is alwas kind of a “oh… that was what all the fuzz was about?” and the less said about Lost the better.
While being formulaic a lot of times I never felt like I could guess exactly what would happen. Sure the overall idea what will be happening is clear but how the characters will get there not so much.
Super 8 is a well made movie about children and his upsides sure make up for some shortcomings. The children are neither arrogant nor shallow. The screenplay treats them as characters instead of cheap tools to get children’s attention. It is funny but scary at the same time and I am pretty sure that children seeing this now will be as scared of the monster as my generation was of Velociraptors.
Furthermore it is a children’s movie that wants to tell a story. When Abrams designed this film he clearly had the story in mind and did not intend it as a children’s movie. In a movie world where children’s entertainment is equaled by idiotic CGI characters in real life, talking cars, talking somethings or shallow “Disney star in movie that really has no reason to exist at all” Super 8 is a refreshingly honest family entertainment (except for one scene that was too cheesy even for my standards).
P.S.: Don’t try to rush out of the theater when the credits role because you will stand in the middle of the theater watching a great final treat.
P.P.S.: Also someone needs to make a high quality version of Stephen King’s “It”.