I know our usual film reviewer is the lovely Dosty Glory, but after seeing a movie I had been anticipating for quite some time, I decided to finally make use of my Critical Film and Television Studies degree and review it. As you already know because you clicked on the link, the film I’m talking about is Super 8, which was directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by the American union equivalent of Senor Spielbergo, Steven Spielberg.
The film tells the story of a group of friends trying to make a homemade zombie movie in a mundane Ohio steel town in 1979. One member of the group, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), is still strongly affected by his mother’s death in a freak accident at the steel mill. His father Jackson (Kyle Chandler), a sheriff’s deputy, has a strained relationship with his son and does not understand the boy’s willingness to go running around with his friends making crazy movies. One night, the director of the film, Charles (Riley Griffiths), gets the crew to sneak out and film some shots at a local train station. They are aided by the slightly older Alice (Elle Fanning), who naturally catches the eye of all the boys, specifically Joe. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that while the kids are at the train station, a derailment occurs followed by some pretty big explosions. From there, things just start getting worse as all sorts of weird things occur in town. Something has escaped from the train, and that something is rather angry.
A lot has been said about how Super 8 is J.J. Abrams’ homage to the Steven Spielberg movies of the 1970′s and 1980′s. It is pretty easy to see the influence of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind and E.T., straight down to a shot that mirrors a key scene early in that film. Still, below the surface, the film touches on something that Spielberg and Abrams’ have both covered in their previous work: Strained family relationships revolving around the father. After the death of Mrs. Lamb, Joe and Jackson can’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, including Joe’s fascination with Alice due to the fact Alice’s dad was indirectly responsible for the death of Mrs. Lamb, or so Jackson believes. Alice’s relationship with her father is also severely strained from the effects of alcoholism and guilt.
With that in mind, though, the main point of the film, at least in my opinion, comes through. The whole film is about letting go and moving forward. Joe clutches a locket that belonged to his mother for the whole film. Jackson blames Alice’s dad for the accident, thus banning Joe from seeing Alice. Even the creature has these same issues. He can’t let go of what’s been done to him, and the government literally can’t let him go to live in piece. I don’t want to say too much about the creature as the film is not so much about a pissed off alien causing havoc, but it’s about an incredibly strange situation in the most normal of towns. The attention to detail, the characterization, especially the kids acting like normal kids, and the atmosphere presented gives you that feeling throughout the film. The actions of the creature serve as the catalyst for all our characters to make the necessary decisions about letting go and moving forward.
On a personal note, I did rather enjoy the interaction shown between the children in the film. As mentioned before, they act and talk like normal kids meaning they curse, insult each other, and constantly try to one up each other. Some will definitely see shades of the dynamic shown in “The Goonies”, well, at least I did. Goonies never say die.
The film is not without faults as it does lose steam during the last act, but it’s a small criticism. We’re still dealing with a summer film that has a lot of heart and intelligence behind it, and that’s a rarity this time of the year. Do yourself a favor and go see this one. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.