"Super 8" (2011)

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Super 8 (2011)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Running time: 112 minutes.

Hey everybody! Sorry about the lateness of this review, I’ve been away and have recently started up my second semester of university so I’ve only just gotten around to writing this review. I promise to be back into the full swing of things by next week. While I was away, however, I did manage to go see the film Super 8 and I thought I would say now that in order for me to actually comment/discuss the film I may have to reveal a few things from the film that anyone who hasn’t seen it may not want to know. So this is a spoiler warning I guess, you have been warned! Yeah, you at the keyboard, I’m talkin’ to you. Go see the film if you haven’t already!

Now Showing this week is Super 8 directed and written by J.J. Abrams who is the creative mastermind behind the film Cloverfield and hit TV shows Lost and Fringe. The film has been described by many other critics as a homage to the earlier works of Steven Spielberg, in the sense that it is set in the 1970s, involves science fiction elements and has children as the main protagonists. The film is about a boy named Joe who is making a zombie movie with his friends on a “super 8” video camera (the first kind of camera to record sound and video at the same time). Joe has recently lost his mother in an industrial accident and is now having a hard relationship with his father who is still recovering from the ordeal. During filming, Joe develops a crush on the lead actress Alice who is the daughter of the man whom Joe’s father blames for his wife’s death. One night while filming, Joe and his friends witness a train accident of epic (and I mean EPIC!) proportions and they flee the scene. Over the next few days, dogs start vanishing; people are being mutilated; the US Air Force has taken over the town; and some unnamed thing that was on the train is believed to be the cause behind it all.

Already you’ve got a freakin’ awesome film in the works, that premise is so good! And if it’s one thing J.J. Abrams is good at it is mystery. Now everyone has a go at Lost for not telling us anything but that’s what was fantastic about Lost. The fun in it was theorizing, based on what we did know, what the heck was going on; and then the thrill of being wrong was intoxicating! But I digress. The huge question for Super 8 is: what is the thing that’s causing all this mayhem? Abrams is fantastic at shooting action scenes involving a scary thing and not showing us what it is. He seems to be a big believer in the idea of “less is more”, which is something I think every horror/suspense filmmaker needs to learn. Things are scarier the less you see of them, and  it takes a long time for Super 8 to give you a good look at the thing itself. Many people I know who saw this film said they were disappointed once the thing was revealed but I had the opposite reaction. I thought the reveal was fantastic as it was nothing like what I was expecting from what I know of Abrams’ work. I like that he isn’t predictable, as all good filmmakers should be. He’s up there with Christopher Nolan in that regard.

But the mystery of the thing isn’t the point of Super 8, it’s simply the framing device. The real point of the film is the perspective that film is seen from: the children’s. The adults are running around either freaking out about all the strange occurrences or they’re the Air Force guys who are blind as to their sins as it were. Only the children were able to see things the way they should be, given their innocence and that they are not blinded by greed like us adults. I feel that’s where the Spielberg homage comes in; his films like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial are all about morality seen through the eyes of a child. That’s the only homage element I would place on the film, as all the other things people have drawn to it such as the time period and setting etc. isn’t a trademark of Spielberg; but perhaps that particular morality theme is.

One thing I need to mention is the acting. The acting is fantastic in this film, particularly from the children. Joe, played by Joel Courtney, is earnest and convincing the entire way through. And Alice, played by Elle Fanning, is fantastic. She absolutely nailed her role, and there was a particular scene where she is rehearsing a scene for the zombie film they’re making, where Fanning has a beautiful moment of honesty and gives an amazing performance of a performance of a pleading lover. I’ve been so annoyed that every reviewer has given her an honorable mention as Dakota Fanning’s sister, as I feel this isn’t fair to her. Dakota Fanning, while very talented, has never impressed me as much as Elle Fanning did in that one moment in Super 8, and Elle should be praised based on her great performance and not on her relation to her sister.

Well, it seems like I haven’t really spoiled much at all! I thought I would have to mention a few things that you guys wouldn’t want to know having not seen the film but I managed to tiptoe around it! Huzzah! Well, go see the film if you haven’t, it’s really great! Another triumph from a very talented filmmaker. See you next time!

p.s. I also saw Predators and Kung Fu Panda again this week, and they deserve a mention. See both of them, Predators for the decent action/suspense film with some great plot twists; and Kung Fu Panda for being one the funniest films ever made!

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