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Jun 8, 2011
Review: Super 8
The kids were confused by the behaviour of the Big Brother housemates.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Release Date: 9 June 2011
Runtime: 112 mins
Depending on how much you frequent the interwebs (our guess is a lot if you've even found this page), take some well-meant advice and forget all of the fanboy nonsense surrounding J.J. Abrams, Lost, Star Trek, et cetera. When you're done over there, embrace the fact that no matter what has come before for this remarkable young Director, Super 8 officially announces him as a talent to watch this decade.
Frankly, reviewing the film serves little purpose in telling you what the film is about; we're going to try and do J.J. a solid and not reveal any of the particular or juicy details. It's important as an audience member and particularly a reviewer to write about how a film made you react, made you feel at the time. These are the true indicators of passion (be it good or ill) for a viewing experience.
Allow us to set the scene: it's the late 70s in the small town of Lillian, somewhere in Ohio. There's a steel works, some other commercial industry, a school, and not a whole lot else. School's out for the Summer and five young boys (around age twelve) are in the process of finishing their Super 8 zombie flick, led by Senor Bossypants, Charles (Riley Griffiths). The rest of the crew include our protagonist Joe as make-up artist (Joel Courtney), Cary as explosives guy (Ryan Lee), Martin as leading man (Gabriel Basso), Preston as cinematographer (Zach Mills), and Alice Dainard as leading lady (Elle Fanning).
While out one balmy evening filming at a train station as the witching hour approaches, the kids bear witness to a crash so terrifying in its magintude and implications--a car runs on to the tracks deliberately to derail it--that the story unfolds at a frenetic, yet appropriate pace.
As an aside yet an integral part of the development of the characters and story, Joe's Mother passed away a few months before in a tragic steel works accident: this element forms the emotional backbone of the story and allows us to invest time and energy into Joe and his father, Deputy Lamb. It should also be mentioned that to people who grew up in the mid-late 70s or even 80s, this film holds huge nostalgic power via its set dressing, its music references (watch out for a hilarious rendition of 'My Sharona' by the five lads), and its overall naturalistic, slightly gritty picture quality.
In terms of craft, we're not pretending to know much (if anything at all) about basic principles of cinematography; however, the obvious stylistic decision to have light pierce the top and mid-range sections of the frame in nearly every shot gave the film a spooky, slightly B-movie feel by way of E.T. (yes, that was a deliberate reference to the duly noted Co-producer, Steven Spielberg), which added so much to the overall feeling that the viewer is receiving a gift: something different and a bit special.
Super 8 is a top notch coming-of-age tale that blends emotion, real humour, and compelling character development with military conspiracies and big fuck off explosions to create a film that is cinematic entertainment at its finest. Whether or not it means to be, it's also a sage reminder that there's something for everyone in the World to really kick ass at and belong to: for Abrams that was making movies and for you it will probably be totally different. Maybe crab farming is your bag. The point is, it's out there and if you look hard enough, so are good entertaining films. Mass respect.