I would like to start by saying this is my opinion, I don’t expect you to accept this as fact because I declared it. Please see it yourself and make your own opinion. Now here is your feature presentation…
Ok is it me or does Spielberg just own space now? It seems like all that is space related must be at least approved by Spielberg, if not done by the man himself, but that discussion will be reserved for another time. J. J. Abrams on the other hand is more in the business of letting people down, whether it be the Lost finale, the most recent season of Fringe (there were animated zombies!), or the absolutely horrible (or intensely hilarious depending on how you look at it) Cloverfield. Super 8, however, is surprisingly good; the acting is very well done (especially the kids) and the story is extremely fun, but cynicism is quite hard to suppress in these kinds of movies.
This film primarily focuses on the story of Joe Lamb, an early teenager living in a small town in Ohio who has been emotionally deprived since the death of his mother four months prior (still carrying a locket of hers around). School has just let out making it the summer of 1979 and Joe and his friends (Charles, Preston, Martin, and Cary) are making a zombie movie directed and written by Charles. For a new approach Charles decides to write in a wife which he gets Alice (the assumed “it” girl at school) to play. When everyone goes to an old train station to film they end up recording a train crash caused by Dr. Woodward (the honors biology teacher at their middle school) when he pulls his truck onto the tracks. From there odd things begin to happen in the town; large amounts of microwaves are being stolen, people are going missing, and the Air Force has shown up but refuses to talk. In the midst of all this chaos Joe and his friends dig deep to connect all the dots.
Now that you’re up to speed it’s time for the critiquing, this story all sounds fine but as I said in my X-Men: First Class review (yes, that is a shameless plug) clichés annoy me to no end. Every plot twist in this movie has already been used so many times it gets a little tiring. The love story between Joe and Alice, the story of the alien, the reason the teacher tried to crash the train, nothing in this movie feels entirely original. It doesn’t feel bad or stolen, just overused.
The relationship between Joe and Alice is undeniably well done; the way it’s delivered in a way that feels so real and innocent. The writing is also quite great, but some of the characters sound really cliché when you think about it. A sad nerdy kid with an emotionally absent cop father falls for a troubled tomboy with an abusive criminal dad; but guess what, each of their fathers strongly dislike each other and refuse to let the kids be friends. Guess what else? They meet anyway by sneaking over to each other’s houses and to the film sets. Joe and Alice have these “meaningful” looks into each other’s eyes where you feel more like you’re witnessing a staring contest then a touching moment, Abrams might as well have yelled out “They like each other!” during those scenes.
This movie is very good for what it is (an enjoyable film) but once you start thinking about it the plot wears really thin. I’ll accept that we don’t understand the alien technology because they are light-years ahead of us intellectually (although they can never seem to invent clothes) but almost every other alien cliché is presented. Just like every other alien it just crash landed here, it just wants to go home, it’s really only misunderstood, we (the war mongering, hate filled beings that we are) only torture it and perform experiments on it. The scene with all the kids staring up at the sky is so overused (see: every Spielberg film ever) and should have been discarded a long time ago.
Now this is where I feel I’ve gone a little too far with my complaints; but, would this ever even come close to happening? No kid is going to risk death via being eaten by an alien to save anyone, let alone just for the girl he likes. He’s going to do exactly what he’s told and not tell anyone what happened. But that wouldn’t make for a very good movie so I’m willing to overlook that.
A disclaimer: none of these parts of the film are bad; in fact I really enjoyed watching them. My complaint is not the scenes (except the staring scene, I did dislike that), just the idea. I don’t want to give you a wrong impression saying these are bad aspects of the movie when they are only minor complaints in the grand scheme of the film.
Now that all my gripes are dealt with I will tell you the pros. This film is very well written (except for all the clichés of course), very well acted, and very enjoyable to watch. There are no real dull moments in this film, whether it is sci-fi, suspense, drama, or even comedy (and yes, the comedy parts are actually funny) it is executed perfectly. I found myself really lost in the story, everything from the main plot of Joe and Alice to the minuscule parts of the stoner film shop employee that is constantly asking Charles about his older sister. You really lose yourself in the story; you are able to totally shut down your mind while watching this movie and just enjoy it.
Every character really feels enjoyable to watch in this movie, granted they don’t always do anything (yes another Abrams project with plot pieces going nowhere) but in this kind of movie those are part of the fun. Cary, a kid obsessed with all sorts of explosives (always with a back pack full of them) and plays the zombie in their film, is an excellent contrast to the soft spoken Joe and overtly bossy Charles. Preston is the male lead in their movie and is easily made the target of the kid’s jokes. He is by far the least intelligent and by far the most easily scared (he throws up quite a few times in this film) but yet never gets annoying or over the top, he knows his place and never goes beyond it.
Sure this film didn’t blow my mind but I don’t always want it blown. Sometimes I want to be caught up in the moment instead of dwelling on it later (which is why this review feels so negative in the middle). Every once in a while I don’t care about how un-realistic the plot is I just want a movie. No one puts on “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” when they want to relax. Everything doesn’t always need to be cerebral, that does not mean it doesn’t need to be done well it just doesn’t have to broaden my view of life. If you want a movie that will keep you entertained the whole time then we highly recommend you watching this movie. Just try not to be too cynical.
In : Movie / TV Reviews
Tags: "super 8" "steven spielberg" "j.j. abrams"
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