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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.2%
Worth A Look67.21%
Average: 14.75%
Pretty Bad: 6.56%
Total Crap: 3.28%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Super 8
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by Erik Childress

"The Ultimate Found Footage Movie?"
4 stars

There are seminal periods in our lives that form who we are and what paths we are destined to take. For myself, it was a period from about the age of 5-10 when the moving pictures I was seeing on the big screen and small influenced me to pursue a livelihood of some facet in the creative arts. For someone like Terrence Malick, it may have been the strict guidance of a Texas father and losing his brother at a young age that gave him forty-some years to ruminate on The Tree of Life. Then somewhere in-between were J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, the creators of Cloverfield, who were hired to dust off and clean up Steven Spielberg's old home movies before embarking on their own filmmaking careers. So it seemed only natural that Abrams would then pitch an idea to Spielberg about kids, a monster movie and a real-life monster; the result of which should take more than a few movielovers of my generation back to their roots.

Young Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney) has just suffered a tragedy of his own. His mom has died in a steel mill accident leaving him and his dad, Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) alone. As the summer begins, dad wants to send his son away to camp but Joe would much rather help his best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), make his zombie movie for an amateur film festival. Joe is particularly excited when the girl he has been crushing on, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), signs on to play the all-important role of the wife; the part that will provide Charles' film its emotional context. While filming a pivotal scene outside a train stop, Charles gets the production value he craves as a real train approaches. What he nor the camera does not pick up at first is the truck that speeds its way onto the tracks to meet the train head-on. A specacular crash erupts that should have people shifting their whispering from "Fugitive Who?" to "What the hell was on that train?"

Something has escaped from the Air Force bound vehicle and the Army has shown up immediately to track and perhaps even cover up its path. The commanding Nelec (Noah Emmerich) is not about to give Jackson any useful information, not even when the town Sheriff goes missing. Also leaving town are all the family dogs and the vital engine parts necessary for fathers to go searching for them. Naturally concerned, Jackson wants his boy under lock and key, but Joe continues to find his own clues to the mysterious happenings; not the least of which is what appears on Charles' reel from the train shoot. Ultimately it could be up to Joe and his friends to piece it all together and save the town.

Super 8 is somewhat of a riff on Abrams' production of Cloverfield, another found footage monster movie following the survival of a group of friends amidst an ineffective military presence in a big city. In fact, it is the polar opposite with everything scaled back right down to the terror and what we should actually be afraid of. Audiences glued into what Abrams is approaching with this material should be able to recognize the various influences that have come together here. From the law officer defending a terrorized small town to the military keeping the public from their discovery to psychic links and children trying to find safe passage amidst the chaos. Throw in a little of The Thing and you have what certainly could have been an extended episode of Amazing Stories from 1985.

Abrams is beyond just making one of the ultimate tributes to a filmmaking hero though. His script carefully tells its own story with wonderful touches of luring the audience in by never revealing too much and drawing us in through the characters' eyes rather than overtly flashy special effects sequences. Though the train crash will remain one of the showstoppers through year's end, I bet many people will be remembering (as I have) the kids who help make this film special. Griffiths has fun with the "wink, wink" filmmaker terminology as does Gabriel Bosso as the nervous hero of the zombie film and Ryan Lee as the fireworks-obsessed effects supervisor; all of whom could earn honorary status amongst the cast of Freaks and Geeks.

Super 8's success though belongs to its hero and heroine. First-timer Joel Courtney is a natural as Joe, a kid we all knew (or may even were) at some point. Shy, yet not reserved with baggage he doesn't like to force upon others while masking what he is missing in his life through friendship and other pursuits. Seeing what little I saw of Super 8 at this year's Cinemacon (formerly ShoWest) in Vegas, it was easy to pronounce that Elle Fanning (Dakota's younger sister) was going to breakout with this film. Seeing the whole film, it is an absolute certainty. At only 13, Fanning finds a way to connect with people of all ages with a performance that only takes moments to go from the unreachable crush of youth to the absolute sweetness of true friendship (or love.) The scenes of Courtney reacting to Fanning letting her guard down through the intimacy of trust and make believe have a perfection to them I don't believe I have ever seen in a film depicting the growing bond between children of that age.

J.J. Abrams' film though, his best as a director, belongs to people of every age though. Especially anyone who can recall their days in a darkened theater from 1975-85 when Steven Spielberg was creating or producing some of the most beloved films ever made. Even titles tucked under the Ambliní banner like Gremlins and The Goonies can be felt here; as can the need for escape so represented in other films from the same period like Explorers and The Last Starfighter. Anyone expecting something more along the lines of the Cloverfield horror or other big-budget FX spectaculars might feel a tad disappointed in the final result. No creature designer could possibly satisfy the imagination of what viewers hope will eventually appear on screen, but the monster is simply a catalyst for the ride and getting to know some wonderful characters. Super 8 is a movie's movie and makes no apologies for it; a tribute to what is at the heart of seeing them as a kid with the same brand of enthusiasm for wanting to make them (however half-cocked) as Spielberg or the kids of Son of Rambow did. It is not a perfect movie, fuller than Mission: Impossible III and its weak final act and not as insulting to the history of its predecessors as the second half of Star Trek. In some way Super 8 is the ultimate found footage piece and for once we are not yelling back at the screen to put down the camera.

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originally posted: 06/02/11 01:49:44
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell a cool creature feature 4 stars
8/27/12 David Pollastrini Not as good as i hoped it would be 4 stars
3/15/12 Monday Morning Great 1st half but 2nd half too crazy. Alien tangent was a bad choice... 4 stars
1/05/12 Luke 70% of what I love about hollywood and 30% of what I hate 3 stars
12/27/11 Harp Pretty well made but also pretty boring 2 stars
11/27/11 mr.mike Good , not great. 4 stars
9/14/11 ryan I didnt like this very much 2 stars
8/11/11 Jon I really enjoyed this 4 stars
8/11/11 Quang Thịnh I loved it! Great movie 4 stars
8/08/11 Erica it was a really got and clever movie 4 stars
8/01/11 Piz A worthwhile view at the box office. Solid action, tension, and plotline. 4 stars
7/10/11 Man Out Six Bucks Some of the insipid American zeroD shit ever made. Proof USA is a retard depository. 1 stars
7/03/11 zenny Fun flick, feels like 1980 again. 5 stars
6/22/11 Toni Loved it, scary but sweet too 5 stars
6/19/11 Ming One of the best sci-fi of the year..The Goonies and ET all together 4 stars
6/18/11 millersxing for a 70s flashback and roaches the size of monsters, this sure beats the Super 8 motel. 4 stars
6/17/11 SID RUMKOWSKI Spielberg type Hostess twinkie,spewed from Hollywood"s rectum. 2 stars
6/16/11 HanoverHarry LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! 5 stars
6/15/11 bert kaplan A really fun movie! 5 stars
6/13/11 Shaun A Overhyped, the film stands on its own but is best seen with lower expectations 3 stars
6/13/11 Darkstar The Goonies + E.T. + Cloverfield = Awesome 5 stars
6/12/11 Bob Dog Could have been good if Abrams remembered to write a story. 1 stars
6/12/11 action movie fan cloverfield meets close encounters-both are what this should have been 2 stars
6/11/11 M Nostalgic, Noisy & Fun. only let down,last 1/2hr a bit rushed... 4 stars
6/11/11 Justin I wanted to slap the shit out of the fat kid. 3 stars
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  10-Jun-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Nov-2011


  DVD: 22-Nov-2011

Directed by
  J.J. Abrams

Written by
  J.J. Abrams

  Joel Courtney
  Kyle Chandler
  Elle Fanning
  Riley Griffiths
  Ron Eldard
  Noah Emmerich

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