Review | Super 8

Title: Super 8
Writer: JJ Abrams 

Reviewed by: Steve Aryan

In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in small town in Ohio witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it as not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
I don’t normally do film reviews or posts on films but I wanted to write about Super 8 for a few reasons. I saw it with a friend who is the same age as me and while I really enjoyed it, his comments were along the lines of - it was nothing special. This struck me as odd for a number of reasons. I’m in my 30s now and I’m as cynical as the next person (if not more so) and also not as easily shocked as I used to be. I’m also far more difficult to impress and am not easily excited by special effects in a film. But I can still remember the emotions ET stirred in me the first time I saw it when I was very young. It was a very special moment and one that doesn’t come along very often.

ET was an incredible film, a remarkable experience and as much as I now talk about some films being amazing, its rare, maybe a film every three or more years that is an actual experience. I’m talking about films like The Matrix and the first time you saw it (before we heard anything about the less than satisfying sequels). I’m talking about Twelve Monkeys when it made me think for a long time after about destiny. I’m talking about films like Seven, The Life of David Gale, The Green Mile and very recently Inception. With those films I came out of the cinema and I felt different. For some it was awed silence, or I was horrified or sickened, or the event horizon of my mind was expanding. As good and as enjoyable as Captain America was, it did not have the same effect as the those I’ve described. I don’t want to say these films were life changing, because they weren’t, but they did leave me with something that lasted longer than most movies.

I think Super8 is one of those movies. If I saw Super8 and somehow I was a small boy again I think it would stay with me for a long time after. For a small child I think this film would have all of the same effects as ET had on me. It has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg film, a summer blockbuster with lots of explosions and special effects, but it also has nothing to do with any of that and it’s just elaborate framing for a very personal story. Super8 is not really about the thing on the train, it’s about a young boy and his non-functioning family. It’s about Joe not fitting in and spending time with his weird group of friends over a long hot summer. It’s about growing up, meeting a girl you like and having them make you funny in that way for the first time. At this point I could be talking about ET or Super8.

I’ve heard Super8 described as Cloverfield meets ET which isn’t bad in terms of easy to touchstones, but I actually think Super8 is ET for the 21st century. There were so many familiar moments that you can draw a lot of parallels between the two like the music, the kids on bikes motif, the big problem which comes to small town America, there are dozens more but I won’t go into detail as it would spoil the film. Super8 was directed and written by JJ Abrams, and produced by him and Spielberg, but it almost feels like an updated homage to Spielberg’s ET. It also felt in some ways like a slightly autobiographical movie, and I can just imagine a young JJ writing and filming short movies with his friends from school like the kids in Super8.

If you can suspend or bury your cynicism for two hours, if you can mentally shed the last twenty or thirty years and try to go back in your mind to a time when going to the cinema was a very rare treat, when movies came out on video a year or two after they were released at the cinema, then you will enjoy this movie a lot more. There were a couple of times when the bubble burst and I thought the dialogue sounded a little cheesy, but I forced myself to stop thinking and just enjoy what I was seeing and feeling. The movie is set in 1979 and I think one of the reasons this was done is because the world felt a lot more innocent in those days and it’s designed to help the adult audience go back in time in their mind.

I think Super8 is a remarkable film for a number of reasons, a few of which I’ve outlined above. I’ve not even talked about some of the acting performances from the child actors who were incredible. However, I’m fully aware some people who have seen it will not share my sentiments and will think it was nothing special or perhaps not very good at all. Overall, in my opinion, it was a scary, exciting, brilliant and wonderful film that I would recommend to anyone over the age of about eight or ten years old. Super8 was a real movie experience.

Alex J. Cavanaugh  – (26 August 2011 at 21:24)  

Yes, you got it! The wonder that Spielberg is so good at capturing. I'm much older and would've been about the same age as the kids in the film, and I felt it captured that moment very well. Best movie of the summer.

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