SUPER 8 [2011] review

June 11, 2011 · Print This Article

First, does SUPER 8 succeed at recreating that early 1980s Spielberg feeling?  Yes.  Is it as good as E.T.?  No, but nothing ever will be and SUPER 8 stands on its own as a modern movie throwback to 1979.

Somehow SUPER 8 went pretty much under my radar until yesterday.  I had distantly heard of it, but it was not on my calendar at all and all of the story that I knew was that a group of kids from the 1980s make a movie on their own.  I figured there was some kind of sci-fi element thrown in as well.  It was a real plus going into the movie with this little knowledge.

Let me also state definitively:  see SUPER 8 in a theater, see SUPER 8 in a theater with the best sound system around

I do not remember a physical assault by sound (meant in a good way) like in SUPER 8 since seeing JURASSIC PARK in 1993.  The entire theater shook to its foundations as a train derailed early in the movie.  It was impressive and a very immersive experience.

However, I was already impressed with SUPER 8.  All the child actors did an outstanding job, with perhaps Charles the young director standing out the most, at first.  Soon all the other characters are blown away by Alice’s “acting” ability during a rehearsal.  J.J. Abrams did an outstanding job getting these performances out of these kids.  Equally, the dialogue Abrams wrote was very natural, it felt like we really were peaking into some suburban family’s 1979 kitchen.

The 1979 world is well fleshed out and has that Spielberg realism and sense of nostalgia for a time when you could ride your bike to any part of town, where kids explored their world finding astonishing mysteries always ending up crowded into a booth in a diner looking back on it all.

The humor of the dialogue was great as well.  Several “ha’s” were sent echoing out into the theater as not everyone found lines like, “Asshole, no one develops film overnight,” quite as funny as I did.  This was a movie with old school PG-13 swearing like you do not hear anymore.

The low camera angles put you at eye level with the kids, into their world as they make a zombie movie that gets interrupted by a mysterious train crash that the air force at first seems non-plussed about.  As stranger and stranger things start to happen in their small town, the adventure for the kids making the zombie movie only increases.  The pacing is great, with just enough quiet moments to let the characters develop some real emotion and connection with the audience, in particular Alice and Joe watching an old family movie of his.

Then there are the thrills, which were also highly effective.  The letting of all sound fall to perfect silence, which the audience followed suit with holding its collective breath, was used extremely effectively to build tension in several scenes.  You could feel the characters’ fear in that situation.

The major sci-fi elements are actually mostly minor to the story until the final act, though they are secretly driving all the action from the get-go.  A movie based on the sci-fi story could be a whole movie unto itself, and one I would be interested in seeing.

Ultimately SUPER 8 is a proper movie-movie, a throwback, a near ideal balance of story and special effects.  See it in a theater.

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