Written by: Kristian DePue
J.J. Abrams’ film, Super 8 has been available on DVD for well over a month now. Anyone who had any interest in seeing the movie has probably already seen it. If you haven’t seen it yet, chances are, at this point, you’re not going to…unless you read this and are somehow persuaded by my opinion.
In the summer of 1979, in a small town in Ohio, a group of young kids around 14 years of age are making a zombie movie with a Super 8 film-camera. Super 8 (or Super 8 mm film) is a motion picture film format. The director, a chubby and bossy kid named Charles (played by actor Riley Griffiths), wants to enter the film into a local film festival. While filming a scene at a small train station, a train approaches and thunders past the station. Before the train completes its pass, a truck mounts the tracks from the opposite direction on a collision course with the train. The train strikes the truck and derails, and all of this is witnessed by the kids. The military show up soon after, and strange occurrences begin all over town. …so while the kids continue to film their zombie movie on the succeeding days, a larger mystery and adventure rises around them.J.J. Abrams wrote and directed the film. He is known for the television programs, Lost and Alias, and for the films, Cloverfield, Mission Impossible III and the reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Steven Spielberg was credited as producer. The film was actually made to pay homage to some of Spielberg’s early films, specifically E.T. (director) and The Goonies (writer and producer).
Overall, I really liked the movie. I am “biased” because when I was in high school I used to make short little movies with my friends. We each bring different interests or histories when watching a film, and with my history, nostalgia crept up while watching the kids make their zombie movie. I also personally really like vintage and retro stuff, so the setting of 1979 was also particularly enjoyable for me. I remember at one point while watching the movie I thought to myself, “I wish we didn’t have cell phones.” I guess I sort of miss house phones.
My favorite parts were the scenes of the kids, and not just because they were making a movie together. Their differing personalities, interactions with one another, and dialogue was all very entertaining. The actors who played the kids were terrific. And it wasn’t all verbal jabs at one another either; there was some emotional weight brought into the story that involved two of the kids, Joe Lamb and Alice Dainard. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning portrayed the characters and did a great job; I was sucked into their story, wishing that I was 14 with Alice Dainard knocking on my window in the middle of the night, wanting to talk.
I actually watched the movie twice before writing this, and I am glad that I did. The first time I watched the film, I liked everything that I’ve mentioned above, but I didn’t care much for the parallel story that converges more and more with the kids as the movie goes on: the story of the military searching the train wreckage and then taking their search into town, and of the police deputy (Kyle Chandler, best known for television’s Friday Night Lights) who wants answers from General Nelec (Noah Emmerich) while having to deal with strange calls coming in from all over town, reporting unnerving occurrences. My second viewing of the film was about a week after watching it for the first time, and this time around I found myself much more engaged by the movie as a whole, as opposed to select portions.
After watching it twice, my only criticisms that are worth mentioning have to do with the ending. Suddenly the film seemed to want the viewers to feel some sort of emotional attachment or response to the alien leaving earth (an alien was being transported by the military by train and escaped the wreckage). However, there was little throughout the film to warrant much, if any, emotional relationship to the alien character. The ending was cheesy, and there were particulars that were out of place. For example, Joe Lamb let go of his mother’s necklace that he always carries with him, allowing it to leave with the alien. It didn’t make sense. At the beginning of the film, we learn that his mother died in an accident. However, throughout the film we also learn that he had a very close relationship with his mother. He didn’t have a relationship with the alien creature. The alien didn’t come to live at his house like E.T. It didn’t make sense for him to give away his mother’s necklace, and all I could think was “You’re gonna regret that.”