johnlink ranks SUPER 8 (2011)

I’ve been wanting to see this since the first teaser came out. I avoided all I could, and went into this knowing only that it involved a group of kids encountering some aliens, and a train wreck. It’s not easy to avoid all information about a movie you want to see, but my experience was the better for it.

I watched SUPER 8 (2011) on 4.2.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

It is certainly fitting that this is produced by Spielberg and directed by J.J. Abrams. Throughout his career, Spielberg has been as good as anyone at this sort of flick, a balance between character building and event movie. It may be too soon to say that he passes the torch here, but Abrams absolutely makes a statement with SUPER 8. This is not an easy movie to make well, and he absolutely nails it.

The story of these kids trying to put together a little movie on their super 8 camera is solid enough as it is, and the suddenness of the train crash just takes it all to another place. The alien takes it further, and the military further. This is a movie which just builds, and builds, and builds while never forgetting what it was there to do in the first place. These kids see all of the chaos as an opportunity to get some good exteriors for their little movie. They take advantage of it (as kids do), with SUPER 8’s script doing a tightrope walk to allow the build to not happen too quickly.

To get actors to act believably and effectively in a monster movie is tough. Getting kid actors to do the same is miraculous. The performances by the young folks in this are spectacular. I’m not sure what is in the Fanning family genes, but Elle Fanning is as good in this as her sister Dakota has ever been, and that’s saying something. Joel Courtney, making his film debut here, is every bit as good in his portrayal of the 10-year-old hero of the film. But, across the board, the level of camaraderie with these kids is stellar. Very much reminded me of STAND BY ME in that way. The banter and the ribbing is just spot on for the age group this represents.

As with any alien flick there are some logic gaps. How the alien gets around so well without being seen is only somewhat answered. The military are in no way nuanced, and instead just plow forward as a danger to both themselves and others. A lesser movie wouldn’t be able to handle these things, but they barely show up as blips on the radar for SUPER 8.

The quality of the set design, costume design, and art direction is note-worthy. This feels like it could have been shot in the 80s, save for the high quality special effects. This movie, both written and directed by Abrams, is certainly a love letter to his youth. Every detail of the production is finely thought out: I can only imagine how much time was spent figuring out which movie posters to hang and which toys to feature in the kids’ rooms.

We are even privy to some Spielberg standards in this movie. We have dueling daddy issues. The misunderstood alien. The menacing alien. Naivete about technology. In many ways Abrams is taking his best shot at making a Spielberg movie, and he really does it well.

SUPER 8 is simply a clinic on how blockbuster movies can do it right. Abrams, as he always seems to do, strikes all the right notes in creating a classic in the genre. After a month watching a whole lot of mediocre fare, this is how the experience of a good movie should feel!

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 9; WRITING: 7

7+9+9+7+0=32

FINAL SCORE: 8

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~ by johnlink00 on April 2, 2012.

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