It has been a long time since a good coming of age movie that was not just for kids came out. There are the Diary of A Wimpy Kid movies but I mean something that people of all ages can enjoy with or without having children. Don’t expect anything new or truly original from Super 8, because everything you see has been done before.Take films like E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Batteries Not Included, Stand By Me and add a bit of Cloverfield (it is a J.J. Abrams film after all) and you come up with Super 8. Should you choose to go see it (trust me, you should), prepare for a very refreshing tale unlike any other movie you will see this summer.
Meet Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a kid who will have to do a lot of growing up in a very short period of time. His mom was a very big part of his life and she just died in a factory accident. His father (Kyle Chandler) is a good man, but is more of a police deputy than a father. His only outlet is being the make up guy for his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths), who likes to make monster movies. While shooting a scene, the group of friends witness a pickup truck drive onto the train tracks to intentionally derail an oncoming train. The devastation, followed by the unusually fast response of the U.S. Air Force make the kids get the hell outta Dodge and keep tight-lipped about the experience. Strange events start happening in their town and military presence gets increasingly more intense. Joe & company turn Scooby-Doo gang and try to figure things out, with varying levels of success. The rest of the movie is full of “you have to see” moments, so I am not going to spoil the moviegoing experience for you.
Super 8 is about a small town where everybody knows everybody. There is a lot of character interaction and that small town feel is conveyed without a hitch. You have one scene where the sheriff stops for gas and tosses a candy bar at the head of the kid on shit, telling him the owner doesn’t pay him to listen to his walkman. Then you have the town drunk (Ron Eldard) that everybody (including himself) seems to blame for everything. Elle Fanning really steals the show in the scenes where her character Alice is acting in Charles’ movie. I have not seen many of her performances, but I would say that she will be one to watch blossom into a great actress as she grows up. Let’s hope the fate of a similar blonde child actress does not befall her.
Hollywood, take note. When you have a good story, you don’t need super expensive special effects. Critics and moviegoers alike are raving about this movie and until next week’s Green Lantern debut, this is all they will talk about. $45M is not a lot for a movie budget and I don’t see anyway this movie will not at least double that this weekend. I could be wrong, I felt the same about Scott Pilgrim. But aside from the big reveal, the special effects were just light touches and mostly things that could be done with mechanical equipment. CGI was barely necessary and the end product is still fantastic. I believe J.J. Abrams work on Lost and Fringe and just being so involved in TV in general gives him insight on how to work with less money and make a quality product. I am not against effects, I just hate when they are used to mask poor writing. I would love to see more “low budget” movies that have great writing and acting.
I went to see Super 8 mainly because the trailer drove me crazy and I wanted to know what the hell was inside the train. Within the first 10 minutes I was already glad I walked into the theatre. Just hearing some dirtbag fat kid say “Let me steal some money from my mom so we can get the camera fixed” out loud and in his mom’s presence made my day. I have seen some reviewers get on this movie for not knowing what genre it wants to be. I say we are in an age of mashups. Every time you turn around, someone is blending one thing with another or several others. Abrams and Spielberg have done the same with Super 8, with what I feel are splendid results. We are right at the top of the summer blockbuster hill and it is a huge slope this year. Before the descent starts, you need to treat yourself to Super 8. It’s a date movie, a family movie, whatever you want it to be movie. Anyone can enjoy this film and I challenge anyone to give reason to call it bad.