Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Producer: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Kyle Chandler, A.J. Michalka
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 112 minutes
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
USA Release: 6/10/2011
On DVD (USA): 11/22/2011
Over the years Steven Spielberg has done a fantastic job of bringing movie goers great entertainment that spans throughout all four seasons. This time though instead of being the one behind the camera it seems that he has taken J.J. Abrams under his wing and helped put together this film just as a producer. “Super 8” is exactly what summer movies are suppose to be, and it never once failed to be exhilarating, innocent and kindhearted like many of the characters within it’s story.
In “Super 8” it’s early spring of 1979, sitting on his swing we meet Joe (Joel Courtney) he has just lost his mother and is having a difficult time making any connection with his Deputy father (Kyle Chandler). Four months later school lets out for the summer, Joe and his friends begin making preparation to start shooting a zombie movie that will be sent into a Super 8 competition. As they are discussing the shoot for later that night, Joe finds out that Alice (Elle Fanning) is going to be there as one of the other actors. That night while at the train depot shooting one of the scenes a terrible accident happens as the train goes by, that causes the train to derail and send parts in every direction. As they run to take cover their camera falls over and to no one’s knowledge tapes the whole incident. After making sure everyone was ok, they flee the wreck as the military approaches, and decide never to speak of what just happened. But soon strange things start to occur that makes it impossible to ignore, as the military makes it’s presence known, folks around the town still have no idea, even as Joe’s father Deputy Lamb tires to uncover the military’s reason for being there. As the kids continue to make their movie, pieces of information start to bubble up and soon the kids are also trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
Like I said before “Super 8” never tries to be anything other than a testament to the sci-fi genre. Granted many walking away from this movie will automatically call it a homage to Spielberg’s early film like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “The Goonies” but even though it does come across that way it is still a very original film that more importantly pays respect to filmmakers like Abrams and Spielberg that when they were that age, they too were making Super 8 movies with their friends. Abrams did a amazing job, he captured the time period beautifully with the help of Larry Fong, together they used sweeping motions, and interesting angles to keep you feeling a part of what was happening. Abrams also made an interesting choice with the handful of songs used throughout the film, some songs are well know that you’ll be humming along with it, while a couple are songs that have been somewhat lost over the past 30 years, but never the less, it keeps us reflected to the past and for people who were alive during that time a nice fond memory. As for the story, it was a great piece of writing, keeping the suspense up and never having a dull moment. And like I said earlier a sprinkle here and there of past Spielberg movies (examples also said earlier), while also using another, very clever way to promote the movie, by never letting us see anything, and definitely never letting us see the creature which is also true of the film itself, much like the characters having no idea what kind of creature is out there, neither do we, we are just as in the dark as they are. Another thing was how the movie kept itself grounded, making real life apparent with hardships, innocence and of course laughter, nothing in this movie other than of course the full on sci-fi stuff is anything less then real life occurrences.
Of course what’s just as important as the story itself is the actors, and “Super 8” got a whole arsenal of top notch kids to play these role, a couple having no other acting credit to their name. For the supporting cast of kids which include Zach Mills, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, and Riley Griffiths. All of them, whether they were new to the business or a veteran, they all worked together so well that it never felt fake or scripted, just really seemed like a gang of kids just in a bizarre situation. Kyle Chandler gives a great performance, his character is grief stricken so much that it has left him bitter, and that just cause more separation between him and his son Joe. But he is a very determined deputy who questions everything to make sure that his son and everyone are living in a safe place. For Elle Fanning, this is just another fantastic performance that is really pushing her out of the shadow of her older sister, she played the role of the only girl in the group, and although she doesn’t look it she can hold her own with them. She is kind, caring and more mature than the boys. But even with all of these wonderful performances, there is one that will blow you away and that is Joel Courtney, who by the end of the film just has you sitting there in awe, surprisingly this is his first acting role ever, and man did he make a awesome first impression. His character of Joe is grieving and wants to be heard. He is trying his hardest to not upset his dad and make a connection, but nothing seems to work. Throughout the film we see a change in him, in the beginning he seems weak and can easily be taken advantage of but in the end he finds a newfound strength and leadership. All that is what made Courtney’s performance phenomenal, he just captured everything perfectly, I look forward to seeing more of his work.
To sum up, “Super 8” is one of the best summer movies of many years. It embodies everything that it is suppose to, like a great story and storytelling, amazing special effects (that are never too much, but just the right amount) and also phenomenal acting. By the end you will be wishing that every summer had a movie like this, and although to some it might feel like a Spielberg rip off, it is in fact a highly original piece of thrilling science fiction entertainment. Definitely find your way to the theater and check out “Super 8”, you don’t want to miss out on all the action packed fun.