Super 8 - Cinema Review

'ignore the possible problems with escaped extra terrestrials. Just watching five boys and one girl try to live their lives in a small town is magic enough for the summer movie season'

Super 8 starts not with the train crash which the early teaser (and subsequent trailers) have shouted about, nor with another piece of action, but actually with a contemplative boy sitting outside his house in a snow-covered town. Herein lies the genius of the film's first half. This is, make no mistake, a monster movie but, under the guidance of Steven Spielberg (whose touch is apparent) J.J. Abrams knows that to make monsters you first have to make people. The first half of the film is a delicious throwback not to the likes of E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind but to a time when film-makers cared more about their actors than their special effects budgets and more about quiet character moments than soaring crane shots.

That said, when the train crash does arrive, it is one of the best action scenes of the year. If that sequence doesn't win something, from someone, somewhere, then someone isn't doing their job properly. It signals the arrival of a tense middle third which, punctuated by a couple of well directed action sequences, is again very much focused on character.

For the focus to work Abrams requires great performers and Super 8's are exceptional. Riley Griffiths steals scene after scene but the weight of the film is on the shoulders of Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning. They excel. Their awkward teenage relationship is sweet and good-natured and their scenes without each other, ordinarily in the company of inconvenient fathers Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard, work just as well. The group of boys intent on making a zombie film is rounded off by Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso and Zach Mills and each one gives a lesson to much older peers in how to, firstly, establish a group dynamic and then, secondly, play off it without grandstanding or scene stealing. Ignore the possible problems with escaped extra terrestrials. Just watching five boys and one girl try to live their lives in a small town is magic enough for the summer movie season.

Come the end, when the film is much more concerned about delivering 'a message' and showing off its gribbly, it does weaken somewhat, as such films are generally want to do. The muddy and somewhat sugar-coated conclusion to the majority of the conflicts seems to be something akin to 'just forget about it and it'll go away' whilst the very final scenes throw in characters who would only better define 'canon fodder' if they were displayed being pushed inside a rocket launcher.

The distinct mark that Abrams brings to what is very much a Spielberg-esque film shouldn't go unnoticed either. There's more horror inflections here than the great man often feels comfortable using in ostensibly family films (perhaps a sign of changing times as much as changing directors) and they add a pleasant amount of threat to the middle third, which stands out as the film's strongest.

'Production values!', Griffiths' character keeps on shouting. This has them by the bucket-load, most of them being related to values of the old-fashioned, storytelling, variety.

Look further...

'the pale riff on Spielberg that Dawson Leary might have made had ‘the Creek’ carried on' - CinemaScream


  1. I'm in a minority here because I hated this!! I thought it absoltue crap I'm afraid! I'm hard pressed to give it even a begrugded half star.
    For me the worst movie of the year by miles.

  2. I remember reading you didn't like it Brent. Sorry to hear. I really think there's a lot there to enjoy beyond the CGI and the slightly gooey final third.

  3. Yeah this movie really made me angry. It was ill promoted as it gave the impression of being an adult film and it quite clearly isn't. I wouldn't have bothered parting with $15.30 because these kidault type movies don't work for me.
    The premise wasn't original and I can't buy into this 'homage' argument. Bulls*@T!! This is just a pure rip off of The Goonies and ET ,and I saw both as a kid in the 1980's! The whole visuality was pure Speilberg and that isn't homage.
    Just the whole thing really stunk for me and I haven't been so angry at the whole feeling of Abrams, along with Speilberg, having played a joke on the cinematic world...albeit an all too lucrative one. I really can't escape a feeling of dis-honesty about it, never mind the quality of the movie. It has a rotten odour under the surface ( money, money, money ) for me and I don't like that.

  4. So glad this is living up to expectation. Can't wait to see it.

  5. Just saw this 2 days ago and must say it was a very good summer blockbuster with lots of emotion, thrills and laughs. Almost a perfect blend and a nice throwback to the coming of age movies of the eighties...

  6. Absolutely, think it does all of that and even a bit more. Fantastic old style blockbuster.