PG Cooper: Super 8 Review

Posted: August 1, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: June 10th, 2011

Written by: J.J. Abrams

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, and Noah Emmerich

Super 8 is a film that borrows from the classic Spielberg films of the 70’s and 80’s. Classic films loved by critics and audiences, as well as being films that I haven’t seen. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I have seen E.T. and Close Encounters, but I I was very young and I don’t remember them at all. Though I have seen Jaws, which Super 8 also borrows from.

My lack of Spielberg experience kept me at a distance from Super 8. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to evaluate it properly. This, in combination with several other films I wanted to see, lead to me thinking I’d just wait until DVD. But I found myself with an opportunity to go to the theater. I had interest in films like Cowboys and Aliens and Crazy Stupid Love, but the poor reception they received swayed me to check out the very well received Super 8. Even with my lack of Spielberg experience, did I enjoy the film?

The film opens in the winter of 1979 where we meet our main character, 13 year old Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), who has just lost his mother in an accident at the steel mill she worked. He’s clearly upset, but life goes on for him and we cut to months later, at the end of the school year. Joe plans on helping his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) finish his super 8 zombie film. While filming one night, they witness a government train crash and are almost killed. They flee before anyone sees they were there, but the next day, the government has over run the town and strange things are happening everywhere. What follows is the kids trying to finish their film, while being sucked up in the government conspiracy, and the town being attacked by some creature from the train.

What I loved about this film the most is the kids. Child actors are always risky, but all of these do a good job in their roles. None of them deliver power house performances or anything, but they’re all likable, and they have a lot of chemistry between each other. The main reason I liked these kids so much is because they reminded me of myself. These are kids who love comic books and movies. I can’t help but love characters who’s bedroom walls are covered in Star Wars, Dawn of the Dead, and Batman posters. Now I never went out with a camera and made my own films, but if I had friends who did, I definitely would have too.

Some of the best moments from the film come from watching the kids making their zombie film. There’s just something really charming about watching a bunch of kids make a movie using their limited resources. Their zombie movie is also shown during the film’s end credits and is a very entertaining tribute to the Romero films. I also find it very amusing that Abrams managed to put a George A. Romero tribute inside his Steven Spielberg tribute.

The film is set in the late 70’s, the time when the films this movie is emulating was made. The setting helps since in the 70’s, kids were given a lot more freedom and allowed to do a lot more without adult supervision. The other reason is it adds a lot to the film making subplot. We live in an age of computers and tech, where anybody can film something and have it up on Youtube the same day. The proper tech to make things feel moderately professional is available to just about anybody, and at reasonable prices. But back in the 70’s it took a lot more time. The kids have to wait for their film to develop, the camera quality isn’t very good, and all the effects the kids do are done in very cheap ways. But this just makes it all the more charming.

Super 8 has some good action set pieces, but on the whole, the film doesn’t focus solely on that. The film does spend a lot of time with the characters when they’re just being themselves, and they have stories going on outside of the plot stemming from the train crash. Some may be disappointed that there isn’t enough action or enough moments with the monster. Personally I really enjoyed it and couldn’t help but respect that we had a blockbuster that cared more about telling a good story with interesting characters. Super 8 doesn’t do this as well as other films this summer (Harry Potter, X-Men) but it does do this better than most blockbusters.

I’ve given this film a lot of praise, but I do have some huge problems with this film, mainly the ending. I won’t spoil exactly what happens, but there’s no reason what happened at the end couldn’t have happened in the beginning. The whole movie could have been wrapped up in about ten minutes. Also, I really don’t like what they do with the creature at the end and it seems Abrams couldn’t decide how the audience should feel about the creature. On top of that, the confrontation between the creature and Joe didn’t make any sense.

In addition to the ending, the film does have some awkward moments, like a strange reference to Carrie, and a stupid conversation regarding the ground breaking technology of a Walkman. Still, I do enjoy this film. The ending hurts it very badly, but Super 8 is an entertaining summer film that has a bit of a brain, and a lot of heart.

Rating: B

  1. CMrok93 says:

    My favorite film of the year so far and a love letter to all of my favorite 80’s films such as The Goonies, Stand By Me, E.T. and so much more. Good Review Man!

  2. I enjoyed it, but I found the Spielberg mimickery distracting… it was so blatant.

    Worth checking out those films of his you say you havent seen since you were a kid. They wont disappoint!

  3. pgcooper1939 says:

    I get Close Encounters from the library today, and like I said on your blog, the neighbors have E.T.

    • You said you were getting Close Encounters earlier… did you get a chance to watch it? Curious to how it feels so far removed from its release date. You know, what the modern fan feels about it when seeing it for the first time…

      • pgcooper1939 says:

        Yeah, about Close Encounters….

        Right now I have a ton of movie holds from my library, and one day there were thirty waiting for pick up, one of them being Close Encounters.

        So I get all thirty and bring em all home, then later get I call saying I’m not allowed to have that many movies out at once, so I had to bring twenty back. As much as I wanted to watch Close Encounters, because it was a VHS and the rest were DVDs, I decided I’d bring it back and save it for later.

        Bottom line, I’ve been unable to see it. But can promise that I will eventually.

      • ianthecool says:

        Yeah, don’t watch it no VHS. Its worth a DVD viewing (or Blu-ray if possible)

      • Yeah man, don’t do VHS. I have it on Blu AND DVD. So honestly, if you want it on DVD I’ll just mail it to you. If you trust me with your mailing address, drop me a line at the “contact me” link on my blog and I’ll mail it to you in the next couple weeks. It’s no biggie, I have it on Blu so I’ll never go back to the DVD, and resale on those things is like .75 now so…

  4. Dude? You’ve never seen Close Encounters?

    You are in for a TREAT. :)

  5. ianthecool says:

    Does the ending hurt it as much as Sunshine’s ending hurt?

    Also, Close Encounters is a great film which gets better with every viewing.

  6. brikhaus says:

    Overrated. It took forever for anything to happen. I liked the Goonies-esque aspects of the film, but in the mystery/action department it failed to deliver. Also, the ending is LOLWTF. Probably worth a rental, but not much more than that.

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      I do find some of the film’s love has gone out of hand. I mean, I liked it, but it’s not gonna be in my top ten or anything. And I’ll give you the ending, which was pretty bad.

  7. My super8 seems a want and I can not. An attempt to approach the spirit of film style eighties Goonies or ET, but it remains just that, a try.
    The story is hackneyed to the utmost and the characters of children are archetypal ad nauseam: the fat smartass, the bastard little guy, the protagonist who has just suffered a disgrace and the pretty girl.
    Is entertaining, but of course, any comparison with the aforementioned ET, The Goonies and Stand by Me, for example, is a real insult.

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