Movie Review: Super 8

Super 8 (2011)
112 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by JJ Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning

Grade:  B+

There was much mystery surrounding Super 8 prior to its release, but after you watch it, the only question you’ll ask is why there aren’t more movies made like this one.

Directed by JJ Abrams, the film plays out like a tribute to the early Spielberg (who produced the film) days of E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but with Abrams’ own subtle stamp of style. It’s a bit edgier, there is more foul language, and there are ellaborate action sequences that wowed me and reminded me of Abrams’ Cloverfield. But its strongest points are the story and the characters that develop throughout, which is a scarce thing during the summer movie season (packed with explosions and slow-motion fighting scenes).

The film takes place in 1979 when 12-year-old Joe Lamb (Courtney) and a bunch of friends are making a zombie film with their 8mm camera. While shooting a scene, they witness a horrible train crash that they find out wasn’t an accident after all. While Joe and his crush Alice (Fanning) become consumed with the strange events that occur around town after the crash, they remain dedicated to completing their friend’s movie.

It wouldn’t be right for me to spoil this film and to take away the experience from actually seeing it, but I can say that the mystery that is embedded in the trailer results in a suspenseful and well-paced film. On top of your initial question of “What is happening?” is always the additional one, “Why is this happening?”

There was a joy that I felt while watching this film that I haven’t felt in a long time during a live-action movie. The kids in Super 8 were authentic and I was sharing in their own imagination while watching this science fiction thriller. On top of that, there was great sensitivity with the relationship of Jack (Chandler) and Joe Lamb and how they were dealing with the death of Joe’s mom. Oh, and did I mention how insane the special effects were for the train crash. Just wow.

Overall, I laughed, I cried, and I was at the edge of my seat for a good portion of the movie. Here is a film that concentrates on the basics of movie-making and runs with it while having fun. I applaud the casting of the film and being one of the only original films in a season of sequels and comic book adaptations. Super 8 was strong from start to finish and easily one of best films of the year so far.

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