Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Opens locally Friday, June 10th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Elle Fanning
Written & Directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, TV's Lost & Alias, Mission: Impossible III)
"Super 8" is a nostalgic sci-fi film, produced by none other than Steven Spielberg, the famous director of some of the genres most well-known films, such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "Super 8" definitely has a familiar feel as a throw-back film, and also serves as a sort of love-letter from Spielberg to Spielberg. The plot of the film has been highly guarded, like a top secret alien secretly being held by our government. Don't look here for any revealing plot details, as part of the fun and nostalgia is not knowing what to expect...something that the modern-day audience may not be used to, and may not like.
Referencing the classic 1985 film "The Goonies" (written by...guess who?...Spielberg), "Super 8" follows a largely unknown group of kids, and the adventure is seen through their wonderous eyes. Joe (Joel Courtney) is at the center, a boy who just recently lost his mother, but each of the child actors that make up our group are memorable. Cary (Ryan Lee) is a budding pyromaniac, and Charles (Riley Griffiths) may remind you of The Goonies' Chunk. He is the chubby, aspiring director who is shooting his short film, "The Case" on his new Super 8 camera (stick around for the credits to watch his finished work). Brought in as the star of Charles' film is Alice, played by Elle Fanning (Dakota's younger sister).
When the group of kids witness an amazing train wreck, the camera is left rolling through the chaos. It captures glimpses of something...and when weird things start happening around town after the wreck, the kids get caught up in trying to uncover the mysterious events plaguing their small town.
It is no coincidence that the film is set in the early 1980's, the same time in which many of these classic sci-fi films were originally released. Not only is the movie seen from the child's perspective, as always the children seem to be the only ones who are on to the mystery. Like in "The Goonies," the adults are present and rush in a bit late to save the day...there is a storyline though, that gives Joe's dad (Kyle Chandler) some screen time, and any fans of J.J. Abrams will recognize the father/son plotline, and themes of loss and acceptance.
"Super 8" has all these nostalgic qualities to it, and yet you can't help but realize while watching it that it represents a kind of film that is long-gone. Sad in a way, but now that we've seen and done movies like "Avatar," where there is no limit to the special effects that can seamlessly be put on screen, movies like "Super 8" recall a time where we actually had to use our imagination...some of the fun was in imagining what was off-screen, and what was not shown. The kids in this movie use their imagination to create their amateur film, before there were IPods, or internet. The kids represent the imagination we, as movie goers, used to possess, and celebrates it.
Which is why, without giving away anything, I was extremely disappointed in the film's over-the-top, CG-highly-produced-special-effects ending. For a film that makes us remember a different kind of movie, it was pretty disappointing that it had to remind us that it was indeed released in 2011, where everything must be shown, everything must be revealed, and it all has to happen using big-budget effects and mind-numbing sound. The plot of the film does tackle the idea of moving on, and not living in the past, so maybe that's the point.
Overall "Super 8" is an enjoyable, funny, and effective trip down Memory Lane...the only problem is that the trip carries us past Memory Lane and drops us off on Modern-Day Drive. It's pretty awesome that classic films like "Close Encounters" are being remembered, just sad that even the filmmakers can't leave us to our own imaginations.
(NOTE: Any fans of "Lost" and "Alias" should be on the look-out for several in-references to classic J.J. Abrams staples...)
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