Super 8 (2011) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

J.J. Abrams’ throw back to classic kid adventure films of the 80’s is a fun and touching story that captures the imagination in the way movies used to. It’s no wonder Steven Spielberg was attracted to produce, which worked out great for Abrams as he was obviously seeking to recreate a Spielberg-ian atmosphere and look. Regardless of subtle homages Super 8 doesn’t emulate or imitate, and if not for digital effects or added lens flare, it fits in perfectly with past films such as The Goonies and Explorers. It’s the perfect combination of E.T. and Cloverfield.

Remember when houses in movies looked like the house you lived in? Or when kids looked like kids? Aside from some CGI, everything in this film looks real. Just like the kids find out in making their short movie and searching for “production value” in train crashes and explosions, Super 8 shows that story and acting are far more important. The kids are very believable, there’s a rough patch of dialogue in the opening that seems staged and beyond their age, but they soon get back on track and stay there for the remainder of the ride. Using the short movie the kids are working on as a plot device is strong, and in many ways parallels the main film well.

Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Zach Mills, Ryan Lee and Elle Fanning are completely natural together on screen, which brings out the bonds between them and more importantly makes the adventure and comedy anything but flat. My one complaint is the underuse of Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights TV) as the town’s most upstanding deputy. His side story of trying to figure out what the Air Force is up to plays alongside the kids actually discovering things of importance and comes across mostly as filler. It might have played better if he had more interaction with the younger roles. Honestly, you shouldn’t cast Coach Taylor and then not allow him to coach.

The monster is original for these types of films, but we only see him in quick cuts or obscured in some way until the finale. His physiology is completely different than what you expect, which in a way seems to add to the suspense of his scenes. His back story is interesting and plays out in a somewhat unanticipated way. That being said the ending is very predictable, but no less enjoyable.

With all the super-hero movies and remakes out there right now Super 8 screams originality, and is the one movie this summer you shouldn’t miss on the big screen. This is the type of film the phrase “captures the imagination” was created for.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Elle Fanning

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