Turn off the Lights

Super 8 Review

John's Rating: 4.5/10 Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10 (6 reviews total) If a director's heart and passion were indicators of quality, Super 8 would be one of the best movies of the year. If the Oscars were given for ability to imitate Super 8 producer Steven Spilberg's movies, the film would clean up. Unfortunately, all the passion and Spielberg-esque tricks in the world can't save this half-baked monster movie. Elements of it are terrific—namely the performances from the cast of child actors and the central love story—but most of the film, especially the final half hour or so, falls totally flat. The thrills are cheap, the effects are overblown and the sentimentality is groan-inducing. I wanted so badly to like Super 8—the highest-profile original film of the summer. But there are far too many problems to give it anything close to a recommendation. The film is a ham-fisted homage to Abrams' youth and the old Super 8 films he and his contemporaries made in their childhood. Our main character is Joe (Joel Courtney, in his film debut), and he's in charge of the makeup on his best friend Charles' (Riley Griffiths) Super 8 zombie movie. Also on the crew are Cary (Ryan Lee) and Preston (Zach Mills), the pyrotechnics and lighting guys respectively. And the actors: Martin (Gabriel Bosso) and Alice (Elle Fanning). One night while out shooting, the gang observes a horrific train crash. They're lucky to survive, as is the man who drove the car that derailed the train. But it's clear upon discovering him that something is wrong, and he issues them a warning: Don't tell a soul what you saw or else you and your families will end up dead. They promise one another not to say a word, but their pact is put to the test when the power goes out all over town, the military comes in full force, people start disappearing left and right, and a mysterious creature begins lurking in the woods. The 1970s setting serves the story well and allows Abrams to have some fun reflecting on the time and culture. One of the film's funniest moments happens when the town's citizens—angry about the mysterious events happening—says she thinks it's a Soviet attack. I also really appreciated the tenderness and innocence of the relationship between Joe and Alice. Both Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning are terrific and perfectly capture what it's like to be around your first crush. They're uneasy around each other, but they both know in their hearts how strongly they feel for the other. When the two are onscreen together—especially in the first half-hour or so—the film works, quite well. But once the focus shifts to the monster on the loose, everything goes off the deep end. The special effects are impressive but felt totally overdone. Take the train derailment: Though I don't doubt a speeding car and a speeding train colliding head-on would cause a big wreck, I'm not sure the perfect way the shards of metal come crashing to the ground is realistic or necessary. Then, there's the monster. At least we really see it, unlike Abrams' other big monster movie, Cloverfield. But it's still pretty lame, especially the way it's treated near the film's conclusion. The ending is a disaster. Somewhere around the halfway point, we stop caring about any of the characters, so the big spectacle that is the film's conclusion feels like all bang and no buck. Then, Abrams piles on the sappy sentimentality that we expect from a Spielberg production, but in films like E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and A.I., we actually feel an emotional investment, so these scenes are acceptable. In Super 8, they're laughable. I could go on and on about the plot holes and the sloppy writing, but that would mean spoilers, and I think it's probably best to go into Super 8 knowing as little as possible, if that is, you decide to see it at all. I can't say I encourage you to do so because the overall experience is wholly unsatisfying and actually left me in a sour mood. How could the director of Star Trek let something like this happen? How could the mastermind of Lost, let me down so much? Perhaps expectations were too high, but when a director doesn't show any restraint and let's his feelings get in the way of a good story, a disaster is bound to happen. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say Super 8 is a disaster, but it's close, and it's definitely the year's biggest disappointment. Rating: 4.5/10 Super 8 Written and Directed by J.J. Abrams Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Kyle Chandler   Other Player Affinity Reviews Max thought: "There we have it. It's been a year, but now I can say the veil is lifted from Super 8, and the end result is a good one. Not a great one, but a good, enjoyable, loud and often funny one. This being an Abrams/Spielberg collaboration, there had better be some effects work. Happy to report they're rather fantastic, if overly ridiculous. I'm telling you right now there is no way in a hell a pickup truck could derail a government train like that, never mind in such a spectacular fashion. Still, plenty of property gets damaged due to the creature at the center of the film's mystery, but the creature actually has little to do with why the film was made. Super 8 is a love letter to Abrams' youth while citing the influence that Spielberg's films had on him as an entertainer. While we expect something "new" and "original" from the creator of Lost, I saw Super 8 as a different, almost more mature step forward for the burgeoning director. As kids, we all play with our imaginations in one way or another and oftentimes rip off the adventures in our minds from the media surrounding us: think Cops and Robbers or Spaceman Spiff. I can't fault a fellow film-lover for making his ideal film fantasy come true, but there's still a heavy-handed sappiness to the nostalgia. In the end, it's always nice to watch a film that is clearly a labor of love and passion over originality and advancement. As long as I get a likeable cast, crew and a creature that looks like *omitted*." Rating: 7/10  Steven thought: "Super 8 could’ve been a drama about kids with big imaginations making movies to avoid dealing with the harsh realities of their family lives — it might have even been better that way — but the big alien in the room quickly changes that. At times, the switch between coming-of-age story and sci-fi horror feels jarring, but both elements exhibit excellent craftsmanship independent of one another. Abrams simply doesn’t sew them up into the most seamless of quilts. But maybe he doesn't need to; Super 8 has a surprising amount of humor, a bit of effective suspense, cool action sequences, realistic family drama and a few touching moments as well. Those are all winning ingredients, obviously, and Super 8 is a worthwhile watch because of them. Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment logo and Abrams’ Bad Robot stamp certainly suggest greatness, but better to realize that those talents imply a certain reliability more so than than ground-breaking cinema. As such, Super 8 is a film you can depend on for entertainment, one that’s a product of successful films of the past, not a game changer that will move us into a new era of “top secret” filmmaking." Rating: 7/10 Julian thought: " Super 8 is perhaps the best film of the year thus far. Rather than it being your average sci-fi flick, it plays much more like a dysfunctional family drama and consequently doomed romance that uses a sci-fi convention to tell its story. Even so, the moments of peril don't come without purpose, as each scene - including the action sequences - works towards development of the plot. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning are terrific leads, with the former - in his debut performance if you can believe it - being the standout. Riley Griffiths and the other kids in the cast are also perfect for their roles. The ending, however, poses some problems. Instead of staying in line with the slow pacing of the rest of the film, the resolution happens all too quickly and feels a little bit lazy in execution thanks to how everything else in the film progressed." Rating: 9/10 Dinah thought: "If you’ve seen E.T. and Cloverfield you have already seen Super 8. Save your money. I don’t recall a movie that has so lazily bitten off the fatty unhealthy portions of other moviesYes, this is Abrams' love story to his childhood. But don’t expect that to mean you’ll be feeling the nostalgia along with him. This film is simply not entertaining. It is self-indulgent and worse — predictable. The foul language from the cliché fat friend and his equally dorky brace-faced prepubescent sidekicks is unbearable. As I recall from my own childhood, there is nothing more painfully pathetic than watching outsiders try so hard to sound cool. It doesn’t work in real life and it certainly doesn’t work on digital, 35mm, or super 8. Elle Fanning is the bright spot in this dim (and dumb) movie. She has the acting chops of her sister Dakota, with more ethereal and refined features. Her subtlety was believable and refreshing. As for the alien everyone is waiting for, nothing special to see there. Another giant octopus is on the loose — how imaginative." Rating: 3/10  Kieran thought: "There was a lot of anticipation towards Super 8, even topping Player Affinity’s most anticipated summer movies of 2011, and film fans were divided into camps. I personally thought that Super 8 was an entertaining movie with real heart behind it. Its main strength is looking at the events through the eyes of the children as the action and mystery unfolds. J.J. Abrams understands a basic need for a film: well-developed, interesting characters. Abrams shows why he is one of the best emerging directors around, mixing a compelling story, excellent action sequences and special effects and of course strong characters. Super 8 is certainly a very worthy movie.Rating: 8.5/10   Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10


Meet the Author

Follow Us