Review: Super 8
Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, features a group of friends who stumble upon a mystery in their small town while they are making a film with their parents’ Super 8 mm camera. To say that the film is influenced by the coming-of-age adventures of the 1980s is an understatement. From the boy hero to the stereotypical characters to the stark contrast between good and evil, Super 8 is a chock-full of nostalgia.
However, that nostalgia is not empty. The movie is fun and extremely entertaining but the audience also cares for the characters and is invested in the story. The plot is formulaic, but uses a formula that works. You could predict the entire film based simply on its premise, which is odd considering how mysterious the advertisements tried to be. The kids uncover a secret cover-up, hide it from the adults, and are forced to work together to save the day. We’ve seen it before, but it is very well done in this case. However, Super 8 feels like a remake. It’s not, technically, but the vibe you get from it is like the filmmakers are trying to copy another film. So while the action and adventure is wonderful, at times it gets bogged down by a feeling of too much homage and not enough originality.
In any case, each aspect of the film is extremely well done. The performances from Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning are good, and the supporting cast of kids get the job done, which definitely shows Abrams’ directing prowess in working with children. As with any such film, the humor is silly but makes you laugh. The suspense is excellent, and the film features several sequences that build very well. Larry Fong’s cinematography is pristine and fits the 80s setting. The train crash sequence as well as the final few minutes are breathtaking, and the everyday shots of the town feel just right. Abrams’ obsession with lens flares is still on display here but they aren’t too distracting most of the time. The music, however, brings the film to another level. Giacchino’s score is pure magic.
The biggest problem with the film is the unsatisfying conclusion to the story. The beginning and middle of the film build the mystery and have you searching for answers. Then, we find out that there wasn’t really that much going on that we couldn’t have guessed ourselves. The final act works as the story concludes well for the main characters, but the mystery was built up without a satisfying answer given. Super 8 takes a tried-and-true premise, makes an excellent mystery, but fails to do anything original in its third act.
Overall, Super 8 is an exciting, fun summer film, and will have you leaving the theater with a smile. Its shining achievement is being able to achieve that feeling of wonder and adventure that is so difficult to achieve. The film keeps this feeling going from beginning to the final shot and it is that feeling that makes Super 8 an extremely endearing film despite its flaws.
7 out of 10