It’s been a long time since there was a movie that was powerfully driven by a young cast. Some may say it has been since ET; that is until this summer. With a wonderful new story in the Steven Spielberg camp we have such a movie. Super 8 is a cross between Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Aliens, and ET. With the benefit of living in one of the top movie towns in America I just had the chance to see the film on the largest IMAX Screen in North America. It was perfectly entertaining and was driven with as much an enjoyable experience as I have had the honor to partake in for a movie in some time.
JJ Abrams noted for the television series Lost has written and directed one of the best new stories in some time. As per the norm with Abrams there is attention to story which is done in an entertaining, thought provoking way. In Super 8, we see a family impacted by the death of a mother in a drastic way that has an impact on two different families. The Lamb family has lost a mother and the Dainard family is impacted in a way we are not quite sure of until later in the movie. There are two single dads, raising children and facing the difficulties on dealing with teen children.
Young Joe Lamb and his friends are into making movies. It is while making a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera; they involve the girl of their dreams, Alice Dainard. More than one of the boys in the group have a crush on her and while she makes a perfect cast member in the movie they are making, she also brings a level of conflict that contributes to the tension in the movie.
One night while filming near an old train depot outside of town there is a horrific train crash. The train is an Air Force train and is carrying a strange cargo. It doesn’t take long for the military to get involved. Strange things start to happen around the town and the young filmmakers know more than they let on with the town that starts to have strange occurrences. Of course there is a lot more they don’t know then there is they don’t, but that is for us to discover as the movie progresses.
Technically Abrams has done his best work in a feature film as of yet. From a taught script to incredible special effects, a great sound track, and unbelievable set and prop design. I normally don’t comment on this but there is such a good job of replicating the late 1970’s including the things a young man would have in his room I had to make mention of it. I lived during this time and it is as it was. Even the soundtrack and movie starts with the music of my favorite bands of all time, Electric Light Orchestra with the song Don’t Bring Me Down.
One of the magical attributes of Super 8 is the cast and development of characters. To think that two of these young actors, in lead roles, has never been in a motion picture before gives credit to Abrams on his ability to do one of the most difficult things in movies, direct and get quality results with children. The children in this picture, virtually every one of them are magical. I adored every single one of the primary cast, especially those in the lead roles, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney. I especially enjoyed Riley Griffiths as Charles a young heavy weight child, with a deep friendship for Joe Lamb. Griffiths also carries off quite well the temperament of a young movie director. Abrams starts developing the characters from the very opening scenes and that development continues until the completion of the film. We get to know what drives them and their innermost thoughts. Not since Stand By Me with River Phoenix has there been the potential in a young cast that we have in Super 8.
Abrams does such a good job in his direction that there are multiple themes addressed in the movie, none as important as the themes of forgiveness and learning to let go of past mistakes and moving on. The concept of being able to forgive is critical to the need to let go and move on in the themes here. It is also the formula that allows love to take place when one may not have expected love, whether with a friend or a parent. For many, it is only when they come close to losing the things they love most before they realize the importance of forgiveness and moving on. We see that many are held hostage to their situations because they are unwilling to forgive. Sometimes the bitterness that exists in ones heart is there for unfounded reasons but we won’t know that until we take the step to forgive. This can create conflict that lasts for years and impacts others around us that we love. Some would rather die with an attitude of hate or bitterness than to experience the freedom and liberties that can come about when we forgive those we believe have done us wrong. Super 8, from the very opening scenes until the closing scenes drive these themes home in a way to force us to contemplate on their own need to forgive others.
I loved Super 8! It is without a doubt one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I loved the tributes in the film by Abrams, not only to Stephen Spielberg but to the great Zombie creator, George Romero. It is a modernized, more sophisticated film than any child cast film since Stand By Me. It is fun, entertaining, with a wonderful message. It is frightening at times with a number of jump out of your seat moments. The only negative I would even dare to bring up, was it could have been longer as I liked the characters so much I wanted to see more of them. I suspect there will be some that don’t like the negative portrayal of the military, but I honestly don’t think that is any thing intended by the makers of the film. I have stated in the past that it would be hard to imagine many films better than this one this summer. While I have been wrong before, and may be again here, it is still hard to imagine a better film this summer. I suspect that word of mouth will have Super 8 making its 45 million it cost to make returned this weekend and from there, it will be one of the hits of the summer. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong here unless you take very small children to the theater. It is appropriately rated PG-13 but families will enjoy seeing it together. I know I enjoyed it and I fully expect to see it again before the end of the summer.
On a scale of 1 – 10, for the 9 letters in the name Spielberg who has once again, produced magic, I give a very enthusiastic 9
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