Review: Super 8
If you speak of this, you and your parents will be killed
I wasn’t sure what to think of Super 8 in the weeks and months leading up to its release. The Spielberg tangent and mystery surrounding the film left me cold. So, turning up at the cinema, miffed that the film was only showing during peak hours (grrr, and I forgot my Odeon Premiere card), I sat down expecting everything and nothing, while also wondering how many more times I’ll have to suffer that infernal Orange Potiche advert (many more, it seems).
Annnnnnnd….I liked what I saw, even when the explosions came I was still interested. I liked that it focused on cementing its dramatic elements first, almost to the film’s detriment as when proceedings went explodey – boom I was half-disappointed with the course it took. It wasn’t a cop-out by Abrams to deliver a propulsive action sequence you’d expect in a more action-orientated blockbuster (the train crash near the start served up enough of that), but I was hoping the film would find a more involving way of tying up its loose ends rather than laying waste to the small town of Lillian.
What disappointed the most was the alien; the design was uninteresting, like a continuation of the designs used for Cloverfield and Star Trek. The texture of the skin and dimly-lit environments did not help matters. That could be down to the budget or execution (probably both). The end result was a very underwhelming alien/monster.
But I really enjoyed this film; it’s a throwback to the films my youth and its set in the late 70s, early 80s, a period I’m fascinated by. Unlike the caricatures we’ve had to endure in Transformers: Dark of the Moon or the shallow, empty characters that populated Green Lantern, the kids in this film are terrific. They all had distinct, enjoyable personalities. They’re a tight knit bunch of friends; they have chemistry with each other and the way they interact puts the film heads and shoulders above some others I’ve seen this summer.
I also like how the film isn’t upfront about the tension between Kyle Chandler’s Deputy and Ron Eldard drunken failure of a father. It simmers and it reminded me of when I was a kid and you saw grown-ups acting in a certain manner. You had an inkling of what was going on but never really knew unless you stumped up the courage to ask. The relationship between Joel Courtney’s Joe and Elle Fanning’s Alice feels natural and the performances are good, especially Courtney who’s wonderful in that sort of nervous, uncomfortably understated way. The mystery element is fine but the payoff isn’t, it doesn’t take much away from my enjoyment but if Abrams had made a memorable monster, Super 8 would have been close to being excellent. I think it can settle for being very good.
My last thought is on the Spielberg connection. Its not difficult to see the hallmarks of Spielberg’s early career (the embattled Deputy, sense of community, suspicion of authority, family, issues with fathers etc, etc) and I like it even if its not as impactful as when I first saw Spielberg do it all those years ago. It’s an imitation, a loving one in my eyes that can’t quite reach the emotional climax it needs to because one, I’ve seen it before and two it’ll never be as good as that first time. It just can’t be.
Oh and on a final note, I like lens flare. I like it very much.