Review: Super 8
Stop talking about production value, the Air Force is going to kill us.
Super 8 has several things going for it but it also has a few problems namely that monster. At times it felt estranged from the plot of the film and re-watching J.J Abrams homage to 80s Amblin films hasn’t resolved that but it is less bothersome than before.
Super 8 is a little too self-referential and confused in its attempts to tie all its emotional strands together, but it’s a likeable piece of work and in J.J. Abrams it has a director with visual flair. It works more often than it doesn’t.
The film picks the story up a few months later when Joe’s shooting a super 8 movie with his friends. One night they witness a train crash and soon after people start to disappear and strange occurrences plague the town they try to uncover the truth about what was on the train.
Like Spielberg’s work it features grief, absent fathers, a distrust of authority with a touch of the fantastical, but I’m not sure Abrams puts these elements together in satisfactory manner. Without spoiling, there’s an emotional beat towards the end that merges Joe’s story with the alien subplot but it doesn’t feel merited or justified. It absolutely apes the more tearful moments from ET but the depth of that feeling is shallow in comparison.
However, like a lot of Abram’s films, there’s a snappiness to the editing, funny dialogue (“I know that you don’t like me and I’m sorry about that”) and a great chemistry among the cast. (Elle Fanning is the standout). His mystery box method of telling a story isn’t quite the best fit for the story, but yhe characters are earnest and endearing and going back to Spielberg, Abram’s realises that what sells is building believable world and Super 8 creates a convincing one.
It’s when the monster appears and the mystery is revealed that things start to drift. What was good at in its first-half (relationships) is dropped for most of the climax which is disapointing. The visual effects for the monster is poor though, and the father/son, father/daughter drama that drove the early parts of the film is not resolved in an adequate manner – it just ends.
So Super 8 isn’t the match of Spielberg but is good enough in its own right. Had it managed to build up more suspense and add more substance to the story it could have been even better.