Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Super 8

Super 8 - posterCinema Monolith: 6/10 Film Reel
IMDb: 7.1/10
The Arizona Republic: **** out of 5

Released on June 10, 2011
Rated PG-13
112 minutes

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Written by J.J. Abrams

Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Noel Emmerich, Bruce Greenwood, Zach Mills, Amanda Michalka, Jessica Tuck, Joel McKinnon Miller, Dan Castellaneta

Writer and director J.J. Abrams’ attempt at some sort of home-spun Spielbergian sci-fi fantasy hit quite a few right notes, and had me hooked through most of its short 112-minute run time…but afterwards, I called to mind so many pros and cons related to the film and its story, I made myself dizzy and frustrated trying to make sense of them all.

This tale of high school friends filming a Super 8 zombie movie in and around their peaceful Ohio town, who accidentally capture on film a terrifying train crash and the escape of an alien creature, was ripe with great ideas, believable teen characters, an excellent reproduction of 1979, and a sense of wonderment that reminded me of the tone, look, and feel of both E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

What it didn’t have, however, was the resonance and staying power that those two films possessed, and a plot that stayed within the confines of its main focus (the kids and their film project) and the escaped alien (who we didn’t get to see enough of). However, in my opinion the big killing point was the ending; after playing hide-and-seek with this monster for almost the entire film, we were slapped with a meager, sudden wrap-up that unfolded far too quickly, and left us wondering what the hell happened to the remaining half hour.

Which, if it had existed, would’ve delved deeper into the alien’s backstory and purpose and escape, its involvement with the kids, and the reasoning why the Super 8 film reel in question was so important to the outcome anyway. If Abrams had stuck to the teens’ story and the quaint romance between the two young leads, and delivered an ending worthy of the buildup that preceded it, and had nixed the adult storyline and forced conflict that went with it, I might’ve rewarded this with a higher rating.

Instead, I’m labeling it a nice try of a nice film, with bonus nods for including an ELO song on the soundtrack, for showing the kids’ zombie film in its entirety over the end credits, and for reminding me of the time when my brother and I made our own futuristic Super 8 film, called 3039, in the back country of our small-town neighborhood in California.  (6/10)

Super 8 - photo final

4 comments on “Super 8

  1. Tyson Carter
    5/21/13

    Still never seen this, really enjoyed Cloverfield and expected this to be like that, but it apparently is not 😉

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/21/13

      Yes, you’re right…two different filming styles and structures. Super 8 played out like a regular movie, and not in a ‘found footage’ way like Cloverfield was (and like you, I really loved Cloverfield). I guess if Super 8 was presented the same way, it would’ve cost these kids a fortune in Kodak Super 8 film stock!

  2. Dan Heaton
    6/7/13

    I really need to watch Super 8 again. I really enjoyed it in the theaters despite the issues with the monster (and the really cheesy ending with the necklace). I wonder how it would hold up. I expect it would do pretty well, as the kids’ story grounds the movie very well. Your review is spot-on!

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/7/13

      Hey Dan, thanks for checking it out, and for the nice comment! I only saw Super 8 once, when it was first released, so I might have to check it out again as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll be a little more forgiving this time around; hopefully there’s a director’s cut out there that expands the film by an hour or so, and resolves some of my bothersome issues with the story!

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