Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Super 8 Film Review

I walked into this film having no idea what it was going to be about, I never saw a trailer and I never bothered reading about it.  Needless to say I didn’t know what to expect, or what I was getting myself into.

Super 8 is a movie that manages to tell a heartfelt coming of age story while incorporating a sense of nostalgia.  The film then combines these aesthetics with a lot of action and thriller scenes found in modern films.  Surprisingly this works really well, especially in the first two thirds of the movie – there are plenty of surprises and a nice balance between story and entertainment.

Unfortunately the film can’t sustain itself through its entirety and resorts to a number of heavy hitting metaphors and unoriginal ideas to bring the film to a close.  The ending isn’t terrible it just can’t live up to all the film promised.

Set in the 1970’s 14 year old Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his father Deputy Sheriff Jack (Kyle Chandler) are left to fend for themselves after Joe’s mother is killed in a steel mill accident.  Jack blames his wife’s death on alcoholic Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) whom his wife was covering for because he was hungover, while Joe finds an outlet in making films with his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) and Alice (Elle Fanning) a girl he’s attracted to. While filming Joe and his friends end up witnessing a disaster, and shortly after strange things begin happening in their town.

Super 8 brings a lot of subplots on board and manages to use them to enhance the story rather than add them for the sake of adding them.  The relationship between Joe his father, his love interest, and his friends, and all there relationships with each other creates a complicated web that easily drags viewers in and has viewers investing in these characters.


When the film isn’t developing characters or the plot, it will throw in an action scene that serves to enhance the stories found in the film, rather than tell a story to serve as an excuse for having an action scene.  The plots are worth investing time into, and the action and special effects make Super 8 never feel boring as it shifts from story, to story, to action scene.

With meaningful stories come powerful themes.   Super 8 handles these moments with careful subtlety in the first two thirds of the film while delivering its heartfelt message.  However, in the final third it’s as if the film starts to feel insecure about itself –  you can almost hear the film asking …. is the audience getting the message?  The film decides to go from gently feeding the message to viewers by the spoonful, to beating the message into people’s heads with a two by four.  The change in subtlety is one of the biggest missteps the film takes – Super 8 did not need to be dumbed down anymore.

By the final third of the film, the action scenes, which offered a number of fun twists earlier, have started to become rudimentary.  It’s disappointing to see a film that was delivering neat little twists and turns, and had viewers genuinely wondering what would happen next converge in an ending that was used from a very famous science fiction film.  Super 8 deserved better than this.

One of the strong points of this film is its sense for nostalgia. Nostalgia works its way into the story’s themes very well, but it’s also omnipresent everywhere in this film as Super 8 pays tribute to 1970’s America, blue collar working towns and values, and the history of film.

I would venture to say around 80% of the plot to this high budget film is carried out by young relatively unknown and unproven actors. A big gamble, yes, but do they deliver?


Joel Courtney is an excellent lead in this film. He is able to switch gears as his character Joe moves from different social circles and is subjected to different situations. In short, he’s a versatile actor, who looks a lot more experienced than his age would suggest.

Elle Fanning proves she’s more than just Dakota’s little sister, and she frequently steals many of the scenes she’s in.  She is able to strongly express sentiment, which her scene at the train station in the early part of the film displays.  Riley Griffiths excels as the heavy Type A personality director of the Super 8 film the kids are producing.  His scenes are among the funniest, and his character has to be one of the most endearing selfish people I’ve seen in film in a long time.

Super 8 is a film that could have been a lot more than what it was.  Nevertheless this is still a good movie and it’s fun to watch.  A nice blend of action, horror, nostalgia, and storytelling will make it accessible to most people.

Score: 8.4

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