I love going to the movies. I am not a particularly intellectual movie buff. My goal is usually to be entertained, preferably by a really good movie, but I’ll settle for “pretty good” or “sorta good” or even “really dumb but oddly entertaining.” Needless to say, I have bought my share of tickets for movies I would rather have seen on Netflix, or perhaps, not at all (Transformers 2 springs to mind). However, I have also managed to see some fairly decent films. And late spring and summer of 2011 were pretty good for me cinematically speaking. So I’m going to try to do a few blog posts reviewing some of them. Perhaps this will be useful to those hypothetical readers who don’t go out to the movies but who are wondering what to rent. I won’t cover spring films, but I do highly recommend a few: Rango, an homage to many films, including one of my favorites (China Town) and starring Johnny Depp, Source Code, a very well done sci-fi thriller, and The Lincoln Lawyer, an excellent thriller with Matthew McConaughey in the best performance he’s given in years. But today I will start with Super 8.
Super 8 Much has been written about Super 8 as totally derivative, particularly of the films of Steven Spielberg. JJ Abrams, the director, was mentored by Spielberg (who also produced Super 8) and could hardly avoid being influenced by him. And the story of a group of kids operating on and beyond the fringes of adult society is quintessential Spielberg territory (or Stephen King territory, for that matter). Abrams’ alien owes more to Ridley Scott’s alien in its terrifying appearance than it does to ET, an instantly loveable and, dare I say it, cute little intergalactic explorer.
But one has to concede that the kids in Super 8 are much like the kids of the The Goonies and ET (and King’s Stand By Me). The young actors cast in the film give wonderful performances, particularly Joel Courtney, who had virtually no professional experience, and Riley Griffiths, who had some. And of course Elle Fanning, who is simply an astonishing young actor. These youngsters and the other kids ground the film and make it much more than a simple monster movie or an imitation ET. The adults are also well cast, with Kyle Chandler very effective as the father of Joe Lamb, the young protagonist. The relationship between Joe and his father is captured in relatively few scenes; the actors imply so much more than what is actually explained that the audience emphathizes with both father and son. The same can be said for the characters of Louis and Alice Dainard, played by Ron Eldard and Elle Fanning. The alien is genuinely very scary and very dangerous, but the execution of the plot allows us to care about it too. Because this is a film that features both a scary monster and a major train wreck, there are, of course, special effects, and in my opinion, they are effective. I generally don’t much care for 3-D; it mutes the colors and usually doesn’t add much to the film, so I was glad not to have to put up with it. One of the best things about the movie is the end, when the credits are rolling. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but be sure to watch it to the very end.
In sum, if I were both Siskel and Ebert, I would give this film 2 thumbs up. It is not a great movie, but it’s well done and very entertaining. There are some plot holes, but not anything that really bothered me.