J.J. Abrams has become the Judd Apatow of big, mysterious thrillers. When his name is attached to a project, no matter the role, it lends a certain amount of credibility. Cloverfield is a good example. Despite only serving as producer, Abrams name played a bit part in building up hype for the shaky cam monster movie. As luck would have it, it was a pretty good movie, too.
So after Lost and Cloverfield and Star Trek, Abrams became a scorching hot property. When word came out that he was teaming with veteran filmmaker Steven Spielberg, it was almost too much for my sensitive little heart to handle. And teaming with him for an alien movie of all things? An alien movie reportedly in the vein of E.T.? It sounded too good to be true.
And unfortunately, it was.
Before I get into the film's merits, let me say one thing: what Abrams has done here is absolute magic. He made a 1980s era film. While the story actually takes place in 1979, Super 8 looks and more importantly feels like all the films we loved in the 1980s, such as The Goonies and the aforementioned E.T. Super 8, made in 2011, brings a certain nostalgia with it, which Abrams deserves a big pat on the back for.
So is the movie good? In short: yes, it is, but it falls pretty shy of greatness. In terms of what works well, Super 8 sports a fabulous cast of child actors. And once again, what's really impressive is that they're playing children from 1979. Let's fact it, most child actors can't play the modern day version of themselves. The kids here each do a phenomenal job of bringing their quirky characters to life. The standout is Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota Fanning, who shows who really has the acting chops in that family.
I wish I could display the same sort of enthusiasm for the adults in the film, but I can't. They all do adequate jobs, but none of the performances stand out. That's alright, though, as the kids are far and away the stars of the show.
And that brings me to my big problem with Super 8. In the end, the film is about the kids and not the alien, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's a little disappointing considering how the story unfolds. There are plenty of scenes involving the alien in which the kids are nowhere to be seen, placing a certain amount of importance on the alien itself. And yet, when it's all said and done, it's relegated to nothing more than a plot device. Again, just because your movie has an alien in it doesn't mean that the extra terrestrial has to be the star of the show, but Super 8 definitely gives the impression that that's the case.
The lack of otherworldly goodness is Super 8's only serious flaw in an otherwise expertly made film. Don't go into the film expecting something nearly as blatant as E.T. or Cloverfield. Expect something more along the lines of The Goonies and you'll be able to appreciate Super 8 for what it really is.
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