by Amy Yen
[Note: Don't worry, I made a very deliberate attempt to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible.]
About a week ago, when the embargo lifted on press reviews for JJ Abrams’ Super 8, I actually started to get worried because my expectations for this movie had seriously reached impossibly high levels. There was literally no way this movie could be as good as it’d set itself up to be. It’s not like I was ever a maybe to see this film. From the moment the teaser trailer broke, with the names JJ Abrams & Steven Spielberg attached, I was in. I own Alias the complete series on DVD, I’m the kind of Lost & Fringe fan that listens to podcasts about those shows & reads their wikis to make sure I don’t miss anything. Basically, this movie was tailor-made for geeks such as myself.
So when, in the midst of a last-minute publicity play by Paramount to build word-of-mouth buzz among the younger movie-going generation (of which I’m actually technically a part of) for whom the Spielberg nostalgia factor is less relatable, a free advance secret screening was offered via a couple of my favorite film blogs (/Film & First Showing), I decided to go despite the minimum three hour wait in line (it ended up being more like four for me, with more than 200 people ahead of me & another 300 or so behind).
Honestly, I can’t really think of another film in recent times I would have done this for this close to the release date. And you know what? I don’t regret it at all. Because dammit, I loved Super 8.
It’s not perfect. It’s not even close. But it was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was funny & scary & emotional & somehow both nostalgic & original at the same time. I watched most of it smiling & when it was over, I immediately wanted to see it again. It was mint, y’all. (You’ll get that after you see it. I think we should all work together & make mint happen.)
The kids were the best thing about it. I love Kyle Chandler from all the way back to his Early Edition days & I think, because of the depth of emotion he was able to convey in just a few scenes, there could have been a whole (very different) movie just about Jack Lamb & his struggle to overcome his grief while learning to connect with his son. But this isn’t Jack Lamb’s story. It’s a story about these kids & these kids were perfect. Seriously, could not have been better casting, particularly Joel Courtney & Elle Fanning, for different reasons. Joel Courtney, who makes his acting debut here, is perfect because he feels real. Joe Lamb is really just a kid dealing with a bunch of stuff someone his age shouldn’t ever have to deal with, if the world was fair. Elle Fanning, on the other hand, is luminous, perfect in that way that only girls boys have crushes on at that age can be. You can actually see her becoming a movie star right before your eyes.
There’s something so incredibly real & un-Hollywood about the interactions between all of the kids in the film, especially Joe & Alice, and Joe & Charles. Innocent, pre-teen love, & a rift between friends because you both like the same girl. It’s just so perfect, it’s easy to think JJ Abrams must have lived through these characters, must have had friends like these.
All the auxiliary characters were colorful & wonderful too, Donny the film store guy, Charles’ big crazy family. The other kids in Charles’ movie, especially Cary the pyromaniac. In fact, everybody in this movie felt real & three-dimensional except for, unfortunately, the monster. There’s an admirable attempt to give the monster a story too, which is more than you can say about the one in Cloverfield, but it doesn’t quite work for me, except for in the ways in which it affects the kids. In other words, I never care about the monster & I think I was supposed to.
Still, I found Super 8 an immensely enjoyable, wonderful summer movie & I hope it makes a ton of money just so studios will maybe take more chances on non-franchise projects again. This is a movie you should see with your family, your friends. It’s for anyone who remembers the childhood friends you would have done anything for and for anyone who just loves films & film-making. See it the way I did, smiling & humming “My Sharona” all the way to the car.
More random thoughts on Super 8:
- No post-credit sequence, but something awesome runs during the actual credits, so stick around.
- The crowd cheered at both the Amblin & the Bad Robot bumpers. My kind of crowd.
- Michael Giacchino’s score was, once again, wonderful. It rang so true to those old Spielberg films without running directly into John Williams.
- The opening scene of this movie are among the most affecting images you’ll see in a film. So simple, yet tells an entire story in just a few frames. A brilliant way to set up the rest of the film. A different writer would have written out an entire scene that actually showed what happened, it’s remarkable how effective it was to do it this way instead.
- Loved the trademark JJ humor. The dialogue was great & honestly, the credit scene is the most delightful thing ever.
- The train crash really was great, better than anything you see in the trailer because, again, it’s framed around the kids, their terror & panic. You’re right in the middle of everything, it’s great.
- Watch closely to catch all the JJ Easter eggs & staples, including Slusho, Building 47 &, apparently, both Greg Grunberg & Amanda Foreman.
- Also trademark JJ? Lens flares. At this point, I find them more delightfully familiar than distracting. He certainly does have a visual style.
- I would kill to see JJ Abrams & Matt Reeves’ old super 8 films.
- If you missed it, go read this terrific, long New York Times profile on JJ Abrams. That man loves his mysteries.
Filed under: Amy Yen, I Paid $__ Too Much to Watch This Movie, MediaNation | Tagged: #Super8Movie, #Super8Secret, Amy in Wonderland, Amy Yen, amyyen, Elle Fanning, J.J. Abrams, JJ Abrams, JJ Abrams Super 8, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Michael Giacchino, Steven Spielberg, Super 8, Super 8 monster, Super 8 movie, Super 8 non-spoiler review, Super 8 review | Leave a Comment »