This generation has not seen a film with this degree of nostalgia. J.J. Abrams and crew have crafted what should be his crowning achievement but probably will miss some of its mark with the big Hollywood critics.
Super 8 feels in every way like an homage to Spielbergian filmmaking, which I am certain was the goal. It felt like Stand By Me, E.T., and The Explorers all rolled into one amazing movie. Super 8 is set in Lillian, Ohio, in the late 1970s. America’s small-town feel is captured perfectly in many ways. The town itself provides as much character as any actor would and then there is a unequaled amount of detail in every scene. For example in the town hall there is a women smoking or the vast amount of cars and signs from that era that help you know it is a period piece.
The one thing I can’t stop thinking about is that this is so much more than a monster movie. Super 8 has heart, passion. and it oozes with love. The story starts by very gently showing us the life-changing effects off loss. We see that Joe (Joel Courtney) loves his mother deeply and that people fear that Joe’s father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), won’t understand him the way his mother did. We also begin to understand those concerns as we watch his father make an arrest while attending his own wife’s funeral reception. A obvious workaholic who shows that he is hurting inside as well.
The bulk of the movie centers around five boys that simply want to spend the summer finishing a short film but they end up caught in the middle of an event that is bigger than all of them.
The story starts to move towards being a thriller after the boys are released from school for summer and decide to sneak off at midnight with their new cast member, Alice (Elle Fanning), to get some pivotal night shots at the local train station. Now this is where the clip we have all seen from the trailer comes in; However, Abrams is a master of not revealing his whole hand and the events that follow are incredible to watch.
The actors selected to play the leads are brilliant and fun to watch. Two of the kids, Joe and Charles (Riley Griffiths), are both played by actors with no prior acting experience but it is like watching seasoned veterans. I believe that this level of acting was achieved not totally because of raw talent but because of J.J. Abrams convincing them to be themselves. Their performances were raw, natural and inspiring.
The only reservation I have is with the ending. The entire movie is spectacular even through the end but it begins to feel a little rushed in the last act. Had Abrams taken the a little more time with the end this would have been his crowning achievement.
This movie has been done before and it really isn’t all that original. What is truly amazing here is that I cannot think of another movie in our generation that follows kids and gives us so much heart. My hope is that this will kick start a movement of our youth expecting more from a movie than just explosions and action. A little heart, longing, loss, friendship, and love go a long way towards stirring our emotions. That is why we see movies; to feel and experience things we may not have ever had the chance to prior.
Super 8 is a film that will stand the test of time and it can stand toe-to-toe with other movies in its genre. It is a spectacle of modern filmmaking and classic storytelling. Similar projects have come before it but that does not hinder this film. It strengthens it and provides a new movie experience to a group of young people that have not had a movie quite like this before.