Super 8 - Review



J.J. Abrams recipe for good teaser trailers and creating hype through-the-roof, succeeded again with the teaser trailer for his newest flick called "Super 8". A train crashes and something bashes the carriage door open..CUT!
That's how you get the attention of people! Although i wasn't a big fan of "Cloverfield", i respected Abrams attempt to give us something entirely new. No spin-off, no sequel, etc., but a totally new creature we never saw before. But for me personally, "Cloverfield" concentrated a bit too much on wrapping up the monster in mystery rather than focusing on a good story.
Because of that, i wasn't all that hyped up about "Super 8" unlike many others. But well, maybe this time Abrams can set all the important things right.



The plot:
In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

First let's get the obvious stuff out of the way.
"Super 8" pays a lot tribute to 80s family blockbusters, especially like "E.T.", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Goonies". The funny thing is, that Abrams managed to make "Super 8" NOT feel like another uninspired rip-off. Abrams successfully introduces many new ideas, characters and storylines to distinguish itself enough from the classics but to still (at the same time) obtain a specific similarity to them.
And although "Super 8" borrows some story-structure elements obviously from those 80s classics, i found it to be nice that after such a long time, this structure of movies gets picked up again (and even gets mixed up with 50s sci-fi horror).
At first i even was a bit worried about whether or not "Super 8" was going to be a cloverfield-clone. But luckily i was wrong. Turns out "Super 8" is a totally different kind of movie (although it has the same advertising strategy as "Cloverfield").

But what by far struck me the most, is the fact that "Super 8" is by no means the overly-action-oriented summer blockbuster that i expected. The movie's plotline concerning the mysterious creature turns out not to be the main storyline but instead the sub-plot (until the finale). The true main focus of the movie is on the characters emotional and psychological problems, their relationships to each other and the obstacles that the kids have to deal with when trying to pursue their love for making movies.
But don't worry, "Super 8" is no overly-dramatic movie ala "Mystic River". It gets right to the mystery creature plot after the first 15 minutes and J.J.Abrams really knows how to keep you interested in both plots. Abrams does a great job building up mystery without getting too complex.
What will keep you in your seats, is going to be all those mysterious happenings in the town after the train crashed and all the short peeks you get see of the creature.
You keep sitting there because you just want to know what it's all about. And you will get some pretty interesting solutions in the end. Abrams gets pretty creative with the actual creature (don't worry i won't spoil the anything).
Also you can often (and especially during the last act) see Steven Spielberg's producer-handwriting all over the movie somehow (which is a good thing in this case).

The acting is kind of polarizing here. While the adults' acting in this flick reaches from solid to "kind of cheesy", the acting of the entire kids-cast is awesome. It was a great decision to pick unknown young actors for the main roles. Joel Courtney as the main leading kid Joe is phenomenally good in his role. He manages to pull off his emotional parts well enough to not evoke the feeling of being just another wimpy character but also a strong albeit nerdy kid. Also Elle Fanning (the younger sister of Dakota Fanning) surprised the hell out of me: that girl is really able to act. Of course she still has to evolve a bit, but for a newcomer this is extraordinarily good.
The relationship between Joe and her (playing his love interest Alice), really got me invested.
The rest of the kid actors are also very good in their role, they don't pop out as much as the two leading kids but they do great as well (My favortie kid is the fat one, Charles. He reminded me a lot of the enthusiastic director from "King Kong").
It's interesting, how all the conversations between the kids are funny, emotional and exciting (showing different facettes) but all the dialogue between the adults is kind of tedious because it mostly only serves the purpose of keeping the creature-plot moving. An exception in this regard are the father-son conversations between Joe and his dad.

But despite all the good things about this movie, there are also some negative aspects.   
Although the acting is surprisingly good just like the emotional parts, the creature-plot-parts at times feel like a whole different movie. The transitions between the two plots could have been made better and a bit more smoothly. But that's just a minor complaint.
The orchestral score of the movie is pretty weird though: During the emotional moments, it sets the tone right, but then always during the military parts, it gets very campy as if you were watching a comedy or "Star Wars" (or "Space Balls").
But by far the biggest change that i would have made, is (of course) the use of CGI. The CGI in this movie is put to minimum, but yet still the entire creature of course is completely computer-animated (as you can probably already tell from the trailers). I always find it very disappointing, if a monster is built up to so well and that in the end it's just CGI again instead of good old animatronics. With animatronics it would have left a much heavier impact on the viewer when finally seeing it.

All in all, despite from what it looks like on the trailers, "Super 8" is no (typical) summer blockbuster. Though it might play by the rules of some 80s blockbusters, "Super 8" is a very character and suspense driven story, which starts the "real" action not until the final act.
J.J.Abrams successfully put real emotional depth, character development, action AND suspense all into a movie, which basically is a B-movie (plotwise).
Sure, "Super 8" is by no means a new, hyper innovative movie but neither is it a rip-off. It plays after old rules but with new material/ideas. Though it is destined to polarize peoples' opinions, i found it nevertheless to be a great popcorn-movie with exactly the right amount of emotional depth, suspense and action all mixed together. So go ahead and find out, WHAT came out of the train in "Super 8".


Final Verdict: 7 out of 10

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