Super 8

Posted by ron On July - 2 - 2011

Ambitious kids in a small town desperately try to complete their zombie film unaware of the horrors the military tries to contain. Unfortunately the zombie film had more originality than Abrams' underwhelming Romeo and Juliet story.

Kids who fled an explosion while filming at a train station were unaware of precious military cargo that could threaten their quiet little town. If these tropes sound familiar, they are definitely reminiscent of Spielberg films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. Both films captivated childlike wonder mixed with fear of the unknown in a story that resolved itself neatly. Super 8 definitely accomplished the naïve friendship of troubled children who would do anything for each other including risking their lives. However the forbidden romance angle between the characters played by Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney and the overall theme of forgiveness supplanted the alien that was a major part of its viral marketing.

It’s been said, imitation is the best form of flattery but what does one call when a director tells a story in the tradition of the executive producer? Jean-Luc Godard once criticized Super 8 executive producer Steven Spielberg for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema. Whether or not it’s fair to hold Spielberg accountable for an entire generation of directors who are slaves to their nostalgic influences is subject to debate. What Super 8 delivered was a very sterile version of Spielberg-ian that definitely had the emotional center but nothing epic enough to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

Unlike her sister, Elle Fanning always had a knack for emotionally complex characters like Ruth Cole in the Door in the Floor (2004)

Director JJ Abrams’ streak for the right casting calls remained unblemished. He has a talent for the look of a film and for the faces. Super 8 anchored by Elle Fanning (Somewhere) played opposite Joel Courtney in a Romeo and Juliet themed kid romance during the 70s. Elle, the more talented Fanning sibling, had the heavier workload. Her character had to live with the weight of her father’s shame but also was his occasional verbal abuse toy. She had to convince us that her hatred of her father would later lead into forgiveness and also legitimately fall for a boy that was indirectly the source of her misery. The childlike behavior felt authentic in the casual scenes where kids hung out and had a rambling conversation without a narrative axis to support itself. It didn’t match itself in the fear department. The kids unconvincingly fled an exploding train wreck as if it was a morning jog. It was too easy to decry as kids running in front of a green screen. Likewise, it wasn’t at all convincing that kids wouldn’t feel any fear monster hunting or dodging the military. If their fear was unconvincing, the audience didn’t feel these likable characters were in sense of jeopardy. A lesson in film making 101 illustrated by Charles played by Riley Griffith. Unfortunately, the stronger narrative was in the zombie film that he completed.

By the time boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy makes peace with father, father makes peace with girl’s father, and boy saves girl had elapsed, the mystery involving the Space monster was a casually shoved in marketing tool that never lived up to the viral campaigning that it had promised. Super 8 was a nothing more than a forbidden kids’ romance. It didn’t have any elements of science fiction, the wonder with aliens, or any dimension to the creature. The extraterrestrial was so uninteresting that Charles’ zombie film had pushed it back to last in the hierarchy of importance.

In a film that was marketed so secretly and cleverly, Super 8 didn’t deliver on what it promised. By the time the locket left Joel’s fingers at the end, it was too late for any of the audience to leave a sterile homage of one of the most important American filmmakers of his generation.

Super 8 rated as a happy hour drink that was cost effective for what it delivered but nothing you felt compelled to return when better times return.

Cheers,

Ron

I'm serious with my coffee

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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