Today, I had the opportunity for a rare two-fer for the weekend, and there was no better way to celebrate that than to watch a movie. Today’s movie was the Paramount Pictures film Super 8. The film, which is rated PG-13, stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Noah Emmerich, and Kyle Chandler. This film was shrouded in secrecy from day one, and the trailers hid a lot of what the movie had to offer. Some people touted it as the best film they had ever seen, whereas others considered a shlock. Where do I fall in? Read on and find out.
The film – set in the fictional city of Lillian, Ohio – begins rather solemnly, as an employee changes the number of days between accidents is reduced from 784 to 1. We find out that the days were reduced due to one of the steel worker’s dying due to an accident. We then see her son Joseph Lamb (Joel Courtney) sitting on a swing holding her locket and his dad Deputy Sheriff Jackson (Kyle Chandler) forced from the wake due to a disturbance thanks to Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard). Four months later, Joe is hanging out with his friends Charles (Riley Griffiths), Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), and Cary (Ryan Lee) as they work on a movie to submit to a statewide film festival. Charles asks an upperclassmen named Alice (Elle Fanning) to drive them to a train station so they can film a pivotal scene. Alice reluctantly agrees, but is eventually coaxed into appearing in the film. During a quick rehearsal, Charles notices a train coming down the tracks and realizes that he can use the train as a backdrop, and the children scramble to set up for filming. During the filming, Joe sees a truck go for the train and barrels into it, creating a spectacular head-on collision. Shortly thereafter, the town is racked with strange disturbances; dogs fleeing, engines being mysteriously stolen, and people coming up missing. The onus is placed on the Deputy Sheriff to find out what’s going on, whereas the young children are looking to finish their film…until they realize that there’s more to what’s going on than is initially told to them by Air Force Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich).
So, what worked for this movie? In a word, everything. The production value was excellent, the acting was phenomenal, the story was beautiful, and the score was mesmerizing. In a word, the film was a very beautiful sight to behold. I was definitely impressed with the children, as they did a fantastic job taking the direction that they were given, and I was especially impressed with Elle Fanning. Elle, the younger sister of Dakota Fanning, owns every scene she’s in, and she’s proving to be the next great Fanning. Joel Courtney is also great in what is his very first movie role. He not only held his own with Kyle Chandler, but he exceeded him at times.
What didn’t work for this movie? Well, to be honest, the only thing I didn’t really like was the whole homage. This movie was a love sonnet to Executive Producer Steven Spielberg from director J. J. Abrams, and it showed from the opening reel. The movie almost has none of the Abrams originality that was present in films like Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek. The only thing that was trademark J. J. was the use of lens flares. Now, to the defense of said flares, I didn’t have a problem with it in Star Trek, and I don’t have a problem with it here. I do wish that he would’ve done a bit more of what makes him a great director.
As I mentioned above, the film was directed by J. J. Abrams, and he directs with sweeping visuals and a spectacular eye for talent. Abrams also wrote the film, and he did a good job with that as well. The score was done by long time collaborator Michael Giacchino, and it was beautifully done, although even the score felt less like Giacchino and more like John Williams. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it’s not like Giacchino isn’t talented, because he is. It’s just that the score continues with the trend of how much of an homage the movie really is to Spielberg epics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and The Goonies – to name a few.
I did love this movie. It has the feel of an instant classic, thanks in no small part to the cast and crew. The only gripe I had with it was the fact that it is so blatant of a love letter to Spielberg. That being said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider this movie to be 4.5 times More Epic than Love Jones. It is a very beautiful looking and visually stunning film. It’s definitely something that I highly recommend seeing in theaters.
In this case, the nostalgia factor is a good thing.