Action (Sci-Fi, Thriller)
Running Time: 112 minutes
Starring: Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard, Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler.
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Rating: 6 out of 10
A group of kids witness a train derailment. The cargo on it might have been something more than just crates as their town is hit by strange occurrences shortly after.
If J.J. Abrams is involved with a movie, the odds are that some sort of over sized monster will cause havoc at some point. He likes to cause terror and mayhem by introducing Godzilla sized monsters into the general populace and that is a pretty cool thing to be known for. Super 8 is the story of a group of kids who witness a train crash. What follows is a series of bizarre events across their little town as there seems to be a huge creature on the loose.
I remember movies like E.T., Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, The Goonies, and The Never Ending Story, quite fondly from my youth. They are films that hold a special place in my heart even after all these years later. Movies have obviously evolved since then with much better cameras, amazing special effects, and lastly way bigger budgets. I don’t know the motivation behind Abrams making this movie but it seems directed at kids instead of trying to please the adult viewer. Perhaps in twenty years time, kids will have this on their favorite lists I don’t know. The story takes place in the late seventies and a group of friends are getting together to film their own zombie movie. While shooting said film a train derails and the film gets under way. There are two sides to this film. The first side follows the kids as they live their lives in the quiet suburban small town. The other side is the giant monster silently traversing the city, destroying anything or anyone that stands in its way. The two stories are good on their own but fit together like misshaped puzzle pieces when they try to blend them. The kid’s storyline is a cute coming of age tale synonymous with films of this nature. It is about finding young love, it is about dealing with the loss of loved ones, it is about defying adult authority, and lastly it is about dealing with situations that the parents, cops, and even the army can’t handle. Is it ridiculous? Of course, but that is why these films are so special for kids. When guns and bombs don’t work against this unknown terror there is something really pleasing about a young kid lighting off fireworks as the solution.
The kid’s friendship angle worked in this film because the acting was surprisingly strong. Child actor’s Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths play the kids Joe and Charles respectively. They are great as the leading guys, and while their dialogue and mannerisms are a little too adult it still somehow works. Elle Fanning plays Alice the lone girl character in this movie and shows that she is one to look out for in the coming years. Her performance was great and especially coming from someone so young. The group of kids has that Goonie misfit vibe to it and it allows the viewer to easily follow their believable friendship.
The monster side to this film was cool but largely disappointing in length. This gigantic, unknown creature stalks the town and no one is the wiser. It attacks people and places seemingly at random. Some people die horribly while others are spared like a strange sort of monster roulette. We spend too much time in this film waiting for the monster to go out of control and start tearing the town a new one. By the time it actually hits the screen it will be a disappointment to most, and it is not nearly as viscous as one would hope. It is well designed though and frighteningly detailed but doesn’t have enough screen time for my liking. When the end does come it is in line with a film trying to appease the target audience being kids instead of making it fit with the rest of the story. Bottom line is the kids were fun to watch and the monster was well designed but the film was all over the place.
Director and writer J.J. Abrams has put together a kid friendly version of the movie Cloverfield. It is very well cast but the storylines seem to be going for way too much. He should have made the film just about the kids or just about the monster but not both. The limited special effects are cool in a childish sort of way. The monster also was well designed and who knows maybe he will arm wrestle the monster from Cloverfield at some point down the road. He does an okay job overall.
I give this movie a recommendation but it is hardly a super 8. It is more of a decent six.
T Factor – If you like films about kids then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you don’t like monster films then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: The Goonies, E.T.