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Super 8


It is in our human nature to desire being in control. We crave knowing limits and having control over our experiences. What happens when we are stripped of this control? Fear. We fear what we cannot control and everyone will react differently to that fear. Some respond with a fitful excitement that can only be calmed by venturing into that fear. Others cower and fall in line with the masses for self-preservation. So, in the event of an unknown, otherworldly monster terrorizing your town and snatching your people up, what would your reaction be? Follow the people in charge, or find your own method of survival? Whichever path you choose, you’ll feel like less of a brave adult when watching our child heroes in Super 8.

Grade:

Set in 1979 in a small Ohio town, Super 8 follows a group of friends, led by Joe (Joel Courtney), Charles and Alice (Elle Fanning), who are making a zombie film when an Air Force train crashes right behind them. Upon returning to town, the friends are made aware of strange occurrences in the area—disappearances and an increased military presence. Joe’s dad, Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), is the only law enforcement official from the town making any effort to discover the truth. The truth, however, is more than he could possibly handle.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Super 8, you’ve no doubt thought, “It’s just Cloverfield, and J.J. Abrams has a penchant for secrecy.” Thankfully, Super 8 changes the monster/alien story just enough to keep you entertained and curious. That is, interested until the somewhat anticlimactic ending, but more on that later.

With an estimated budget of about $50 million, Super 8 focuses on the way the youth in the town would react in a perceived monster invasion scenario. This is by far the best aspect of the as the actors do an excellent job. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning, as Joe and Alice, build a good, realistic relationship for kids their age. It may be a movie relationship, but the rapport between the two seems real enough that they could conceivably have mutual feelings in real life as well. The rest of Joe’s motley crew provide good side characters, even if they are exceptionally one-dimensional—a nerdy one, a pyromaniac, a dull one, etc.

Apart from the ultimate reveal, Super 8 falters in two minor ways: the adults and an annoying camera effect. Kyle Chandler stars as Joe’s hard-nosed, authoritarian father. He ignores his son after is wife’s death and focuses on his job, especially once the crisis starts. When he isn’t preventing Joe and Alice from seeing each other for some idiotic grudge, he’s an useless character. Honestly, all of the adults are inane characters, but it couldn’t be a town run by children. With regards to the camera, it is obvious Abrams really enjoyed starting at waist height and then making one grandiose swoop to about fifteen feet high over the actors’ shoulders. Once or twice and this effect works to show the full shot, but using it in the most mundane situations completely defeats the purpose and gets irritating.

Finally, we have the ParaNorman-esque storyline. Once we discover what is really going on, the suspense of the film drops substantially. There is still intrigue in how everything will finish since the majority of the film has already passed, but barely enough. Our heroes may have been children, but that didn’t mean the finale had to be childish.

In comparison to the rest of the genre, the first ninety minutes or so of Super 8 are excellent. I had small expectations coming and found myself glued to the screen. While I feel it was almost pointless to even design the monster since you never get a clear view, the completely blind fear built by the suspense is very well executed.

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