If you haven’t caught Super 8 by now you probably aren’t planning to catch it, or maybe you’re just not convinced. That being said, Super 8 is still open in cinemas, and if you suddenly find your days filled with nothing but emptiness, your mind effused with boredom – should you then take the time to watch Super 8 before it closes? Read on and find out!
Super 8 is the second aliens and earthlings movie JJ Abrams is directing in a row, after the much hailed lens-flare laden Star Trek reboot. This time, instead of looking far into the future, Abrams casts his lens back into nostalgic 1979, during the era when Steven Spielberg, producer of Super 8, was directing alien movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. And it’s obvious how much influence producer Spielberg has on the film, whether intentionally or not – and so it is this nostalgia that ends up being both the strength and the weakness of the film, and should make or break your decision.
First – the strength. Lens flares aside, the movie is drenched with the nostalgic love of growing up in small town America in the late 70s/ early 80s, back when special effect movies were beginning to hit full stride, and the movie making kids of the film do share that sense of open-eyed wonderment so prevalent in movies filmed in that era. That and the sheer lack of cynicism lends the film a certain joy to behold, it is as if we are reliving a classic 80s movie like The Goonies, full of high adventure and innocence. Even the tension seems pitch perfect – there is tension, but it never descends into horror movie territory. It is Abrams’ love letter to movies of that era – it is him recounting his childhood filled with DIY makeup, homemade explosives and model trains built to be destroyed. In essence, Abrams is every kid in the film (save the girl, I guess?), and his closeness to the characters helps bring them to life.
And flesh them out he does, especially as he charts their journey in making a George Romero zombie tribute film in super 8 format (where the movie gets its name). Abrams has been able to direct great performances by the kids, and it’s difficult to not get enchanted by what they experience coupled with their youthful zest. In the midst of all the extremely dark or extremely light-hearted shows starring kids floding the market, somehow Super 8 really feels like what it is to be a kid again, without the fate of the universe resting on your shoulders, nor without fart jokes an entire movie. It is in this sepia tinged view of childhood that Abrams’ Super 8 truly succeeds.
But this reverent nostalgia Abrams’ film exudes might also be just what viewers find fault with – the movie wears its Spielbergian influences on its sleeve so much so that the entire shirt is made out of threads from Spielberg’s beard. Those who know Spielberg’s filmography by heart might end up taking affront at the shot by shot retelling of a pastiche of Spielberg movies – in truth, Abrams doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and if there’s nothing really new being said, why bother at all? It’s rather interesting how Abrams is using special effects to recreate a world without special effects to tell us, to remind us about what inspired him when he was young – but for someone so feted for his creativity, there could have been something extra.
But in the end, being more of a copy than an actual homage is easy to overlook, especially when Abrams does Spielberg so well. There’s a whole generation of moviegoers that haven’t experienced early Spielberg when he held us truly spellbound, so if you’re one of those, Super 8 is quite the experience. So it’s up to you – do you want to relive the movies of the 80s filmed without irony or even an attempt to modernize (save lens flares), or do you think you’re better off returning to the master of it all, Mr Steven Spielberg himself? Super 8 is definitely well filmed, well acted and well directed, but the worry is that it owes too much to the past to stand on its own.
Rating: 7.5/10 – at the very least, you get a lot of shots of people looking upwards.