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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
JJ Abram’s latest feature film Super 8 is his first original directorial credit. Despite this, the film certainly feels like it could have existed in the early to mid 80s alongside such films as E.T., Gremlins, and Goonies. Steven Spielberg, who had a hand in each of those films, produces here. It is highly evident that Abrams adores 1980s Steven Spielberg as Super 8 is filled with homage, both visual and emotional, to these films.
Despite feeling like it was made in 1982, Super 8 is an incredible movie in 2011. The direction is subtle, the acting commendable, and the script wonderful. Set in summer 1979, Super 8 follows young Joe (Joel Courtney) as he witnesses a massive train derailment while making a monster movie with his friends. Mysterious happenings occur in their small Ohio town after the derailment, including dogs fleeing the county, appliances gone missing, and electrical shortages randomly occurring.
The film takes place primarily in the aftermath of the train disaster. Joe’s father, Jackson (ably played by Kyle Chandler), takes over the duties of the sheriff after the town’s sheriff goes missing. The best scenes are the panic in the town, as the townspeople grow more and more aware of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the derailment and as government soldiers, led by Noah Emmerich in a surprisingly menacing performance, storm in, barking orders and covering up what governmental secrets they can.
All throughout the kids continue their movie, utilizing the chaos in their small town and calling it “production values.” Joe forms a strong bond with neighborhood girl Alice (Elle Fanning, who is magnificent), who joins the cast of the amateur film and goes on daily adventures with the boys. The coming of age stuff is great; Joe’s relationship with Alice is both subtle and believable. Alice’s father, played character actor Ron Eldard, is at odds with Joe’s father, which gives a star-crossed tinge to the friendship between the boy and the girl. This situation is a tad underwritten, but is not the primary focus of their relationship, thankfully.
I will not give away any of the major secrets of the film. I wholeheartedly recommend seeing this in the theaters. In an earlier blog post, I lamented the fact that Hollywood hasn’t much to offer the consumer this summer. Super 8 is a marvelous film that should be supported. It is very nice to see a movie that doesn’t have the entire plot given away in the trailer. JJ Abrams continues his streak of solid films. Even if this isn’t an established picture, anyone who grew up watching Steven Spielberg films in the mid to late 80s will find something enjoyable here.