Super 8

13 06 2011

THIS MAY DISAPPOINT SOME PEOPLE, BUT UNFORTUNATELY, SUPER 8 IS NOT A MOVIE ABOUT A BUDGET HOTEL CHAIN

Instead, it’s a flashy thriller about a group of children who are simply trying to discover what on earth is happening to their town.

The year is 1979, and the kids are filming an amateur zombie movie near a railway line. As they film their scene, a train rumbles behind them.  Suddenly, a truck drives down the tracks, crashing into the train and creating a massive explosion. Railway cars (conveniently filled with explosives) fly hundreds of feet into the air, forcing the kids to dive for cover.

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I’m not sure that a head-on collision between a freight train and a normal-sized truck would cause a derailment. Nor would I expect the driver of that truck to survive. However, soon after the explosion, the military comes to clean up the carnage, taking the living driver of the truck with them.

The children, meanwhile, flee to escape being captured. They know that the military wants their footage of the train wreck (which was recorded on Super 8 mm film, hence the name of the movie). This sets up the rest of the story, which is a struggle between the town’s residents and the secretive military – and whatever they’re trying to cover up.

Soon after the crash, weird things start to occur. Engines disappear from cars, dogs run in every direction to escape the town, and microwaves go missing. The citizens – and the audience – get increasingly freaked out as the movie progresses.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by J.J. Abrams, Super 8 has a knack for bringing out the magic of adolescence. In that sense, it is very similar to E.T.

As the extraordinary events unfold, the abilities of the children are tested. Complicating matters is the fact that two of the boys have an obvious crush on the female star of their movie, Alice (Elle Fanning).

Speaking of those two boys, this is their first credited acting role. Joel Courtney plays Joe, whose mom recently died in a tragic industrial accident. His friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths) is a devoted film-maker: After seeing the devastating train wreck site for the first time, he immediately sees its potential as a backdrop in their upcoming film.

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Super 8 is similar to another Abrams’ movie – Cloverfield. For most of both movies, the audience scratches their heads, trying to figure out the mystery. After some hazy shots, and other teasing footage, the mystery is exposed with tantalizing slowness.

After all that suspense, the ending feels like a letdown. Super 8 was trying to create emotions that I didn’t quite feel. Whether that’s a failure of the movie, or a failure of my emotions, I’m not sure. However, the narrative did feel like it was reaching with its attempts at several meaningful subplots between the characters.

If you liked E.T., you will probably enjoy Super 8. It pays homage to Spielberg’s earlier works, but has glitzier special effects. Abrams, meanwhile, is a master at creating suspense. That being said, the plot is average, and I felt apathetic towards the outcome. It’s entertaining, but, unlike the spectacular train crash, it’s not groundbreaking.

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