New Release Tuesday: Super 8 (2011)

20 06 2011

“Super 8” is the third and most recent film from lens-flare enthusiast J.J. Abrams. Although we do see that trademark a couple times, “Super  8” is a drastic change of form compared to his other two, high-octane films (“Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible 3”) and such a change has never suited another director better. The plot revolves around Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a thirteen year old boy who, the summer after losing his mother, is helping his friends complete a gory zombie film for a local competition. While filming they are witness to a mysterious and explosive train crash which brings in the military and sets off an odd series of events. Joe and his friends work to finish the movie while investigating what really happened, all while navigating their interpersonal feelings. Abrams uses an excellent touch to weave all his strands together throughout the movie and allows them to all come together at the end creating a fantastic summer movie and one of the best using kids as leads.

“We’re going to find our kids.”

Movies revolving around young actors are a big gamble. There are few good enough at that point in their careers to produce the range and depth required to carry a movie. Sometimes it turns out adequately (the early Harry Potter films, ET) and sometimes it helps destroy the movie (The Phantom Menace), Super 8 is one of the rare examples where the young cast actually makes the movie. Several are ‘types’ among the child cast but they perform the roles well, and what keeps it from getting stale though, is the excellent writing of Abrams. He must clearly remember what it is like to be a kid making a movie because every one of them comes off as very believable. Sure, many of them only serve one purpose in film, but the dialogue and their interactions make these single-purpose-characters feeling fully formed. Joel Courtney plays the lead admirably and I think credit once again goes to Abrams for creating such a realistic character. I’m sure most of Joel’s work was quite easy for him being at that age but it must be noted that he rises to the occasion multiple times when a dramatic turn was required. The star of the film though is without a doubt Elle Fanning. I thought she was fantastic in one of my favorite films of 2010, “Somewhere”, and she once again shows that she may just be the best actress of her age.

“Production Value!”

It is easy to see why the keyword in most reviews of this film has been “nostalgia” and with good reason. “Super 8” invokes a feel of a time when summer movies were simpler. When it was more about telling a story. At the turn of the century when “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” came out, filmmakers realized that audiences now demanded more of a movie in terms of style and plot. This has resulted in them becoming more and more complex and produced some fantastic results like last years “Inception”, but when a movie like “Super 8” comes along it is a very refreshing change of pace.

Although it isn’t the best film I’ve seen in theaters in the last couple of years, it could very well be the most enjoyable experience. Between the warming feel of the movie, the great kids, and purely enjoyable ride of it all “Super 8” is the must-see movie so far this summer and one I’m sure that will be among the best at year’s end.

Score: 91/100

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