SUPER 8 (2011)
Super 8 is J.J. Abrams’ homage to the 80s coming of age genre flicks like E.T., Stand By Me and The Monster Squad. While it is an entertaining homage, it isn’t an overwhelming one. Like all copies, there is something lacking in Super 8 that keeps it from joining the ranks of the original films it so lovingly tries to recreate. The film takes place in 1979 with young wannabe filmmaker Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his friends Charles (Riley Griffiths), Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), Cary (Ryan Lee) and Alice (Elle Fanning) making a super 8 movie near a set of railroad tracks. They witness the crash of a mysterious train and soon find that it unleashed an extraterrestrial creature into their midst, one whom the government had imprisoned and wants back. The military now hunts the creature throughout their town, while the alien being is trying to find a way home…all with Joe and his friends caught in the middle.
Technically, Super 8 is an extremely well made movie as Abrams is one of the best technical directors out there. His script also has all the traditions and tropes present for this type of movie. The FX are state of the art, though FX do not a classic make. Sadly, Super 8 is not a classic, though it wants to be. The main characters are likable and have some emotional depth, while the military bad guys are appropriately slimy. They are proper representations of the types of characters we’ve seen before in those 80s classics, but none of them are particularly strong, or really stand out to any degree on their own. They serve their purpose in the story, but they are not memorable like E.T.’s Elliot or even Goonies’ Chunk. The alien creature is nicely designed, but ultimately just another generic monster. It’s never given a personality. The story of a group of young wannabe filmmakers coming up against an escaped extraterrestrial creature is functional enough, but we’ve seen it all before…the misunderstood creature, the bad guy military officer, the cop’s kid…and while that’s on purpose, it still feels more like an imitation than a recreation. Super 8 does entertain, but it doesn’t have the charm or that something special that made the films it honors the classics they are. This actually comes as a surprise as Abrams’ Star Trek reboot had all those things right. The characters were familiar, yet new, the story and feel were both classic Trek and yet refreshingly up to date. So why he didn’t accomplish the same here, is a bit of a mystery.
It’s still recommended as an entertaining popcorn flick, especially if you are a fan of the type of movies it evokes. It’s just sadly not as special as those films which it respectfully pays homage to. It’s heart is in the right place, it just needed a bit more of a soul. The solid cast also includes Kyle Chandler (Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Joe’s Deputy Sheriff father and Noah Emmerich as the military bad guy Colonel Nelec.