Written & Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Produced by: J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Bryan Burk
I think I speak for a lot of moviegoers when I say, ‘I’ve missed Steven Spielberg.’ It’s not said in a cheesy way, more in a way of adoration. At my age I look back fondly at films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.; they were movies set in a simpler yet much more complex time.
As I exited the movie my counterpart asked, “Why do you think they set it in the 70s, because of the technology?” I had to agree completely. A movie of this type requires a pre-internet age to be believable.
With Abrams’ fan-favorite hand-cam masterpiece Cloverfield he explored the reality of devastation in a technological age…nothing works. Think about it, if there’s an attack of that proportion in Manhattan, or Chicago or L.A., do you really think the cell towers are going to be functioning properly? No, they’re not.
In Super 8 the Air Force basically commandeers an entire town, eventually creating a reason to justify evacuating everyone to one of their nearby bases. The tactics used could never have been used in an age like today, where half the people in the town would have blogged or vlogged about the events within minutes and the world would know everything.
The seventies were a simpler, quieter age.
Unlike Cloverfield, this film didn’t have the level of ridiculous secrecy attached to it, something I can only attribute to Spielberg’s involvement in the project, since everyone is well aware of Abrams’ love of the dramatic. He pulls it off well, so I applaud him for it.
Super 8, which I still contend would have been named “8mm” if not for that creepy 90s Nicholas Cage film of same name, is set in a sleepy Ohio town, a perfect location for an alien encounter. The story has a lot of moving parts: families torn apart by loss and remorse, regret and anger, young love and friendship.
Everything you need to make a movie memorable.
Then we bring the alien in. I’m not going to say I don’t like the alien. Abrams does a stand-up job of keeping it hidden and showing glimpses, reflections, edges of the creature for the majority of the film until you reach a point where you need to show it.
That was kind of a letdown.
The first time you see the creature for more than a millisecond it doesn’t “wow” you, it doesn’t make you jump, it doesn’t even make you feel shocked, it’s just…there. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of solid make-you-jump moments in the film. But that first time full visual is a bit of a downer.
There’s a level of cheesiness to the movie too. Like when the main boy, Joe, sets out in search of the girl he likes and ends up facing off with the monster, which he and everyone in the audience knew was inevitable but still hoped wouldn’t happen because, let’s face it, that’s just ridiculous.
He’s a kid! And I don’t know if I should blame the actor for his facial expressions (or lack-thereof) during the scene with the creature. Clearly he needs more practice working with a green screen…or was he supposed to be stoic? Are we meant to believe that because his mom had died four months previous that this middle-schooler is capable of facing down an alien monster without looking like he probably just messed himself?
Eliot was one thing, E.T. was adorable and loveable. This thing eats people, and Joe knows it. Yet he stands there like he’s facing the lunch-money stealing bully.
That being said, Super 8 is a solid movie in the vein of classic Spielberg films. I’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of movie to resurface and despite a few issues (like how closely the alien resembles the Cloverfield monster) it’s definitely worth seeing.
Until next film,
This is Tim Blacksmith signing off.