Thursday, June 30, 2011

Super-8 (2011)

Okay first off I have to thank Steven Spielberg, and JJ Abrams for a trip down memory lane.  Super-8 brings back a time when things were a bit simpler, and life was a bit slower.  Now that I've dispensed with the nostalgia I have to say I really liked the film.  The ending seemed a bit corny to me, and yet it worked.  After all Super-8 is simply a B-movie picture that we all once watched on Saturday nights at the local drive-in.  Joe Dante did this in a film called "Matinee" way back in 1993.  What Spielberg and Abrams does in Super-8 is ratchet the action up a bit more then what Dante did. 

Super-8 feels like a long lost Spielberg film when he started out.  It's a bit like "ET", "Close Encounters of the third kind", and "the Goonies" all rolled up in one.  Yet Spielberg is only the producer.  Super-8 was written and directed by JJ Abrams, and I have to confess I really liked the story, and best yet I loved the characters.  Joel Courtney , Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee , Gabriel Basso, and Zach Mills  all give a great ensemble performance.  I have to give props to Abrams for pulling out these performances.  I really cared about these characters, and each one was authentic.  It's this that gives Super-8 its likability, and what it has going for it. 

Some reviewers say that the film falls apart in the end, and that the cheesy effects take over.  I disagree.  First off the effects worked for me.  I liked that they did not show the monster or alien till the end.  Keeping it in shadow, and showing it at night is all classic B movie plotting.  As for the end I don't want to give it away, but the stories characters did say that when the alien touches you you know what its thinking and it knows what your thinking.  It's telepathic, and it understands our hero's mind.  Joel Courtney  does a great job portraying Joe Lamb.  Joel's character is a child who has lost his mother and can't let go of her.  Joel carries a locket she wore which has a picture of him and her when he was a baby.  Abrams does a very effective thing here and uses that to show his attachment to his mother.  He also uses actual Super-8 footage of Joe's mom and Joe growing up.  Pictures of him as a baby, pictures of him growing and her measuring his height, and of play time with mom.  How many of us have old film footage of our parents and grand-parents that doesn't elicit some kind of emotion with-in us.  Abrams uses that emotion to make a connection with his audience and Joe.  That's the magic of cinema.  Images that are familiar to us are like a group collective of sorts.  Images of mom, and baby, and of child and father.  We all have that stored in us and here the filmmakers mine that for emotional response.  It resonated with me, and it works.

Now in a era where we are bombarded with images 24 hours a day 7 days a week through television, the Internet, and even in the supermarket does this familiar imagery work.  I think it does because in some respect no matter the generation we all have that collective imagery of our family.  I like how the filmmakers do it.  They don't do it maliciously, but in a way that seems to connect us all.  In a way Abrams and Spielberg are saying we're more alike then we think we are.  That's comforting to know, and maybe I'm reading a bit more into the film then there is, but it did strike a chord with me.

I was one of those kids running around with a camera gathering his friends up to tell a story I had watched on the late movie or somewhere.  I remember reading magazines such as "Super-8 Filmmaker" and Cinemagic and dreaming up new ideas and stories.  Imagination is a kids best friend sometimes, and navigating those treacherous teen years can sometimes be more dangerous then adults admit to us.  Each generation has it's problems to overcome.  We look back in nostalgia, but back then it was serious and if we told our parents everything you know they would have locked us up in the house and never let us out. 

That brings me to the message of the movie.  It's about loss, forgiveness, and letting go.  In the movie the adults are all walking around living in the past.  They haven't let go of grudges, and can't seem to move on.  It's this message that I really took away from the film, and it's the one thing that made it special for me.  The performances are all good.   Kyle Chandler  as Joe's father gives a good performance, and one that really shows how sometimes we don't let go of things, and that when we do we begin to live life again. 

I enjoyed the film, and really carried away from it some deep and personal memories about youth and imagination.  Super-8 resonates with the familiar, and its message is loud and clear, yet its entertaining.  It's what a movie should be, and the message isn't preachy.  It's a good throw back to when films were fun.  Go see it, and enjoy it I know I did.  Also don't leave at the end of the credits.  There's more, and it's fun, so remember don't leave after the credits roll.  just sit there.  You won't be disappointed especially if you were one of those Super-8 filmmakers way back when.

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