Super 8. Somehow I missed this when it came through theaters. Even though I’m a huge fan of aliens and I’ve always loved anything that Spielberg puts his name on, I never got around to seeing this. And as the year closes, I’ve seen many “Best of 2011” lists with Super 8 in the running for film of the year.
So, I thought now would be a good time to make sure I saw it.
A long time ago, everyone was in love with the movie Anchorman. “It’s the funniest movie EVER!” After a few weeks, I saw Anchorman and I was unimpressed. That is kind of my feeling with Super 8. Everyone that has seen it, has supposedly loved it. There’s no way that amount of hype can be lived up to.
I enjoyed Super 8. It was fun, some of the child actors were impressive, and the alien was pretty cool. But I don’t think I’d consider this one of the best movies of the year. I mean… we have Drive, Moneyball, The Muppets, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Fast Five… Those are all movies I would probably recommend over Super 8. Maybe I’m missing something by not seeing it on the big screen, sometimes that happens.
What worked… The child actors were solid. The best was the dynamic duo of Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning, yes Dakota’s little sister). These two had incredible chemistry and held the story together. And their relationships with the fathers gave the story a much more relatable challenge to overcome. The other kids were okay but I didn’t even know their names, nonetheless care about them.
I want to say that the alien worked. But it seems like J.J. Abrams just copy and pasted things that worked from his first alien movie Cloverfield. In both movies, we don’t really see the alien til the climax of the film, we can’t really identify what the alien is (ie, it’s just a jumble of limbs and claws basically), and the alien pretty much destroys everyone and everything it comes into contact with. The only difference between Cloverfield and Super 8 is that one takes place is a sprawling metropolis and one takes place in podunk middle of nowhere.
But here’s what I do appreciate about the alien. Only after watching a special feature on the creation of the alien, I understood how much thought went into every detail. They actually began with creating Rorschach drawings and finding out what general feeling the alien should have. After watching their effort, I had a much deeper appreciation. Without that special feature however, that much effort seemed wasted.
What didn’t work… Although most of the child actors were spot-on, I got really annoyed by the “best friend” character who was filming the movie. The kid was a jerk. And he was annoying beyond belief. I was kind of hoping the alien ate him at some point.
Above I said how much effort went into the alien and its design, but very little of that effort appeared on-screen. J.J. Abrams wanted the creature to be vague and almost indistinguishable. Well, congratulations. If there was just a few more scenes of actually watching the alien just walk around or a fight scene where you can really see what it’s doing… I would have appreciated that.
And the lens flare. “What is a lens flare?” you ask. That is when the camera crosses a light of some kind and the screen like… lights up.
Below we have a fan video/parody which gives some solid examples.
Make sense? Super 8 had a thousand lens flares. It got annoying. Star Trek was just as bad. Every once in a while, I can appreciate it. I’ve even used them in a few music videos I helped shoot, but you have to know your limit. J.J., I think it’s time for an intervention.
Overall… It was entertaining but I felt cheated. The coolest part of the movie was held out of reach for far too long and once the alien appeared, I didn’t get enough. It was fun and cool to watch, but I felt a bit letdown by all the hype. I’ll give it a 4 star rating because it was definitely cool but far from deserving that coveted 5th star.