It’s named after the film (Super 8 film review)

On the way home from the theatre, a passenger in the car began to question the film’s title.  The driver responded that it may have been an allusion to the film’s alien, but I knew otherwise:

To my 21st century brethren, allow me to enlighten you.  Once, long ago, digital cameras were not the primary means of recording images and video.  The older among us will still remember these days, filled with cassette tapes and rolls of kodak 35mm film.  Beyond them though, in the time of the ancients, video was recorded on film.  Not playable in your VCR, and not transferrable to any player.  Rather, the reels had to be developed similar to the 35mm kodak rolls.  This, Super 8mm film, is the source from which the movie derives its name.220px-S8cartridg

Now that you know this, let’s look at more important matters.  How was the movie?  In short, good.  Yes, it was a good movie. But that shouldn’t surprise anybody.  J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg routinely produce loved box-office hits.  Bringing them together was the beginning of what could have been the greatest sci-fi movie ever released.  Did it reach this level of excellence?  No, it did not.  That said, it didn’t hit a Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull level of bad either.  It fell somewhere between these two extremes, and I’d say it was considerably closer to the former than the latter.

While I will not spare this movie any criticisms I may have, there were a few things it did very well.  First was the fun meta-film aspect.  I don’t mean this in the way that The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield are told through recovered film.  What I mean is that the movie folds over on itself as we’re viewing the filming of an unrelated story as the movie develops.  This allowed for the characters to move the plot along and develop meaningful characters while being exactly where they were needed to experience the alien’s rampage first-hand. 

Second, I congratulate Abrams and Spielberg for not overdoing the alien.  One gripe I had with Cloverfield was that the alien seemed to be the size of a city block and as tall as a skyscraper.  While we’re not allowed to observe most of the alien until the very end of this movie, he was something between the height of a bus and a house and about as long as a commercial truck (maybe a truck and a half).   Furthermore, he did not have the futuristic or weapons-enabled appearance of some aliens, while apparently retaining intelligence and perhaps a semblance of mercy.  220px-Super_8_Poster

Third, and finally for my brief list of positives, I enjoyed the young, innocent romance between Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning).  The evolution of their “relationship” was entertaining to watch as it had few, if any, cringe moments while never seeming superficial or forced.  Likewise, we don’t have the relationship that stems solely from their mutual involvement in an hour-long disaster.  Rather, they share several instances of dialogue that bring them together emotionally while simultaneously building their characters for the viewer and answering questions pertaining to events just prior to the beginning of the film.

But what of the negatives?  Well, there are only two things that I was even remotely bothered by.  The first is the portrayal of Joe’s and Alice’s fathers.  The former’s is shown from the beginning to nearly the end of the film as having no grasp of his mild-mannered son and consistently ignoring him for his responsibilities as deputy.  The latter is a raging alcoholic with emotional issues.  While Alice’s father helped to strengthen her character and even affected Joe’s character, Joe’s father only seemed to have his personality for a few father/son conflicts that did little to build characters or move the plot along.

super-8-train-crash11My other grievance with this film was an experiential issue that slightly diminished the enjoyment I had in theatre.  While the images were excellent, each scene was well shot and the special effects were brilliant, the sound did not work at the same level.  Unfortunately, it seemed like somebody had watched the film distracted and later said that the action sequences didn’t have proper visual cues but that the situation could be remedied with volume.  This produced ear drum shattering explosions and screams, often causing audience members to jump when the suspense alone should have sufficed.  If I make one recommendation to any future viewers, it’s that you cover your ears just before the train crash.  I’m sure you’ll still be able to hear it, but you won’t feel assaulted afterwards like everybody else in the theatre. 

Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  The writing and videography was above average.  To anybody who wants the ultra-short synopsis: It’s a cross between E.T. (Spielberg’s influence was painfully obvious) and Cloverfield.  I would not recommend this movie for children under 8, but I’m sure that most others will enjoy it.

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  • CMrok93  On June 11, 2011 at 21:05

    Abrams remembers the simple rule that a majority of his contemporaries have forgotten: action and mayhem have meaning only when an audience cares about the people trapped within the maelstrom. And I cared for all of these characters, even that drunk dad that gets arrested in the beginning. Nice Review! Check out mine when you get a chance!

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