Makes me wanna hang-out with my childhood friends again, or what’s left of them anyway.
Living in a small town in the summer of 1979, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) helps out his friends film their monster movie while trying to move on from the death of his mother. While filming a scene at a station, a truck smashes into an oncoming train forcing it to derail. After the immense explosion, something escapes from the wreckage. Joe and his friends then witness several strange events around town while Joe’s father (Kyle Chandler) tries to keep the peace and the shady military begins to occupy the once sleepy town.
From the beginning nobody had any idea just what this film was about and then everybody started to notice it was like an old Spielberg film. Now of course, this is a big homage to such sci-fi classics as “The Goonies”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and “E.T”. During this whole film, you’ll definitely be reminded of those films but I can promise you this isn’t a parody, this isn’t a rip-off, it’s just an homage to those old films and with Steven Spielberg as producer, its a great homage.
Writer and director J.J. Abrams obviously grew up loving these films and I could feel it watching this because with every little element to this film, he does it all right. Abrams keeps this story moving at a nice pace and doesn’t try to do anything that would seem phony or cheesy in any way, he tells the story like it is. Abrams also does a great job at not actually showing us “the monster” and when we actually do its great because the whole time during the film we are just left in total mystery of what this thing is, and what is behind all these strange happenings. The explanations Abrams give us are reasonable, but the mystery of the plot is what really sold me here because I really wanted to see what this damn thing was.
My only problem with this film was the fact they did a bad job of making the Army seem like the bad guys, which isn’t really a problem considering so many films do that nowadays. I just felt like this film was so much smarter than all those others, but made these Army officials look like complete dicks, but then again, this film did need some conflict in between everything else so I understand.
The cast here is full of a bunch of random people but their all good. Joel Courtney is great in his big-screen debut as Joe, who carries that emotional weight of the story on his shoulders and doesn’t let up once. Great performance, and I can tell that this kid has got himself a good career ahead of him. Elle Fanning is growing up pretty quickly and is actually my favorite from the cast as the sort of bad girl, Alice. The rest of the kids are pretty good too, but my main favorite was Riley Griffiths as Charles, and is just hilarious the whole time through and kind of reminded me of a younger Dan the Man I must say. Let’s not also forget the always reliable Kyle Chandler as Joe’s Dad, Jackson, who finally gets some big-screen time here as well.
What really had me here was that this is just a whole lot of fun, but still with something to show for it. The visuals, especially the train crash, are absolutely amazing and just look so realistic. The screenplay here is also near-perfect because even though all these crazy explosions, invasions, kidnappings, and strange happenings are occurring, this is still all about the kids and with good reason because their just so fun to be around. The film reminded me of “Stand By Me” because this actually showed kids talking like kids again. They aren’t all squeaky clean and know-it-alls, these ones insecure, curse like it’s nobody’s business, and altogether, innocent. This film is all about the kids and how they relate to each other and not once does it hit a false-note at how the kids and their parents unify, or don’t unify during these strange events. I was totally surprised by how much of an emotional weight impact this had on me and when I left the theater, I just felt happy.
Consensus: Some may be annoyed from the constant nostalgia feel of this film, but Super 8 is a J.J. Abrams’ beautiful homage to all of the old Spielberg films of the 80’s with a great screenplay that is funny and emotional, fun action, and just reminds us what Summer blockbusters should always be like.