I like to have clever taglines for my reviews, something that you might draw you to read on. I hated Super 8 so much that I was literally at a loss to say anything clever about it. That’s really saying something.
Furthermore, I really wanted to like this movie. I respect the job JJ Abrams has done in becoming a fresh face in filmmaking, and I have even more respect for his ability to market a movie and make me want to watch it.
Look at Cloverfield. That was average, but the fact that all of 2007 promised the craziest monster movie ever coming in early 2008 trumped it up to be much better than it really was.
After seeing teasers for Super 8 last summer, I started anticipating something similar – a movie that was decent, maybe a bit better, but that was carried more on its marketing chops than on actual substance.
I got the second part, but didn’t even come close on the first.
The movie revolves around a group of kids in 1979 who film movies on an old Super 8 camera. Every stereotype is available in spades – the fat bossy kid, the annoying kid who you’re supposed to think is funny, the dorky one, the relatively normal one, and the girl.
Yup, that’s the best they could offer for a female character – that she’s female.
The rest are just a mish-mash of stereotypes and background noise, and they get in the way of seeing the monster for 100 minutes.
One night while they’re filming their admittedly-not-that-bad zombie film by the train tracks, a government train is derailed in a massive explosion. Dubiously, they all escape unharmed and take off before they’re discovered being out after curfew.
Only the crash isn’t just any ol’ crash. Government agents soon swarm their small town, a military presence is set up, and things are turned upside down. Some stuff happens, you look at your watch a bunch, and it’s mercifully over.
There are multiple issues that hold the film back: one, the bulk of the child actors aren’t any good. Elle Fanning does a great job as Alice, the rest are agonizing.
Two: the film can’t make up its mind if it’s a monster epic or a coming of age story. Sorry JJ, it can’t be both. Those genres don’t mesh well, and it takes more than “the boys like the girl, they come to terms with it, OHMYGODTHERE’SAMONSTEROVERTHERE!” to even come close to making it work.
Three: no character is well-developed. Joe (Joel Courtney) gets the most screen time, but all we learn about him is that his mom is dead, his dad is tough to deal with, and he likes Alice. And he’s the best of the lot. The rest are just a mish-mash of stereotypes and background noise, and they get in the way of seeing the monster for 100 minutes.
Four – and this is a big one – is that the movie is Abrams’ homage to classic Spielberg productions like E.T. and The Goonies, and Spielberg produced this movie. So what if Abrams wants to do something, and Spielberg doesn’t like it? You best believe it’s not happening. You can’t create an homage to a guy you idolize if he’s sitting over your shoulder during production, because it’s never going to be your movie. You’re never going to want to do something to alienate him or branch off from his vision, and I feel like it may have hurt this film.
Basically, unless you love Abrams and/or Spielberg, like a bunch of partially-developed hogwash that has you begging for the credits to roll (which, incidentally probably contains the best part of the movie), or have literally nothing better to do with your time, I’d avoid Super 8 like the plague.