Review: Super 8

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

This is why I go to the movies. It's movies like this that fully immerses the viewer through story, visuals and nostalgia and leaves you wondering why they just don't make movies like these anymore.
Right from the get go, Super 8 wears it's nostalgia on it's sleeve. You feel like your watching an early Spielberg film, and that's what your going to hear the most about when reading about this film. Everything from the story, feel, design, characters, down to the locations and imagery.
Director J.J. Abrams has single handedly created one of the most authentic Spielbergian experiences with Super 8 and the guy deserves nothing but kudos for it. Of course, there will be detractors. Those who feel like it's nothing but a ripoff of Spielberg's earlier work or how it's a mishmash of our favorite 80's flicks, if you were a teenager at that time. I'm talking about The Goonies, E.T., and even The Monster Squad. There are bits and pieces of all of those films here and I for one love it for that reason alone.
Watching this in the theater, I felt like a little kid again. The movie is simply amazing. It's got an enormous amount of heart. It's full of suspense and even maybe a little scary at times. But not too much that you shouldn't take your kid to go see it, because scary can be fun. One thing I have to say, thank god they did not release this in 3D. That would have only taken away from the impact this film has. 3D is fun to watch for some things, but not for everything. Drive Angry is a recent example of how 3D can totally ruin a films impact. But i'll get to that in another posting.

If you've read any of my other reviews, I try not to tell every single detail of the movie scene for scene like most other reviewers. If you haven't seen it, then why have it ruined for you? When I read a review, I want to know what that particular reviewer thought of the film and whether they liked it or not. I don't need a scene for scene play by play of the entire film. I like to give a basic overall view of it and not give away too many of the elements that could take away from your experience when seeing it for the first time. However with this one, after I've given my overall opinion, i'll get into specifics afterwards about certain key elements of this particular film that i'd like to discuss. But i'll forewarn any spoilers.

The story centers around 5 preteen friends trying to film a zombie movie with there super 8 camera for a local film festival. They are out filming a scene one night when they inadvertently witness a horrific train accident, not realizing at the time that while fleeing the accident as it's happening, the fallen camera has captured something horrifying, amazing and unbelievable on film. Immediately after the train accident, and i'm talking minutes, the army has descended upon the scene and within a day, have taken over the town. So right off the bat, you know something was on that train, something big and something dangerous and the government does not want you to know about it. After the accident, a series of strange disappearances of local residents as well as the fleeing of all the dogs in the town have started to get everyone panicked. Nobody knows what's going on and there are just no answers. While this is all going on, Joe; one of the main kids here, is going through a tough time. His mother has just passed away and his dad or step-dad, I can't remember which, just doesn't understand him and they constantly butt heads. Joe loves makeup, special effects makeup to be exact and he wants to be a special effects artist for the movies. His buddy Charles is the director and also aspires to get into the film business when they are older. Without giving too much away that's the "basic" story in a nutshell. Abrams is notorious for secrecy surrounding his films and right up until the numbers came in yesterday for the weekend grosses, most studio analysts thought that was going to hurt the film because even the trailers don't show too much about the story or even that there is another entity involved here, whether it be an alien or a monster or some kind of hybrid, i'm not saying.

I love the look of this film. Abrams has created a genuine vintage feel with it's setting. The story takes place in 1979 and you literally feel like you've gone back in time. Everything looks and feels authentic here and that's one of the best things this movie has going for it, I can't stress that enough. The scene that kick starts the events in this movie is the train sequence, and what a sequence it is. It is truly an amazing piece and one that I hope goes down as one of the best crash scenes on film.
It's just crazy intense. It's so well staged that your either biting your lip the entire time or clutching the arm rest on the theater chair for dear life. It's really that well done and impressive as hell. Another thing that makes this film rise above most others is the actors. Except for Elle Fanning, I had never heard or seen any of them in anything else and you would never know. They all act like pros here and give truly outstanding performances, especially Joel Courtney, the main kid. He's really impressive, such a natural. He's the one you follow throughout the film and it's through his eyes that you see what's going on. He's able to pull of sad, scared, happy, excited, morose, all with ease. I'm telling you, this kid is going far.
The ending is as sappy, heartbreaking, sad and happy as anything done by Spielberg, especially E.T., in a good way.

I liked the direction they went with the creature . I like that they didn't go with cute and instead went with terrifying and threatening. Because in all honesty, it could have gone either way and had two totally different outcomes, all because of the design of the creature. This sucker is big and scary, even though they hardly ever show it, usually hiding in shadows or just seeing it's silhouette until the big reveal at the very end. Though i'm not really a fan of the design. It just looked way too complicated and I felt the simpler they went, the more of an impact it would have had. But that's just me. And that's really my only complaint. Because this film is just awesome! I loved so much about this film and it was one of the best times I've had watching a movie in a very long time. This film is exciting, scary, heartbreaking, intense and full of wonder. It's everything that I hoped it would be and so much more.

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