Let me just get it out of the way now...this movie was awesome! Not as a brilliant cinematic statement, or a dialogue driven masterpiece, but as a edge of your seat, emotion stirring action film. I recently reviewed J.J. Abram's Star Trek, and while that is theoretically the more sound film, Super 8 is hands down the more enjoyable film of the two. For just under two hours I was transported to 1979 and experienced the thrill of a few kids letting their imaginations run wild in the name of film making, and of course saving their town from an alien attack. I wish every summer blockbuster were this good, because maybe then I would understand why Tree of Life has yet to show up at my local theater.
Despite keeping the plot of his film relatively quiet, it is apparent from the onset that this film will involve some sort of disaster. It begins with an accident at a local factory that is used to foreshadow the catastrophe, which will ensue in the film's small town.. A group of young awkward boys, and a popular girl, witness a train wreck that happens after a truck inexplicably runs into it. This wreck is quickly followed by a government cover-up and military takeover of the town. The films plot advancement is predicated on Cold War fears and small town traditionalism, which ignores an obvious alien invasion as a Soviet attack. Inevitably, the film is about the kids' film making and advancing as friends who understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, much like the production crew of a film would. Similar to the Korean film The Host it is a film not about monsters, but about how people react in the face of tragedy instead.
This film is a textbook homage. J.J. Abrams is obviously bowing down the the film's producer Steven Spielberg. Abrams incorporates all the action, dialogue and cinematic elements of his predecessor and adds his own stylistic notations to the process. This is most evident in his use of solar flare on his film, a technique that occurred quite frequently in Star Trek as well. He also incorporated his capitalized Helvetica font made famous from lost into the films moments of text. Beyond being an homage it is also a film about making a film. It is apparent that Abrams is attempting to show the evolution of himself as a child filmmaker to a big budget high profile producer. The closing credits, which I will not spoil for others, remind people that film making takes practice and advancement only comes through the inspiration of other film makers. It promotes a give and take approach to film making, which I feel lacks greatly in individualistic contemporary cinema.
This film is a necessary for theaters. Excluding The Tree of Life, this is the film to see this summer. Also, to better understand Abrams' approach to film making I suggest watching this TED video.