Super 8 (2011)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Joel McKinnon Miller, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Jessica Tuck
Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
MPAA Rating: PG 13 for for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.
Best Summer Film of the Year
You know out of all the films that have been released this summer, "Super 8" is definitely the best movie released by far. Sure, there's been a few good movies released like "X-Men: First Class", "Fast Five", "Rio" and such. However, none of them carried the same magic, or the same emotional weight that "Super 8" did.
Although, "Super 8" does have a tendency to fall into all the same alien movie cliches that most films of this ilk tend to fall into. It takes place in a small town. The story is centered around a bunch of kids, who end up knowing more than the arrogant adults do. You have a neglectful father figure that's too harsh on his son, but really loves him. You have a typical boy meets girl premise, where the parents don't want them seeing each other. A military that's more hellbent on their own agenda than doing what's best for the people, and it's predictable as hell too. Yep, "Super 8" has all the makings of being a bad movie as one would think, but you want to know something? It's not a bad film at all. If anything, it's a great movie.
Sure, it's cliched and predictable as sin, but it's very well told. The story is so engaging, you can't help but fall in love with this movie. Watching every moment intensely, as a part of you wishes that this film would never end. It's rare that you often find a film that not only captures your attention, but your heart as well. Sure, it may have all the things that would possibly downgrade a film, but it also contains all the things that make a great movie as well.
It never rushes to explain the whole story right away, as it allows for the plot to develop naturally. The characters are never boring, and the relationships between them are fully fleshed out. "Super 8" never brushes off character development, or it's own story content, in favor of special effects. No, it uses the special effects to tell the story if anything else. Sure, it could have been another run of the mill alien film where the story takes a backseat to eye candy galore. However, it never does. If anything, the story is the main focus of this film, as captures your attention right from the start. Sure, we may know how this journey ends way before the halfway point of the movie, but you'll definitely enjoy the ride getting there.
It's one of those rare movies that you never want to see end and when it does, you can't help but feel that you lived a part of it. Reminiscent of the same magic that Stephen Spielberg brought with his classic "E.T." movie, as the characterization of the characters is executed almost to perfection.
The story starts off harmless as it shows a bunch of children making a zombie movie together, to prepare for an amateur film festival entry. Like all young kids, they're reckless, naive, and maybe even a bit selfish at times. However, J.J. Abrams treats adolescence and puberty with tenderness and sincerity, as he never skips the moments that allow the audience to connect with the characters. Out of all the kids, Joe (Joel Courtney) is the main character of our story. He's a bit shy, creative, and conflicted about the loss of his mother. Joe also happens to be twelve years old, and he's the son of a very strict father that happens to be the deputy sheriff of the town. Joe isn't in the movie that his friends are making, as he prefers working behind the scenes with the special effects and make-up. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the ring leader of the group, who pretty much bosses his friends around to get what he wants, and the rest of the gang pretty much follows him like a bunch of lovesick school girls chasing after Justin Bieber. Speaking of girls, that does bring me to the next character that gets introduced into the movie played by Elle Fanning.
Elle Fanning essentially plays the girl next door type in Alice, who's fourteen years old, and happens to be the daughter of a man that's a raging alcoholic. Riley somehow convinces her to star in his movie, as he secretly schemes to get closer to her as well. However, Joe also falls hard for Alice too; which creates internal conflict when it's later revealed that Alice might like Joe as well. Of course, what teenage or preteen boy wouldn't fall fairly hard for Elle Fanning in this role? In every scene that she's in, you can practically see her shine in her part, as she plays the young "girl next door" type to perfection. Seriously, I can't say enough good things about her, as her performance was brilliant. She was not only charming, funny, cute, and innocent when she had to be, but she also came off as vulnerable and conflicted whenever the film required it. Truly the mark of a great actress, as I think we can expect great things from her in the future.
However, the real strength of this lies in the relationship between the characters themselves. As you watch the interactions between Joe and Alice, you can't help but get engulfed into their story. Sure, the subplot is nothing more than a "boy meets girl" premise, where the two fall for each other, but their parents forbid them to be together due to petty reasons. However, the moments you see them together on screen, a part of you can't help but want to see them together. Reminding us how precious falling in love for the first time can be, and how sometimes adversity can bring us all closer together, as "Super 8" does an excellent job pulling on the emotional strings of the audience.
To get back to the rest of the story, the kids are filming out by a train station. Waiting for a train to pass by for effect; until it suddenly crashes unexpectedly. Causing our young protagonists to investigate the nature of this crash. What unfolds from here is a mystery story like no other, as our young heroes soon learn about an alien that the government has been secretly locking up for years. Is the alien friendly and just wants to go home? Or is it vengeful to where it wants to destroy all of humanity? I can't really say without giving it away, but I can say one thing....the adventure that unfolds from here will leaving a lasting imprint on your psyche.
It's not a mere alien story that takes place in a small town, with a generic "boy meets girl" subplot, as it's more than that. It's a film about how precious life is, and how we're all vulnerable to mistakes and adversity. How sometimes the tender moments between ourselves and parents can be special, or even how special the first time falling in love can be. But, most of all...and I do mean most of all...it can show us that we can't always live in the past. Sure, a lot of things happen to all of us, but we should never allow the past to hold us back to keep us from moving forward. That to me was the best part of the movie, as the symbolism behind the story is what really shined through the brightest in "Super 8."
Overall, I would have to give this movie a three and a half out of four. It may be predictable and cliched, but the ride getting from point "A" to point "B" will definitely be worth the trip, as you won't want it end. Definitely, a must see film.