Super 8 Definitely Hearkens Back to Classic Spielberg
Complete with daddy issues
Super 8 is not a perfect movie, but it is definitely quite enjoyable.
Set in the 1980's, it has a very strong feel like one of those classic Spielberg movies like Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So it should come as no surprise that (1) Spielberg himself is one of the producers of the movie, and (2) writer/director JJ Abrams has stated that he set the movie at a time when he himself was enjoying Spielberg movies and making home made films himself with his own Super 8 camera.
The whole movie feels like a labor of love from the same guy who brought us (with varying degrees of involvement) such entertainment as Felicity, Lost, Alias, Cloverfield, the latest Star Trek movie as well as Mission Impossible III and IV. Yeah, Abrams has quite a list of successes under his belt, and this movie just piles up on top of that.
The movie follows a young man named Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his friends and father. As the movie starts, we learn that Joe's mother was recently killed in an accident at the town's steel mill. His father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), is a local deputy and has apparently never been particularly involved in raising his son. Now that their wife and mother has passed away, the two have to learn to adapt to their new situation.
A few months later, Joe is helping his friends make a movie for some film competition. Charles (Riley Griffiths) writes the scripts and acts as director using his Super 8 camera. Joe works makeup and the rest alternately act as grips and actors as the situation calls for it. Joe has a crush on Alice (Elle Fanning) who is brought in as the lead's wife.
One night, as they're filming a scene at the local train station, they witness a horrible accident. Soon afterward, unusual things begin happening. Animals and people go missing. Car parts and appliances are stolen en masse. Power lines are taken down and disappear.
Super 8 trailer
There are two major plot lines to follow here. One is a sci-fi story that is, truthfully, rather basic but competently told. The other revolves around how the people in Joe's life react to the situation they're in. How their situation brings some of them together and drives some of them apart. And that story is quite compelling.
The difficulty is that the final climax mostly involves the serviceable sci-fi story, while the human element is along for the ride here. It would have been more powerful if the climax had more of a human resolution. Some kind of clear evolution of the characters. There's a bit of it, but I wanted more.
That isn't to say that the movie particularly suffers for that. My wanting more simply means that the film makers really made me care about the characters. I just think they could have done more.
And frankly, the movie has what I would probably call the most spectacular train wreck ever filmed. And that ain't bad.
I give Super 8 a 8 / 10.
Super 8 is rated PG-13 for language (including one word that would have gotten me sent to the principal's office), a fair amount of bloodless action violence, and suspenseful situations.