Saturday, February 11, 2012

Super 8 (2011)

J.J. Abrams
2011 • 112 Minutes • 2.35:1 • United States

Principal Cast - Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich, Ron Eldard
Screenplay - J.J. Abrams
Producers - J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Steven Spielberg
Cinematography - Larry Fong

Awards & Honors

The Essential Films
Nominated:  Best Film of the Year
Nominated:  Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated:  Best Music - Score

- I've seen it... nobody believes me... 
- I believe you.

In the summer of 1979, six young teenagers making an amateur horror movie witness a devastating train derailment.  After the Air Force moves in to the small Ohio town to contain the situation, the children start to suspect there is something amiss.  The town’s power fluctuates, dogs run away from home and people start to disappear.  Soon, a true horror reveals itself.
Super 8 is J.J. Abrams’ love letter to the Steven Spielberg films of the 1970s and 80s.  It has a lot of Close Encounters, a good deal of Jaws, a dash of E.T., stirred in a Goonies pot and sprinkled with some Jurassic Park.  It’s probably no mistake the Spielberg himself was a director on this film.  Whether it was Spielberg’s production fingerprints or J.J. Abrams’ directing that gave us this fantastically entertaining film.  Abrams, with films like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III and Cloverfield under his belt, and TV series “Alias” and “Lost” in his filmography, is quickly becoming the next Steven Spielberg, mark my words.  And, much like Spielberg, he specializes in well-produced, well-directed and well-written populist entertainment.

According to IMDB, Abrams was born in 1966, which would have made him an adolescent and a teenager when films like Jaws, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark were released in theatres.  It is perhaps no coincidence that the film takes place in 1979, what must have been a nostalgic era for Abrams.  Abrams, who also wrote the story, not only managed to pace the film well with action sequences, humor and plot exposition at the right moments, but nurture something sadly missing from many action blockbusters of today:  character development.  Joe, the main character, is devastated by the death of his mother and is growing ever distant from his obviously depressed father, the Sherrif’s deputy.  The girl he has a crush on, the star of the home-made Super 8 zombie movie, is the daughter of the man responsible for the death of his mother.  Each of these stories is explored and developed underneath the larger story of the looming alien monster threat.

Speaking of Joe, many props have to be given to first time actor, Joel Courtney for such an incredible performance.  Child actors in films are a mixed bag.  They can either be too good, leading their performances to be too mature and unbelievable, or they can be not good enough.  A perfect example of this is the Harry Potter films.  In Sorcerer’s Stone, the kids are obviously in over their acting heads, but by the fourth or fifth installment in the series, they had finally grown into their acting ability.  Well, Courtney knocks one out of the park in his first acting gig.  He’s completely captivating and never distracting.  His pathos pulls you into the film and never lets go, right up until the ending of the film which is so touching that this film reviewer will not ruin it for you.  The other children in the film do a great job as well, especially Elle Fanning (who apparently got all the acting talent in the family).  These two actors bear the acting brunt of the film and they hold up their end of the bargain.

Super 8 is pretty much the perfect summer film.  It’s incredibly entertaining, funny (at the right moments), action-packed, scary (but not too scary) and just a hell of a lot of fun.  If you love movies, as it is clear Abrams does, you should go check this film out right now.