Notable Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich
Review: Last weekend J.J. Abrams’ newest guessing game hit theaters, ending all the questions circling around yet another successful viral marketing campaign. What were the cutting room floor clues?! What popped out of the train?! What did the scrolling text mean?! If you avoided all the online puzzle tricks, no harm done. You’ll still get the same experience out of the film. But just as with Cloverfield (which he only produced technically), the viral marketing made the film all that more fun, creating a back story outside of the film. Give Abrams credit, because he builds so much anticipation for his projects you almost feel obligated to go and see if your speculations are correct. He knows how to get butts in seats, of course topping the box office opening weekend with a modest $37 million. The question is though, does Abrams deliver? Hype is hype, but delivery is everything. Although it helps reputations when you have a director like Steven Spielberg endorsing your product, whose influence can be seen scattered all about Super 8 for better or worse. Or actually, just for the better.
Super 8 tells the story of how a group of filmmaking children become entangled in a government conspiracy. When filming late one night, Joe (Courtney) and his friends witness a horrific train wreck caused by a truck driving directly onto the tracks and going head on at the train. Catching everything on their Super 8 video camera, the children flee the scene before the government can do their damage control. But when strange occurrences start happening in their sleepy Ohio town, the kids set out to discover what the government is trying to hide, armed with nothing but childhood curiosity and creative wonderment. That wonderment turns into full blown discovery once Joe sees the footage their camera caught though, and suddenly the gravity of the situation hits the kids like a ton of bricks. Told through the point of view of these few friends, Super 8 is a big time adventure in a small town setting, becoming larger than anything the children could ever expect.
During the movie our little Tarantinos are filming their own movie, and I loved that Abrams played it during the credits. Don’t leave early on this one people.
The fantastic thing about walking into an Abrams movie like this is that you have no expectations except to expect the unexpected (still with me?). All we knew coming in was that Super 8 was about some kids making a movie and catching something they shouldn’t with their camera. What could possibly be kept in that train car was shrouded with mystery, and again somehow Abrams kept a lid on his monster details. In today’s world, this is truly an accomplishment. Just ask Joss Whedon. It only took a matter of weeks before part of Samuel L. Jackson’s The Avengers script was leaked onto the internet. But here we have Abrams, starting intrigue with his viral campaign in May of 2010, and being able to still keep everything a secret until a year after. These tactics play so well to a movie of this nature, because the anticipation of that one big reveal has you sitting on the edge of your seat. Whether you like it or not, curiosity will make you excited to see Abrams creation and the form it takes, despite if you actually care about the movie or not. Abrams uses a slow burn method, showing mastery in keeping just enough hidden to keep you intrigued, while the mysterious “thing” is unveiled part by part. Abrams can bait you in slowly, and once he feels that nibble you’re in his grasp with no escape.
If you told me Spielberg directed this movie though, I wouldn’t even be surprised. Abrams drew upon such Spielberg classics as Jurassic Park and E.T/Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Visually Abrams invoked Jurassic Park, as he revealed his monster in a way reminiscent to how Spielberg would reveal the T-rex to us. Abrams has all the classic moves like rustling of leaves, views of treetops, and having the creature appear from a complete other point of entrance than what your mind established. But then Abrams has the obvious sci-fi aspect of mystery, and he turns the story into a darker re-telling of E.T. while still keeping that mystery in tact that makes you question the motives of the “thing.” If you think about the story, it’s as if Spielberg himself wrote the script and gave it to Abrams just to let him use his viral marketing/anticipation/suspense techniques. It’s not a bad thing, but Super 8 was much more straight forward than Abrams other work. It was much more predictable and much more simple than say Abrams brainchild “Lost.” He has this reputation that follows him about only creating projects cloaked with mystery and confusion, and the marketing for Super 8 set it up to be right along these terms. But as far as story goes, Super 8 is an unsuspected cookie cutter script because of Abrams’ involvement. Whether this is good or bad will depend on your taste, but the rest of the film is well-written so I couldn’t find that much of a problem from my point of view.
Super 8 aims to please the sci-fi lover in us all, but is a charming film in its own right. I don’t say this without reason either. So I didn’t have to go alone, I forced my mom into accompanying me to the viewing. My mom, the sucker demographic for crap romantic comedies and hater of pretty much everything I watch (My favorite quote being “Ew what are you watching?! Is something wrong with you?! Should I be worried?!”) walked out of Super 8 with a smile on her face that could only be described as pleasure. She loved it, even going in expecting to think nothing of it. There’s something settling about having the story told through the children that tones down the actions and makes you forget this is sci-fi genre piece through and through. At the same time though, Abrams incorporates exciting battle scenes and viciously appealing creature sequences. Don’t think any professionalism is lost because the main characters are all child actors either. Super 8 was wonderfully shot, skillfully acted, and carefully crafted with that special J.J. Abrams flare that we apparently can’t get enough of.
Final Rating: 8.5 total days wasted on J.J.’s damn viral campaign out of 10
Nothing a good Diner trip can’t fix….(only in Jersey obviously)