Watching Twitter over the past two weeks has been quite interesting. People either seem to love JJ Abrams’ Super 8 or hate it. It’s evolved into an escalation of insults like “I don’t know why they liked/hated it…” The good news is that it has people talking, the bad news is that it isn’t tracking very well. That’s disappointing considering it’s one of the sole movies arriving this summer that isn’t pandering to the franchise crowd.
Anyways, while I already reviewed the film a few weeks back, David Harley has chimed in with his thoughts that can be viewed inside. In addition, it’s now your turn to write your own reviews to tell all of Bloody YOUR thoughts. Good? Bad? I’m the one with a gun (whoops, wrong movie.)
Also now available on VOD is John Carpenter’s return to horror in The Ward, a psychological horror film I considered to be highly disappointing. Again, it’s your turn: write your reviews and tell all of us what you think. Am I wrong? Do you think it’s a solid flick?
Amblin is a name that is synonymous with film geekdom. Started in the early 80’s, the production company run by Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall has produced some of the most memorable and timeless films around during the decade of its conception. Most of the stand-out productions are multi-layered stories dealing with characters in the most formative years of their lives as an unexpected danger helps create a string of moments that will come to define who they are. But, most importantly, they give viewers a sense of wonder and amazement as they’re drawn into the situation to watch the characters grow. They have a very distinct feel and formula attributed to them, yet they rarely feel stale. Super 8 delivers on this for the most part from the moment Elliot flies across the screen on his bicycle in the opening credits, but it loses the sweet, whimsical feel somewhere along the way.
After the untimely death of his mother, Joe (Joel Courtney) and his distant father, Deputy Jackson (Kyle Chandler), are having a hard time adjusting to the gaping hole in their lives. With his father filling the void by working around the clock, Joe spends his free time building Moebius models and helping his ragtag group of friends work on aspiring director Charles’ (Riley Griffiths) zombie film. While sneaking out one night to shoot a scene at the train station, with Alice (Elle Fanning) in tow, the crew witnesses a train crash to end all train crashes. Given a cryptic warning by a survivor, the kids hightail it from the wreckage when the military shows up, eager to canvas the area for something unknown to the townsfolk and local authorities. But, the truth is soon made apparent as appliances are stolen, mysterious cubes are found scattered at the crash site, and Charles’ super 8 footage is developed.
Abrams makes good on the Amblin name by focusing on Joe’s transformation throughout the film. Still feeling the shockwaves of his loss, his budding – and forbidden – relationship with Alice is a form of rebirth for him, alleviating his loneliness by giving him a new connection to life and easing the pain of his father’s passive aggressive abandonment. While it gives the film its level of summer-sized fun, the creature is merely a catalyst for him to deal with his grief. The entire cast is superb (and the rapport between the kids reminds me of The Goonies), but Courtney really sells it, giving Joe the adolescent awkwardness needed to make the situation feel as authentic as the 1979 way of life portrayed on screen.
But not everything rings as true. Abrams crafted the creature as equal parts E.T. and the invaders from War Of The Worlds, two Spielberg films that couldn’t be more different from each other, and the result is sort of confusing. The script presents the visitor as curious and extremely aggressive (with more of an emphasis on the latter) throughout most of the film, and then attempts to make the audience sympathize with it as it continues to tear through the small town. Its reason for having a disdain towards humans is justifiable, but it’s hard to feel bad for something that is constantly causing destruction and death.
Super 8 will bring waves of nostalgia crashing down over those who cherish Spielberg’s directorial and producing output of the 80’s. Even though it doesn’t quite follow through on the warm, fuzzy feelings it seems intent on delivering from the get-go, Abrams’ coming-of-age tale is more about the journey than the destination, which is worthwhile. The snapshot of Americana 1979 feels as real as possible with the help of Michael Giacchino’s score and fantastic casting, but if there’s one thing the mysterious director needs to work on, it’s conceptualizing his creatures better, both design and personality-wise.
Score: 4/5 Skulls
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