David Harley’s Review:
Editor’s Note: There will be some spoilers as it’s literally impossible to avoid. I’ll try my best to keep it to a minimum. You’ve been warned.
While studios and theater chains struggle to figure out how to get people back in cinemas, I find myself pondering what it would take for me to get excited about going to the movies again.
The outcries of rude behavior (talking, cell phones, etc.) and outrageous ticket prices are just two obvious reasons going to the theater isn’t “fun” anymore. For me it’s the lack of “event”; I actually miss those summer blockbusters that forced my family to get to the theater early just to stand in (one of many) long lines. The seats sucked, thus getting there early you could ensure you wouldn’t be sitting behind “that tall guy.” It wasn’t just an hour and a half of your night, it WAS your night…
But nobody cared. Nobody complained. Why? My perception is that “back then” (woh, did I just get old?) the studios had a single summer blockbuster that was hyped all year long because they knew it was awesome (or at least close to awesome); the quality of the films were almost guaranteed.
These days we pre-order our tickets, have a posh seat waiting for us, and just waltz in to see one of 50 big summer movies where quality is in how much money they spent on special effects. It’s disgusting. It has ruined movies.
And then there is J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, a love letter to early Steven Spielberg films that was actually produced by the iconic director’s Amblin Entertainment – thus making it an authentic Spielberg film. (The irony is that Spielberg produced Transformers 3 – opening this summer, from the same studio – one of the many movies that has ruined the theatrical experience.) When the film’s end credits began to roll, every ounce of my being was confused, angry and even a bit sad. Everything that’s RIGHT about the immersive movie experience lay within the grasp of Super 8, a film that isn’t worried about the “creature” or “special effects” as much as it wants you to love its characters (in a very meta moment one of the kids asks his friend to read an article about character development in film).
Super 8 can be simplified as E.T. meets Cloverfield, where the creature is just a device to move the story along. While the audience will long for the big creature reveal, the emotional connection they make with the film will be with the protagonists – which in a Spielberg production are in the many. Super 8 follows Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) struggling with the loss of his mother (in a freak accident at a local plant), as his father (Kyle Chandler) continues to break down. Filming a movie with his friends, Joe falls in love with Alice (Elle Fanning), who is having problems with her seemingly abusive father (Ron Eldard). Abrams takes some time to really introduce us to the kids, who carry a Goonies-like feel to them (Riley Griffiths is the “fat kid” while Ryan Lee likes to blow stuff up with his homemade fireworks). Eventually the kids end up at the train station where their film shoot comes to an explosive end. As shown in the clips, a train crashes leaving a weird box-shaped device in their grasp, while military officers come splashing to the scene. The mystery thickens as the kids keep the secret to themselves, all the while the military quietly begins to take over their town.
Without giving too much away, Super 8 isn’t a straight-up horror movie, but it carries signature Spielberg scares such as a gas station and bus attack that are both over-the-top intense. It’s incredibly dark, like when Spielberg wasn’t afraid of scaring off a few family members (think Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Literally everything screams “1980s Spielberg” from the kid’s haircuts to the (impeccable) score, cinematography, dark family relations, and overly melodramatic finale. While the ending will piss a lot of people off (much like with War of the Words), it’s actually a remarkably beautiful connection between the two families and said creature. Sealed tight and wrapped with a bow, they say.
I find it absolutely hilarious that James Cameron spent $500 million on Avatar in an attempt to create an immersive experience (he failed), yet Abrams did it on a shoe-string budget (for a studio film). Super 8 truly is the beginning and the end of summer blockbusters. In fact, this is the summer blockbuster of 1986. If Abrams’ flick came out in the ‘80s, it would be the sole movie that everyone was in line for. That’s the most heartbreaking aspect of this mind-blowing nostalgic experience. Grab your loved ones and embrace what could be the last true summer movie event.
“What is the #Super8Secret?”