Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8

Caught Super 8 last night.

It's fair to say that I am a huge target for this film. I was mightily inspired by the Amblin'/Spielberg films of the 70's and 80's that J.J. Abrams is keen to invoke with this project. Hell, I remember after the triple combo of Jaws, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, every kid I knew had dug out their family old super-8 movie camera with the idea of becoming the next weaver of celluloid glory.

We all new the stories of young Spielberg crafting epics in his back yard, and it seemed so easy. Turns out it wasn't...even in the early 80's developing, or even buying, super-8 film was almost a thing of the past. Then video cameras...but editing on them was a nightmare.

Either way, what I can say is that I understand the kids of the small Ohio town of this movie. I was there, I get it. They're not only evocative of the kids that were The Goonies or Stand By Me, but the kids who loved those movies, as well. It isn't a small joy to revisit a film aiming so nakedly for the same kind of thrills that I experienced in movie theaters some thirty years ago.

The fact that Abrams is abetted by The Beard himself, as a producer, is interesting. I wonder how Spielberg feels about trading in nostalgia about his own work?

The good news is, on the whole, the enterprise succeeds. There are scenes scattered all through the film that immediately, and viscerally,  bring memories of Jaws, E.T., or Close Encounters. What's nice is that they make that connection, but without feeling like they're just mimicking. Abrams has done a terrific job of capturing a feel, without losing himself in detail. He's not stamping out cookie-cutter reproductions of things Steven shot better than anyone else ever could.

That said, it all doesn't work. Mainly these are in the moments where the film seems to leave the grounding that it has for most of it's running time, and that Spielberg's early filmography always had. The train crash that sets off the events of the film is so blindingly over the top that it doesn't even make sense within the script. Simply put, if the wreck is THAT bad, the subsequent events in the script make no sense.

What I go into next is probably *SPOILER* territory, but I also think it's blindingly obvious in the marketing materials that the film is about an alien, that I find it ridiculous that some people find the confirmation of that to be terrible.

Yes, there's an alien.

It looks like shit.

OK, that's not fair. It doesn't look like shit, per se, as much as it looks far to similar to the "big beasties" that appear in every, single film J.J. Abrams has been involved with. Wanna know what the creature in Super 8 looks like? Take a look at the creature in Cloverfield, which Abrams produced, and the ice planet monster from Star Trek, which he directed. Then squint a bit.

Mr. Abrams, please make an effort to find some new and different conceptual ideas next time.

So, that annoyed me, but it didn't ruin the film. On a whole it was an incredibly good time at the movies, that bumped into an awesome time at the movies with the ending credits, when Abrams runs the actual super-8 movie the kids have made.

Good times.

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