“Super 8” Review

By: Jordan Magrath

Movie Mashup: “The Goonies” & “Cloverfield”

Before going into the “Super 8,” J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s newest project, I was told it was a modern-day rendition of “The Goonies.”  I would agree, but I’d say it’s more like the hypothetical (and very unlikely) child of “The Goonies” and “Cloverfield.”

Super 8 takes place during the later 1970’s, and follows the unusual events that transpire in the little fictional town of Lillian, Ohio after a bizarre, and devastating, train crash.  A group of young filmmakers are the only first-hand witnesses of the crash.

13-year old Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is in charge of make-up and costumes for the Romero-like zombie satire film the kids are trying to make for a film contest, using their Super 8 camera.  While shooting a scene near a train station, they inadvertantly become witnesses in the train derailment that has the Air Force involved almost immediately, due to the contents of the train.

As the story unfolds, unexplainable things occur around town, including power outages, runaway dogs, and missing persons.  The Air Force keeps quiet and begins using more drastic measures to contain the cargo.

In fear of giving everything away, I’ll just leave it at that.  But, there is a reason I categorize this as a Cloverfield-like movie (hint hint).

Joe Lamb’s character becomes the more in-depth and emotional character in the film.  He falls for the lead actress in their movie, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), and must help her despite the interesting past they share.  Their relationship is complicated multiple times throughout the film.

“Super 8” has a few things going for it.  For being an action/monster film, it does a fabulous job of creating suspense.  Whereas some films rely heavily on giant explosions and gunfire, this one does not.  It relies more on music (done by Michael Giacchino) and lighting to create suspense, which actually scared the shit out of me a few times.  Another Clover-field like aspect is its voyeuristic style, although it’s nothing compared to the shaky-cam of its predecessor.

Abram’s and Spielberg’s styles will be what makes this movie a hit.  While being connected to projects from Lost to Star Trek to Cloverfield, Abrams has built up a significant fan base.  From the producing end, Spielberg helps create a story that touches on a lot of his previous films.  “Super 8” feels a lot like the “classic” Spielberg, including “E.T.” and even “Jaws,” which is widely considered the first true “summer blockbuster.”  From a nostalgia point-of-view, a lot of the baby boomer generation will appreciate this film, especially since the young generation portrayed in the film was most likely them during that time period.

Where the style and action may have excelled, the story definitely wasn’t the strong point.  With its cliche moments and its lack of genuine emotional development, many will likely put the action in front of the story, in terms of strongpoints.  As most people know, without a strong story, the action can only be so good (look at Transformers).

Now, comparing it to Transformers isn’t fair to “Super 8,” because it was obviously a better film.  I only do this to point out that the reason this movie won’t achieve “greatness” in the industry is because of its weaker storyline.  I still think it was technically sound, and even properly acted.

Overall, see the movie.  You won’t be disappointed by any scene.  You’ll want more emotion, but the end scene does do a pretty good job.  The payoff isn’t quite perfect, but its certainly good enough.

Rating: B

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