I downed an energy drink and caught a midnight screening of Super 8 last night. It was… …good. …yeah… …just good… …not great…
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t banking a great deal of anticipation on this film to be amazing. I actually did an excellent job of changing the channel during commercials for it, and not looking at press-release photos or anything like that leading up to it to keep as much as I could a surprise. I saw the spectacular trailer for it months ago, and wanted everything to do with Super 8. It’s still a brilliantly cut trailer, and the film isn’t bad or anything, but I was definitely hoping for something more.
Banking on Spielbergian nostalgia, Super 8 does do a really good job of capturing something on film that probably hasn’t been done since the 80s or early 90s: make a movie about a bunch of kids and NOT have it be horribly annoying. Though, through a clutter of too many minor characters, the overall impact of the group of kids gets diluted. Still, there are moments in the film that feel so naturally childlike, that it almost becomes eery how much it feels like Goonies or Stand By Me or something. It’s fantastic that all the kids are nerdy losers in the film and they don’t get criticized or judged for being that way. It’s a stark contrast from children’s entertainment today; where the rich, snobby, good-looking children are the heroes and main characters, and the losers are back to being belittled losers. Salvaged only for comic relief at their expense. Let me just say that Super 8 is everything right about how children should be portrayed in entertainment, and the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are everything wrong. I could go on this topic for 10 more paragraphs, so I won’t…
Where Super 8 lost me was on the emotional family sub-plot. Or was that supposed to be the main plot? I shall take a brief tangent to possibly state my opinion on this better. I watched E.T. a couple of weeks ago for the first time in probably 5 or 6 years. It is a film I have seen maybe 15 times as a kid (it was a VHS favorite), and a couple more times since then. A couple of weeks ago I watched it and during the last 30 minutes my eyes legitimately watered up to an embarrassing amount. Tears weren’t rolling down my face, but as a grown man sitting on his couch watching a movie about a boy and his alien friend, I was more emotional than many others would be comfortable admitting. The emotion at the end of the film; E.T. getting sick, the family getting closer, the kids banding together, the return to the spaceship… it was all so fluid and natural. Without that much obvious effort, it’s believable that Elliott really loved E.T..
Didn’t feel that way during Super 8 though, the fluidity of it all. I just didn’t feel it. None of it came naturally, yet it was such a huge part of the story. It wasn’t that bad of a thing until the 2nd half, when it became slightly cheesy and predictable. But overall, it felt like it was written in a way that they said “Ohhhh yeah, the audience is really gonna cry at this part! Oh yeah, definitely gonna feel some emotion here.” Like it was all pre-planned. I know you might be saying, “all movies have pre-planned emotion, dummy”, but I more mean that it didn’t have magic moments that sprouted naturally out of the genuine magic of the movie itself. Maybe because it was such an homage to early Spielberg that it lost its originality and magic altogether. And if you’re thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be focusing on the emotional parts so much, and should have more focus on the fact that it’s a fun summer action/adventure/sci-fi movie… then you probably haven’t seen Super 8 yet. Because they make it painfully obvious that they want you to focus on the emotional stuff just as much as the rest.
But I would also like to point out that I did, overall, like the movie. It’s very entertaining despite its tonal flaws. It has many scenes of quality action and suspense, and a few relatively tense moments as well. In addition to that, it’s pretty funny too. Laughed quite a bit. As I said earlier, the kids in it are great, and it would have been nice if they actually weeded out some of the horribly developed adult characters and to make room for more of the kids. Its got good pacing, and it’s a top-notch production in terms of special effects and most cinematography. I almost feel bad for criticizing it for its lack of emotional impact on me. That might have just been me. Super 8 is a movie that I feel no one should really hate. There’s reason to not think it’s great, but I think most people will find it a satisfying time in the theater. I did. And I look forward to revisiting it again in several months when it comes out on DVD. But I say this completely disregarding any previous anticipation of it, or comparing it to the films it’s clearly homaging, and basing it solely on how the film itself played out: It has a sloppy ending, and it could have been better. But I’d still recommend checking it out.
I'm so jealous. I can't wait to see it. Do I dare read your review...will it give anything away? Is it best to know as little as possible?
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I don't give away anything specific, but I suppose it's better if you don't read it before seeing the film. Probably best to go into it as fresh as possible!
Seems like the movie is the dark side version of ET.
I saw a sneek Thursday night and hands down LOVED it.
That may be because I'm a middle aged family guy who lived through and remembers the 1970s - but I can tell you that it resonated for me in countless ways.
As a videomaker, I loved watching the kids do their film. I loved that it was big AND intimate - fast AND slow - loud AND quiet - modern AND old fashioned - funny and serious - scary and heartwarming - and a bunch of other contrasts all at the same time. Requires deft writing, direction and editing to get all that in one movie.
I can easily imagine that others will have lots to pick at. It's not Citizen Kane, nor should it be. It's a summer fun movie in the grand tradition. And at that, it shines.
The period rang true. The performances seemed spot on (particularly from so young a cast - clearly a mark of excellent direction to my eye.)
The homages that some with bitch about were clear and to me, imminently forgivable. Heck, anyone who thinks it "ripped off" other movies forgets that the stuff that it quotes was largely INVENTED by it's production team in the first place - and so those elements made me smile rather than cringe.
In the end, this movie is FUN. Particularly for anyone with an open mind, an open heart, and who loves classic moviemaking.
Required suspension of modern disbelief required? You bet. But without losing the core of the story or care for the characters? That's precisely what elevates "big" movies into being more than special effects strings. This "big" movie has a lot of heart, a lot of soul, a sense of humor and bags of entertainment value.
I recommend you see it before it's talked about too much. The "I'm a sharpeer critic than the average Joe" folks will surely come after it soon enough.
But it'll ROCK the box office this summer - because it's a really well made movie with a lot of heart.
Simple as that in my view.
"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner
[Bill Davis] "it'll ROCK the box office this summer - because it's a really well made movie with a lot of heart."
Well, since you brought it up and because I'm a nerd about this stuff...
With an estimated $12 million Friday, it's on track for a $35 million weekend. That's ahead of predictions in the $25-30 range. The studio is thrilled because the movie only cost $50m to make...which is widely doubted, but hey.
The Thursday sneak brought in an extra mil, so call it $36 for the weekend.
As for the heart, audiences agree - a B+ Cinemascore. And this stat's not a big shock: 71% of the audience over 25....
I was thinking about it over the weekend, what may have bothered me about Super 8 and such... And I think I figured it out: they should have almost completely eliminated the adult characters altogether.
Mainly Joe's policeman father, and Alice's drunk father. It should have been way more about the kids, and the kids banding together to deal with their family issues. I think about it and almost all of the cheesy scenes in the film revolved around Joe and Alice's dads. Like when Joe walks in on his dad crying in the bathroom, it should have just been Joe mentioning it to his friends, and his friends comforting him. The whole movie should have made the fathers off-camera, almost mythical characters. Talked about but never seen.
Only at the VERY end of the film, literally the very last scene of the film when his dad shows up in the street and hugs him, should the father have been on screen. Like he gets talked about the entire movie by Joe, and then when you finally see him it's this huge emotional moment at the end (and you know it's his dad because Joe establishes his father is a police officer). Wouldn't that have been way more powerful? Because the way they actually did it, it feels like the emotional payoff wasn't earned properly. I think that's what bugged me.
It would have made it more about the kids as well. Let's be honest, it was their story. And all the extra fluff with the fathers kind of messed up the kid's story.
That would have likely fixed the emotional part of it for me. The fun, action part of it, though, I thought was perfectly fine. Good movie. But it missed the chance to be great.
Just my two cents.
[Scott Roberts] "The whole movie should have made the fathers off-camera, almost mythical characters. Talked about but never seen."
Like Charlie Brown's teacher. Voices garbled and irrelevant...
Just saw Super 8. On the Cohenometer I give it 7 out of 9.
Nostalgia for the late 70's Spielberg I love and for my own late 70's early 80's memories. At times it felt like The Goonies which can never be a bad thing. Jeff B Cohen and Sean Astin were certainly influences of Joe and his tubby but loyal friend. Early Spielberg films had broken families and or adorable kids channeling their parents' emotions.
Death of a parent, alcoholism and being an outcast are familiar movie themes and I thought they were appropriate.
The gradual reveal of the antagonist follows the formula of Jaws, Close Encounters and Jurassic Park. I have mixed opinions on the final images but you have to create something new.
The ending was nice and reminiscent of Close Encounters and ET but could have been more dramatic.
Finally the depiction of most adults in authority positions as idiots was also taken from the Spielberg handbook. They even had a lot of walkie talkies.
Overall well done.
PS. Enough with the lens flares JJ
Oh yeah. I really loved seeing the film grain especially in the darker scenes. Sure we have amazing digital cameras but it's good to be reminded why ee call them "films."
I just got around to this movie this week, and like Mike, got the ET and Goonies vibe and the 70's nostalgia was fabulously art directed, meticulous little touches that really sell it. BTW, I hated Goonies when it came out, and still don't care for it much. But the *feeling* of how the kinds relate to each other, it carried that sensibility with it, and that part, I liked. The romance angles are forced too quickly, you can maybe see how they were motivated from the girl's side, offstage, but I wish they'd spend more time letting that evolve.
I like how the monster is hard to see for most of the thing, but was disappointed in the Big Reveal. I feel like I've put in the time waiting, I want to see the thing clearly at the end.
Like District 9, this movie leaves a major plot question un-addressed: is it better for humanity that the creature never gets home to report on us and what we've done? Aren't we setting ourselves up for a retaliatory invasion if we let him escape? Having that argued out should be key in these kinds of movies. Remember the scene in Walter's basement with the kidnapped drug dealer in "Breaking Bad", and the choice Walter has to make?
Finally got to see the film. I loved in the bonus features that JJ Abrams restored and cut Steven Spieberg's home videos when he was like 14 years old. I think the train crash was super cool. I loved that the director was yelling, production value. For me it was fun to see kids making movies, that is what I did with my friends in our spare time and it was fun to see the magic of making a simple film. I really loved seeing the kids film during the credits. However, I think the ending was not very good and I was let down. Maybe I hold JJ Abrams to a higher standard then other directors but I think the ending would have been better if we learn that water kills aliens or something stupid like in Signs. However, the film is defiantly worth a buck.
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Watched this on RedBox $1.20 rental last night and it was just as good the 2nd time through. What I observed on 2nd viewing is just how many Spielbergian elements were combined to make this movie:
1. The small town deputy trying to control a desperate situation (Brody from Jaws)
2. The gathering of townspeople demanding answers (Jaws - similar scene in Close Encounters)
3. The military faking a natural disaster to evacuate the area (Close Encounters)
4. Arrogant military dude who gets it in the end (every movie)
5. Camera angle from a hill top looking down over the town at night (ET)
6. Guys with flashlights waving all around (ET)
7. Child of single parent (ET)
8. Kids being smarter than adults and saving the day (ET, Goonies)
9. late 1970's / early 80's neighborhoods (split level homes - action taking place away from big cities) (ET, Close Encounters, War of the Worlds, Goonies)
10. Nerdy boy's first crush with older pretty girl (ET, Goonies, Transformers)
11. Movie ending with spaceship flying up into the sky and main characters are happy again and audience is crying or at least happy the movie is over (Close Encounters, ET, Indy IV (I know it was not a spaceship but it looked like a spaceship))
I'm sure the list goes on.
The tanks blowing the crud out of the neighborhood near the end was pretty cool. The gradual reveal of the creature was somewhat rewarding - although Joe's brief pleading with the creature seemed too calm and collected, although they did show that the creature has feelings too.
Overall it remains a fun movie and although Spielberg did not actually direct this it feels like he did. Could have done without the lens flares JJ.