Sunday, 19 June 2011

Super 8


Writer/Dir: J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek)
Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Amanda Michalka, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Joel Courtney, Zach Mills
USA, 2011

Seen: June 17, 2011

Reason to see: It felt SciFi, which was enough for me!

I had a feeling I was going to enjoy Super 8 from the can't-really-tell-what's-going-on trailers that give you a science fiction *and* 70's feel, that brings you in enough without saying to much. And that feeling was bang on because it is (late) 70's set and science fiction, and to be honest that's enough for me. But add that it follows a group of kids who are making a movie, and well... I wish I wrote the dang thing!

We follow Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) who is friends with aspiring director Charles (Riley Griffiths) who has set the summer project of making a movie. The ragtag team of friends includes prone-to-explode stuff Cary (Ryan Lee), acting leading man Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Preston (Zach Mills) as well as leading lady Alice (Elle Fanning of Somewhere). Lovingly set in the late 70's there is a great nostalgic tone to the film plus it allows for a setting where the kids can get themselves into all kinds of good trouble without things being dire. Or course trouble does seem to find a way to find them anyway. That's were we get into the science fiction and thriller elements of the film. But I love that even among them we have a strong emotional through line with the realism of the emotional journeys of the kids. From challenging family situations to sweet buds of romance everything reads true. I loved how no one was glamed up and no one was over the top, they all just felt like regular kids and regular families even if they weren't perfect. In fact, no one was perfect - maybe that's what made it feel so real!

There were so many things to enjoy about the film, I loved that it's an ensemble cast even though we follow Joe, who isn't the leader of the group of friends or the leading man in their film, he's just a kid trying to do his best in the situation he's in. He's often playing against the trying relationship he has with his dad (played by Kyle Chandler), his friendship with director Charles as well as 'the girl' Alice. We also get more family drama between Alice and her Dad (Ron Eldard), and somehow even though it's set in a pretty small town they avoid the cliche's it could have easily fallen into. Instead we get honest characters who earnestly do their best in extreme circumstance. I love that.

The kids are great band of ruffians who are surprizingly good actors holding the film as their own for the majority of the time. At times I felt like I was watching a Robert Altman film with kids, with them talking over each other lots going on with all of them at the same time. I was particularly impressed with the performances by Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney and Ryan Lee. Overall, Super 8 was highly enjoyable and easy to recommend. There are some scary elements to it which is the only reason I can't no holds barred widely recommend it, but for most people it will just adds to the excitement. Super 8 has some of my favourite moments I've seen on film this year so far and I can't wait to watch it again.

Side note: I also have to admit that I love Super 8 just a touch more than an average film for the fact that the trailers were pretty spoiler free. J.J. Abrams proves time and again that not only can this be done but that it adds to the experience of seeing the film. When I think of projects he's been involved with from Star Trek (2009) to Cloverfield to the TV Show Lost, they all have the element when seeing the story unfold in the moment has power and meaning and the marketing thankfully finds a nice balance of intrigue but stays spoiler free. It can be done! Yay!

Shannon's Overall View:
I really enjoyed it
I'll happily watch it again
I highly recommend it, especially to sci fi fans and/or to anyone who likes to get nostalgic over the 70's

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Sorry Tom - I removed your comment trying to keep it spoiler free...

Dan O. said...

For all its obvious touches of Spielbergia, Super 8 feels a whole lot like The Iron Giant meets Stand By Me. In a good way. Good Review!

Tom said...

I thought it was a cross between ET, Close Encounters, Stand By Me, Goonies, and Bad News Bears. Oops. Did I give it away by saying ET?

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the film, and the review Dan O! I was actually very impressed that you can feel that it is a collaboration between Spielberg & J.J. Abrams - I didn't think that could work but it does!

I love the films you referenced, Tom - that totally gives the feel of the film. And I'll email you the reference :)

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