Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8

I've never been one for viral marketing campaigns. There was a time, during the Lost Universe shenanigans, that I attempted to navigated the unending maze of hidden clues and secret websites but after weeks of punching in the numbers and looking for hidden Dharma Initiative logos I realized that I wasn't learning anything about Lost's mysteries. While it was fun, in a way, to stumble across some strange, hidden thing in pop culture, it ultimately boiled down to a big, unrewarding headache.

Flash forward a few year's and we have Super 8, the latest project from J.J. Abrams', a director/producer/writer that I respect and admire (read: love, like the fanboy I am). It seems like ages since I first saw the teaser of a massive train derailment and ... something escaping from a box car and as the release has gotten closer the anticipation has only built around what would be the #Super8secret.

Those questions have finally been answered now, as the film opened to a respectable and situationally-impressive $35.5 million last weekend (for more on that go here).

As the credits role we find ourselves in 1979. We meet Joe (newcomer Joel Courtney) who his dealing with the accidental death of his mother and helping his teenage friends finish a Zombie movie. You've seen the trailer, the kids are filming at a train station when a truck inexplicably enters the tracks, derails a freighter in a eye-popping extravaganza of set demolition and releases ... something. From there, the kids scramble to finish their movie and simultaneously unravel the mystery of unexplained occurrences going on around town.

The big secret of Super 8 is that there really is no secret. There's no big reveal or twist ending, no shocking never-see-it-coming finale. In all honesty the flow of the storyline is quite predictable but there's the rub, this isn't a movie made for mystery. It's a spectacularly well-made display of character and storytelling.

Don't get me wrong, the movie is full of "wow" moments as the town is literally torn apart by both the mysterious creature and the U.S. government personnel bent on capturing it. The true story, however, is this group of kids. You'll find yourself thinking of E.T., only instead of a benevolent pet the monster is an actual monster. In fact, it'll remind you of a lot of movies that you love: The Goonies, or perhaps if The Sandlot gang met the Cloverfield monster.

The beauty of this movie is not in its ability to punch you in the face with something you've never seen before, but instead in its way of giving you something you haven't seen in a long time. It's sincere and genuine in its characters and an absolute treat. Co-captains Abrams and Steven Spielberg are not looking to make a franchise with a never-ending barage of sequels (cough, Pirates) they're looking to simply make a great, heartwarming, adrenaline-film, emotional fim and they succeed with flying colors.

In her review for Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum asks the question, "How have we survived for so long on such a meager, high-cal, low-nutrition diet of processed summertime superhero sequels?" I loved X-Men as much as the next guy (I really did, go see it) but she's right, and Super 8 reminds us of a day when the process of true story creation existed in mainstream films and not the sole dominion of Arthouse theaters.

The summer has just begun, but looking at the calendar of what's ahead I doubt that anything will come close to matching Super 8's quality this year, or perhaps for many years. A

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