I won't beat around the bush about this: I LOVED Super 8. From the opening moments of seeing the Amblin logo back on the screen, the music, the atmosphere, and the characters I couldn't help but have a big grin on my face while watching the movie. These are the kind of movies I grew up on. The Spielberg produced and directed films of the 80's which had amazing casts, great stories, and incredible special effects for good measure. If you put ET, The Goonies, and Close Encounters in a blender, Super 8 would be the outcome. Hollywood doesn't make movies like this anymore, and this was a big gamble for Paramount and those involved, and I'm glad to say that they hit this one out of the park. This is a very special little movie, and the must see of the summer.
When a group of kids sneak out in the middle of the night to film a scene for their zombie movie, they never could have expected what would happen next. While out at a train stop, they see a train coming down the tracks. Down on the opposite side, a truck turns on and goes head on for the train, knocking it off the tracks while the kids watch. Stuck in the middle of the destruction, the kids try to hide what they've seen from their parents and the town. But when military forces start showing up and all the dogs in the town go missing, the kids start investigating the situation on their own. But what they discover is much scarier then any of them could imagine, and the fate of their town lies in their hands.
I have to say, ever since the teaser appeared last year in front of Iron Man 2, I couldn't wait to see this. I was so intrigued by the idea of of Spielberg and Abrams working together that my thoughts were just reeling at the possibilities of what was they could do. Spielberg is arguably my favorite filmmaker of all time, working with Abrams who to me is one of the golden children of Hollywood now. He is always thinking outside the box and creating things that are different. What the two have created here is a wonderful nostalgic love letter to Spielberg's films of the 80's, and a gateway for a younger generation to discover the classics. Super 8 is two very different movies put together. What it appears to be is an alien attack on the small town, and while that is a part of the film, the heart and soul of this film is a childhood adventure, the love for making movies, and searching for family and closure.
Let me begin with the cast, wow. I love the fact that Abrams and Spielberg got a cast of relatively unknown's for the main group of kids. And what's more than that, they can all act. And well. Especially the two main kids played by Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb, and Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard, respectively. This movie hinges on loving these characters, and wanting to see them succeed in their goal to finish their movie, but also coming closer together. And I can't say Joel and Elle deliver in anything less than spades. I couldn't help but fall in love with these two characters. Joel comes from a broken home where he and his father (played by the always incredible Kyle Chandler) barely know each other and are just seeming to get by after an accident months earlier. Oh, and on top of this, his father is also the town deputy. Elle comes from a home where her single alcoholic father is nothing but an angry and emotionally abusive person who has lost everything that it means to live. When Joel and Elle first meet, their is definitely a something off between the two. Elle isn't trusting of him because he is the son of the town deputy, but after the accident, the two begin coming closer together. It is very real friendship, and really shows what your first summer teenage crush was like. They share what is arguable one of the best scenes in the movie together when Elle sneaks into Joe's room in the middle of the night. They stay up late talking and really open up to each other, and the emotions are real and deep. You couldn't help but feel for them. Both of them are actors to watch, and I for one hope they have long careers after this.
The rest of the cast of kids are great as well. What I love is that even if they don't have a ton of screen time, they all have quirks and traits that will make you remember them. There is Charles, their director and the foul mouthed one in the group, much like Mouth in The Goonies. A fun character, and the exact opposite of Joe in every way. But they are, and always will be, best friends until the very end. Then there is Cary, Preston, and Martin, but I won't delve too much into their personality quirks. It's better to see it for yourself. For me, one of the best things about the movie is seeing one of my favorite actors, Kyle Chandler, front in center in a leading role. Usually a character actor in movies, and mostly known for the television shows Friday Night Lights and Early Edition, I've always enjoyed his work. And Chandler plays Joe's emotionally traumatized father Jackson perfectly. The two barely know each other, and have only grown farther apart after an accident months before. As the situation in the town gets more out of control, everything begins falling on him as well, stressing their relationship even more. Chandler has always been an actor I've loved watching, and he just kills here. People need to take notice of him and really give him more love in films. A scene towards the end of the movie when his character finally gets into hero mode got a cheer from the audience and really blew the movie wide open for me. I demand more movies with Kyle Chandler as the main character, Hollywood, take note!
And of course, I have to talk about Abrams' direction of the film. He really has his own visual style, but he also tried to replicate the look and feel of The Goonies and E.T., but with more lens flare. I was just blown away by the man's attention to detail and how closely he made it feel like one of those movies while still keeping his own style intact. Quite frankly, it was brilliant. Not only is this movie a grand adventure, it's also incredibly touching. I mean, I'll be honest, I teared up a little at the end. These characters are so easy to relate to, it's impossible to not feel something towards the end. And between all these action packed and emotional scenes, there is humor. And I don't mean a little humor. I laughed a lot, from little things from the things that characters were saying to random background characters actions. This movie is a perfect balance of absolutely everything. Abrams to me, is the ultimate showman of his generation, much as Spielberg was in the 80's. He knows what audiences want, and delivers on his promise fully. I love the small things he added as the movie as well, from passing references to Three Mile Island before it's meltdown, to posters for Star Wars and love for all things monsters that really gives the movie more personality to the decade. Also, there is a nice little nod of the movie within the movie to a very popular and iconic zombie director that I really loved, which I won't give away here. I just really liked the way Abrams handled the movie. I also really liked the design of the monsters, and love that you never really see it until the end of the movie. It really added to the ominous nature of the film.
Super 8 is an incredibly magical throwback to what is arguably the greatest decade for film and one of the world's greatest filmmakers. With an amazing cast, a great story, and a great score, there is no way to not recommend this movie. This is a movie that makes me demand from Hollywood we go back to what made filmmaking special. The movies like this that really make us emotional and feel for the characters on great adventures. Abrams is a director I always loved, and he has solidified his status as one of my favorite directors of the new age of Hollywood. This is an incredible movie, and gets my highest recommendation. This is the must see movie of the summer, don't miss it!
PS -Am I the only one who sees the resemblance between Spielberg and Abrams?! The two look so incredibly similar, I'm starting to think Abrams is Spielberg reincarnate...