My love for J.J. Abrams made me want to see Super 8, and the casting of Kyle Chandler, coupled with a story about kids and a super-secret “creature”, cemented that desire. Even when critics lamented its less-than-satisfactory “reveal” I still knew the movie would be for me. Later, when a teen girl’s Facebook post summed up her viewing as “two hours that I’ll never get back,” I only questioned my interest for just one moment. But then my disappointment in Cowboys & Aliens caused me to take a step back and truly ponder if Super 8 might not fail me, too. But I couldn’t let go of the fact that this was a movie about young teens who encounter some sort of unexplained phenomenon; E.T. holds a tight grip on my heart, after all. And so, even though I know there will never be another E.T., I finally rented Super 8 and gave it an honest chance. My conclusion? AWESOME. Awesome in every way that I wanted it to be.
Super 8 is a fun movie. It’s meant to be a FUN movie! The story follows a group of young teenagers in 1979 as they shoot their own Super 8 movie (about zombies, no less!) and in the process witness a train derailment that sets loose a “monster.” But this isn’t some benign extra-terrestrial. It’s vicious and on a rampage, so the majority of the film involves military maneuvers to capture the creature and contain the situation while keeping the small-town folk in the dark. Yet another reason I equated the movie to E.T.; the similarities are also very evident in tone and cinematography. But none of that is what makes Super 8 so cool. It’s the kids that make the movie awesome. It’s the fact that they spend the entire time running around screaming, as you might expect, but also that they decide to run toward the danger because they’re fearless and they desperately want to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on. Super 8 shows kids as kids truly are: inquisitive, unrelenting, creative, and yes, fearless. It’s one of the most natural portrayals of teens I’ve seen in a very long time, and the things that usually bother me in other films (specifically, profanity and crude dialogue) just didn’t seem to faze me as much because I remember being these kids! Everything about their behavior was completely accurate and totally unforced. Especially engaging are young Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney, whose characters begin to forge a sweet little romance in the midst of the chaos. The movie also features a great undertone about the struggles of single fathers to connect with their children, as well as beautiful moments of honesty between young male friends. There is heart in this movie, even as I found actual scream-out-loud moments that made me laugh at myself. All of these things make Super 8 incredibly fun to watch.
Topping off everything else, I think the ending might have been the very best part of the film. I don’t mean the conclusion of the story – that was a bit melodramatic, actually – but rather, the closing credits. As the credits roll we are treated to the full and complete 8mm movie that the kids were filming… the complete ZOMBIE movie. And it’s awesome in every possible way. Seeing that, after all that had gone before… how could I not love Super 8?
movie still via IMDB