Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8 ***1/2

Like many around my age I grew up on the early films of Steven Spielberg.  One of the first films I remember seeing in a theater was E.T. and recall being totally mesmerized.  You could say I'm a child of Spielberg and Lucas - I spent my childhood wearing out VHS tapes of Star Wars and Jaws.  J.J. Abrams did manage to get some of the magic from early Spielberg.  This film recalls E.T., Close Encounters, Goonies, and many other from that era. 

It is 1979 and a group of kids in rural Ohio are trying to make a zombie film.  Both Spielberg and Abrams made films as children - and it is so great to watch a film that captures the romance of filmmaking.  Early on we quickly learn about the different personalities in the group.  There is the leader, the nerd, the eccentric, and the quiet kid.  They recruit Elle Fanning (Alice) who amazes the boys with her acting ability.  All the scenes with the kids play out perfectly without going over the top.

Without revealing too much, the town begins to experience strange events after a train wreck.  The governement gets involved and all hell begins to break loose.  It seems only children are able to figure everything out, a very Spielberg touch.  Midway through, the human drama of the early scenes gets lost in some extended action sequences.  But the film never loses its sense of humor. Abrams does manage to hold it together, but the climax does not quite have the magical ending that Spielberg always delivered. 

 Super 8 is a fun summer movie.  It is destined to be a classic and hopefully will inspire studios make more films in this mode that emphasize the human drama rather than CGI effects.  Superhero films are unlikely to go away, but whatever happen to the idea of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances?  Abrams rejuvenated network television with LOST and if Super 8 is any indication, I look forward to anything he does in the future.

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