Taking a break from the Alien films to talk about a new film currently out in cinemas (at least here in the U.K.). Damn you Americans and your prompt release dates! Also don’t worry if you haven’t seen Supers 1 through 7- there’s a “Previously on…” segment at the start. Hohoho… #obviousjoke.
Super 8 (2011)
Whilst attending this year’s Amateur Reviewer Douchebag Convention (Or AmRevDoucheCon for short) it was made law that no Super 8 discussion could take place with mentioning Steven Spielberg. It’s tough not to- the guy’s influence is all over this film, despite only being an executive producer. This is J.J. Abrams’ baby- it just wears a cap, has a beard and gets together with George Lucas every now and again to discuss new and exciting ways to commit franchisicide and milk their loyal fans for every penny they have.
“If you speak of this, you and your parents will be killed.”
The film takes place in 1979 in the fictional small town of Lillian, Ohio. Whilst making a amateur zombie flick, a group of kids witness and accidentally film a massive train crash. One of the children, Joe (Joel Courtney) sees something escape from the wreckage, but the group are forced to run when the air force show up. Weird shit then starts happening in Lillian, such as car engines going missing, power surges and all the town’s dogs spontaneously running away to neighbouring towns. I really enjoyed the story. It was compelling and genuinely intriguing. On the one hand, the film is a growing-up, coming of age film and on the other a big scale, old-style mystery. Glibly, it’s like E.T. crossed with Cloverfield with a bit of The Goonies thrown in. We spend a lot of time with the kids, so it’s a good thing they’re all fantastic actors without exception. I normally get very irritated by precocious Hollywood brats, but these kids are different. Most impressive of all is Elle Fanning’s (yes, sister of Dakota) turn as Alice. I liked Joe’s dad (Kyle Chandler) too. I kept torturing myself over where I knew him from, finally I realised he’s the smug prick actor in Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake.
There are certain elements of Super 8 I really don’t like. As I mentioned before, it’s a 112 minute Spielbeard suckjob and the constant riffs on his 70’s/80’s work get a bit tiring if you’re a film nerd like me. I like Spielberg too, but I don’t feel the need to spend millions telling him so. Super 8 is a laser-guided nostalgia missile aimed at the minds of people like me who grew up watching E.T., The Goonies and any other 80’s adventure film starring kids i.e nearly all of them. We’re deep into stereotype territory here- there’s bossy fat one, the wuss, the bland hero, the girl and the er…pyromaniac. I haven’t made my mind up whether this film is a genuine love letter to those films or a cynical marketing ploy to remind people of a time when things weren’t so shit.
Having said that, the film is damn entertaining. The opening train crash is one of the best sequences in recent memory- it’s big, explody and exciting. It doesn’t make much sense though- the armoured, multi-carriage military train is derailed by a pick-up truck driven onto the tracks. Not only does the train not smash the complete fuck out of it, the driver survives to tell the kids plot important information! They have a throwaway line about this, but still- it’s the little things that matter, as I told my ex-girlfriend… on Opposite Day. Hah! There’s another stand-out sequence later on that I won’t spoil, but wow. Just wow.
“Stop talking about production value! The Air Force is going to kill us!”
Every paragraph I write about this seems to devolve into a negative, but the film is actually brilliant. It’s flawed, but I’m only picking on the things that stop it from going from a great film to a fantastic one. I had a blast. It’s fast-paced and actually quite affecting at times. Despite the mawkish go-to plot device of having a dead parent, it’s handled well and there’s a bit with a locket that left me with a lump in my manly throat. So yeah, the effects are amazing, the story is fun and it has some old-school charm to it. Whilst I was initially reluctant to pay money for what was basically a hastily scribbled note from Abrams to Spielberg saying: “I LIKE U. DO U LIKE ME? YES/NO”, Super 8 won me over. It’s a lot of fun.