When half of a movie is awesome -- but the rest not so much -- I tend to be more grateful for what works rather than upset over what doesn’t. Such is the case with Super 8, a sci-fi thriller about a group of youngsters trying to solve an intriguing mystery while making a movie they hope will be accepted in a film festival.
Captivated by the energy and enthusiasm of these kids (Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee Cary, Zack Mills, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Bosco) in the opening scenes, I became fascinated with their preparations for filming a “zombie” flick. And I couldn’t help feeling the same stunned reaction the boys had to the raw acting talent of their friend Alice (Elle Fanning) as she rehearses her big scene. That alone makes Super 8 worth the price of admission. To me, it’s the most memorable film sequence so far this year!
Next, I was astonished at the explosive incident these budding movie makers witness during their filming activities one fateful night in 1979. Unfortunately, from that point on, Super 8 goes off track by focusing on more explosions, massive firepower, monster madness and loud shouting from almost everyone on screen.
“Complete insanity!” my husband declared at the end of the film.
“Why was everyone going berserk?” my daughter complained at the same time.
Clearly, they both judged this movie for its negative aspects instead of concentrating on its brilliant achievements.
I’m convinced that most members of the target audience for Super 8 will overlook plot problems and excessive reliance on special effects. Why? Because it’s such fun to watch kids get so involved in filmmaking. Plus the movie’s suspenseful approach to a unique monster adds to its entertainment value for this age group -- as well as for others who enjoy a scary monster flick.
Still, like the movie itself, performances are uneven here. Fanning stands out -- and so does newcomer Joel Courtney as the fearful but courageous young hero. Fanning (Somewhere) should get star billing in her next film. She’s that good here. With his expressive eyes and appealing personality, Courtney makes it easy to care about his character, a boy who’s recently lost his mom as the result of a tragic accident. Kyle Chandler (TV’s Friday Night Lights) and Ron Eldard (House of Sand and Fog) bring convincing intensity to their roles as fathers who seem to hate each other, and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show) is quite threatening as the man with a scorched earth mentality. But many cast members are too often hard to understand, especially when they YELL at each other, sometimes all at once.
Because Steven Spielberg produced this film, I expected something similar to E.T. Wrong! As written and directed by J. J. Abrams (Star Trek), Super 8 comes across more like a creative combination of Goonies and Cloverfield.
An optimist will tell you the glass is half full; the pessimist, half empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be. -- Unknown
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and some drug use.)
For more information about Super 8, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.