Movie Review: Super 8

Have you ever sat down to watch a movie that you knew absolutely nothing about, except perhaps the title? That was the case for me with Super 8.

In our wired world, we are so connected and informed, and inundated by advertisement, that it’s difficult to not know what a movie is about, who is in it, and how good it is supposed to be. I, for instance, check Ebert’s Reviews before I go, and I check Rotten Tomatoes. Never pay for a movie with a Tomatometer below 70%. Never. And of course, you readers faithfully check Norbert’s Movie Reviews right here and confirm three stars minimum before you slap down $11.50 for a movie, right?

Super 8 happens to stand for the brand of 8 mm film a group of boys in a small town in Ohio uses for their school film project. Imagine five boys and a girl between age 12 and 14 on a mission just below the radar of their parents. They are making a zombie and slasher movie, with love, drama and action scenes, deftly interweaving live action scenes from the real world. To get a night scene shot at a train depot, they steal away in the middle of the night, drive to the depot and wait for a real train to approach before they start shooting. Then the train derails in front of their eyes, and strange things start happening. The strange things never stop for the rest of the movie.

Produced by Steven Spielberg, written and directed by J.J. Abrams who worked on early Spielberg movies, this story is reminiscent of E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stand By Me and many other movies where the story revolves around a group of young kids on a mission. The story plays in the summer of 1979 and the movie quality, the dialog, the colors, the camera positioning made me feel like I was back in those days, watching E.T. trying to phone home.

The depiction of the train wreck is phenomenal and struck me as totally realistic. I had never really thought about what would happen when a train derailed, how the kinetic energy and momentum of the train cars in the back would continue to propel them forward into the pile of rubble and mayhem at the place of the inital derailment, and the forces involved. And this is not where it ends. Well done special effects continue to contribute to the story as it moves forward.

Excellent story telling, good acting, and a great script that has all the components of adventure, monsters, mystery, coming of age, suspense and science fiction, all wrapped in one, make for a highly entertaining and rewarding movie.

Rating: ***

Spoiler Alert – some plot action revealed below:

The main plot is about an alien that crash landed in a UFO many years before and who was, party due to his cooperation, held prisoner for all these years. Then, however, he got tired of it and broke loose. The alien is probably one of the best depictions of an alien in a movie that I have ever seen. There is nothing humanoid about the alien. Forget E.T. This alien has some eyes, but that’s where the similarities stop. First, he is huge, how big is not really clear, but picture 12 to 18 feet tall when stretched. Being arachnid, however, he is not usually stretched and rather walks on all legs. I am not sure if he has six or eight legs, but the way  they propel him is completely alien. He does not walk like a bug, or a spider, or a mammal. He walks like an alien would. He seems evil, but we find he really isn’t. He just wants to go home. What’s wrong with that? But to accomplish it, it does seemingly very alien things, like capturing humans and stringing them up hanging them by their feet for some reason.

When I sat down to watch Super 8, I didn’t know I was going to be treated to a wonderful story, a suspense movie, and one of the best alien depictions in movies that I can remember. A true surprise.

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