Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Review: Super 8

The writing-producing-directing mega-power that is J.J Abrams directed this latest summer mega-hit working alongside his mentor and hero Steven Spielberg in the Producer seat.
Super 8 is a coming of age story set in small-town sleepy surburban America in 1979. It follows Joe, Alice, Charles, Martin & their gang as they try to make a film of Charles' latest zombie tale when they are interrupted filming one night by a train derailing under peculiar circumstances. It transpires something sinister was being transported inside one of the freight carriages, and its subsequent escape becomes a major problem for the local townspeople and Charles and his friends.
It goes without saying that the special effects in any J.J. Abrams production are going to be fantastic, and Super 8 is no different - the train derailment in particular is simply brilliant, as are the monster scenes. However, effects aside Super 8 manages to capture the spirit of adventure, and its young leads are worthy of their roles and their dynamic as a group is perfect and effortless - perhaps evidence of their friendships built throughout filming. Charles is the leader and director of their zombie production (and he owns the titular Super 8 camera they are using to film), Joe is the protagonist of the piece and is shy but tough, Alice, or Allie, is cast as the heroine of their film, but mainly because Charles fancies her (as does Joe). The kids are the foundation on which the film is built, and they certainly prove their chops holding together such a big summer blockbuster (it cost $50,000,000 and it's grossed over $220,000,000 already). The supporting adults are also worthy characters, with Kyle Chandler playing Jack, the local Deputy who is also Joe's dad and Ron Eldard as Allie's down-and-out father Louis. The two men have "a past", and the slow unravelling of their beef is actually rather good, with the final reveal proving to be an emotional and tragic occurence.
You can't really talk about the film without mentioning the monster which is done extremely well. It's very much in the same vein as the Cloverfield monster, but looks more agile and athletic, (and manageable based on its size). Abrams manages to stave off showing the whole thing until at least two-thirds through the film which is a bonus, although the full clear images of it aren't until near the end - often just showing glimpses of it as it rushes across a scene, hides in the shadows, or pulls an unsuspecting citizen into the bushes.
The setting is a suburban landscape so familiar with eighties slasher movies and alien invasion pics; white picket fences, an old train station, driveways and lawns, and even an old chrome watering tower presiding over the town. A safe haven of small-town Americana which is thrown into disarray. Abrams also doesn't skimp too much on the gore of the monster attacks, which although remains mostly unseen, is made more real by the sounds you hear offscreen, and a glimpse of the action.
J. J. Abrams' Super 8 is a fantastic hybrid of coming-of-age and monster-invasion. The film plays out as an homage to the film's of it's directors youth, with Spielberg clearly playing a huge influence on it's style and storytelling. The magical qualities of films such as E.T. or The Goonies can never quite be matched by anything Hollywood has to offer nowadays, but Super 8 comes as a breath of fresh air for a summer blockbuster.


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