Sunday, June 12, 2011

Super 8 has a Super Start but Falls Short in the End

Super 8 (3 out of 5 stars)
Directed and Written by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, and Ron Eldard

As I sat back in my seat last night I could feel the nostalgia of the 1980s Spielberg movie.  I feel like the theme with both the films I saw for this week was nostalgia.  Super 8 takes the viewers back on a journey to the late 1970s, through the vantage point of children.  J.J. Abrams the writer and director takes the viewer on a journey to a time when technology was still in the early stages, while kids had walk men and film could be developed in only three days, and there was ability to use your imagination.

The film starts with a man changing the numbers at a factory for the amount of numbers they have not had an accident, and then pans to a funeral.  The funeral is key to the emotional status of of some of the main characters, and drivers their actions (some done well, some not).  The films follows around a group of young friends who encounter a train accident as they are filming their own zombie movie for a film festival.    Soon after the accident there are a lot of strange things that start happening and the group sets out to not only finish their film, but find out what is going in their town.

Without giving too much of the plot away this film does a great job of using its younger actors.  Joel Courtney who plays the lead of the film Joe Lamb the son of the sheriff and Elle Fanning who plays Alice Dainard the older girl with drunk father are the best.  I would go as far as to say that if this film picks up steam Miss. Fanning could beat her sister to an Oscar Nomination.  The other members of the group Cary (Ryan Lee), Preston (Zach Mills), Charles (Riley Griffiths), and Martin (Gabriel Basso) help add both heart and comic relief to this film.  In fact this group of younger actors is on of the best assembled since probably the 1980s in the vein of films  like Stand By Me.

The adults in the film deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), the Louis Dainard character (Ron Eldard), and the air force man Nelec (Noah Emmerich) are all under developed characters.  Like in those old movies that center around younger children, the adults come across as cliche caricatures.  I think this element takes away emotional heft from the film, but the children do such a great job that is almost does not matter

The one thing that takes away from this film is that J.J. Abrams starts with such strength, and the film loses the steam it had in the beginning of the film.   With a film like like this there is a natural build up to what is causing the problem in the town.  The end reveal is not a let down, but it loses the pacing that the beginning of the film.  Like with Cloverfield (2008) the film starts out with a strong emotional pacing and falls flat in the end.  This film is much better than that, and Abrams has done a great constructing a solid summer blockbuster.

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