One of the reasons I wanted to see J. J. Abrams’ Cloverfield so much was obviously the mystery that the previews created. The city is apparently under attack, but by what? Add the found footage angle, and they had me hooked. Now Abrams brings us Super 8, with some of that same mystery. Knowing little about the movie, it seemed like there was going to be another creature, but with the possibility of some weird stuff happening, such as the previews showing floating objects. Again, they had me hooked, but is the pay off worth it the second time around?
A few months after losing his mother, a young boy, Joe Lamb, tries to take his mind off his loss by helping his best friend Charles make a zombie movie. One night, Joe, Charles, and some friends sneak out to film part of the movie by some train tracks. While their camera is rolling, Joe sees the train about to crash, and warns his friends just in time to make a run for it. It turns out that the crash isn’t an accident, and whatever is on that train is about to change the boy’s lives and town’s history forever.
As I was watching the story unfold, one movie kept popping up in my mind. No it wasn’t E.T., The Goonies, or any other Spielberg movie, but it was Stand By Me. Yes, for those that can remember more specifics about E.T. and The Goonies than me, I’m sure you could point out the similarities, and I’m sure they are there. However, as I watched these young boys go on this adventure, I kept thinking about the young boys in Stand By Me, and their adventure. The boys in Stand By Me are on a journey to find a dead body, as the audience gets to learn a little about each boy and the friendship that bonds them. The boys in Super 8 start off on a mission to film a movie, but end up trying to save a girl while their town is being turned upside down. While the audience gets to know some of the boys better than others, again they get to see the bonds of friendship, and how the boys do a little bit of growing up.
What does all this rambling about boys, journeys, and friendship mean? It means this movie turns out to be more about the boys than the big secret that everyone has been waiting to see. As I stated in the opening, that is the reason I went to see this movie. I wanted to see a monster/creature, and to know all about it. Without giving the secret away, let me just say it turns out to be a little disappointing. While the secret is out there causing strange things to happen, again it really isn’t the focus of the film. They hide it for most of the film, and then it is gone before getting to see what it really can do. They do a good job of explaining a lot of things about the secret, but I would have liked to see more of it.
Don’t get me wrong; the boys are very entertaining to watch. They are in the mist of shooting their own zombie film, which is extremely cool on its own. Hell, it kind of made me jealous that I never thought of shooting a zombie film at that age. At certain times in the movie, I kept thinking, “what about the zombie movie?” Well, during the credits they show the entire short film so be sure to catch it. Also, pay attention to the name of the company they mention in the video, but now back to the boys.
The movie does a good job of getting the audience to root for them, especially Joe. Times have been rough for him as it has only been a few months since his mother died, he is struggling coming to terms with her death, and his father is struggling just as much in his newfound role as a single dad. To complicate matters, he develops feelings for the girl whose father happens to be partially responsible for his mother’s death. How could you not feel for him? The boys have an entertaining dynamic while both filming their movie, and figuring out what is going on. I think Cary is the funniest because he likes to blow stuff up, and takes pride in always carrying around a bookbag full of fireworks. They also have serious moments, such as when Joe and Charles have an argument about liking Alice. The movie really tries different angles to get the audience to relate to the boys in some manner.
Besides the big secret being a let down, there are a couple of other things that I noticed, and want to point out. There is a scene where a water tower is acting like a magnet and lifting all kinds of metal objects towards it. There is a soldier whose gun starts to lift off taking him with it until he lets go. As the scene goes on, there is another soldier standing in almost the same spot, and is still holding his gun. Well, why one soldier’s gun and not the other?
Something that really bothers me is the father’s role. For the first half of the movie he is an important character. The audience sees him struggle to deal, or not deal with Joe, grieve for his late wife, investigate the military, and become acting sheriff. Then there comes a point when the military locks him up, and the audience doesn’t see him for an extended period of time. I almost forgot Joe had a father. And when he escapes, they give the impression he is going to do something meaningful, but that never happens. How do you go from being so important in the beginning to so insignificant by the end?
Then there is the train crash, which is one of the better scenes in the movie. It is very realistic looking, and full of great explosions. However, I find it hard to believe those kids could be running through the middle of that disaster, and come out just with some dirt on themselves. All kinds of debris are falling from the sky, and it manages to hit none of them. I know you don’t want to hurt the kids, but come on! How about a few scratches, or something? Also, it is here that they reveal these interesting looking cubes. When Joe takes one as a souvenir, I was thinking this might be a big clue as to what was happening, but it really wasn’t. This kind of thing makes me wonder if the movie was written first to focus on the secret, but at some point changed to focus on the boys.
Oh well, getting suckered into seeing this movie wasn’t all bad. Yes, I’m extremely disappointed that the movie didn’t focus enough on the secret (maybe we can blame that on Spielberg, and not Abrams), but it is still a good enough movie. Instead of really being a sci-fi movie, it turns out to be more of a coming of age movie, which barely seems right to review on a horror site. Basically the movie comes down to whether or not you can relate to the boys. If you can, then you might like it. If you can’t, then chances are this movie might not be for you. Mostly because the secret is a big let down for me, I give this movie 2.5 pools of blood.