Not going to lie, writing an extensive review for the 20th best film of the year isn't nearly as much fun or insightful as writing one for the top 10. Therefore, sorry if this review isn't spectacular or anything, but I tried my best. I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this film.
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Released June 10, 2011
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Ron Eldard
In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
Since the creation of Lost, J.J. Abrams has become one of the most wanted people in Hollywood. With the exception of Mission: Impossible III (2006), Abrams has a strong presence in the genre of Science Fiction with works such as Cloverfield (2008), Fringe (2008-), and Star Trek (2009). Super 8 continues his exploration into Science Fiction, but the film is a strong homage to the classic Spielberg blockbusters from the late 70's and early 80's.
Super 8 is eerily reminiscent of an early Spielberg film such as E.T. or one of the several monster throwback films of that time period. The great thing about those films is because they carried a certain charm and remembrance with the audience. Most people will always recall the chase scene in E.T. when they fly on their bike. Super 8 definitely differs namely for a few different reasons. First, there isn't a great memorable scene that will stand out 20 years from now. Secondly, the alien isn't a friend of the protagonist, at least not to the extent. The biggest problem I have with Super 8 is that the characters, human and alien, are not memorable. The film does a great job of developing these characters and drawing interest for the first hour, but then the dynamics of the characters and story seem to become unhinged from there. The relationship between the father and son isn't executed particularly well. In fact, most of the relationships between the adult characters and kids aren't very good as a whole. It's a dichotomy that's been played out several times before, the main kids of the film don't see eye to eye with each other. Therefore, they must find solace in other kids. Fortunately the relations among the kids are great. Subplots involving the Joe and Charles infatuation with Alice aren't excruciating or eye roll worthy. I credit this with J.J. Abrams knowing how to capture the essence of kids interacting with another.
The biggest component of Super 8 is the alien. J.J. Abrams was involved with a film similar to Super 8 a few years earlier called Cloverfield. The monster in Cloverfield appears on screen clearly at times throughout the movie, and depending on who you ask, was either a great element or a poorly executed one. The alien in Super 8 definitely doesn't make as many appearances. All we're left with is a couple of glimpses of it through the dark. It's not until the films 3rd act that we good a idea of what the creature looks like. It's an execution that works well. The Cloverfield monster appears more because… well it's bigger. It's small and agile, and if were seen frequently it wouldn't make for a very good alien and therefore wouldn't be nearly as captivating.
Overall Super 8 sets out to accomplish one thing for it's audiences: invoking a sense of fun with nostalgia. The film certainly exceeds at being fun for the audience. There are great set pieces including the train sequence and plenty of action scattered throughout the film. However, the only problem with going for a hardcore nostalgia angle for the film is that it inevitably won't be nearly as memorable as the films it's modeled after. When everyone saw E.T. back in the early 80's, they told people to go see it immediately. With Super 8, people are going to come out of the theater and saw that they liked it… and move on with their lives.