Super 8 (2011)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
The year? 1979. The setting? My room. I was seven years old. On my bedroom walls, instead of pictures of athletes, I had one-sheets of Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, etc. On my floor? Monster toys aplenty and copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. I can almost still smell the glue from my Aurora model kits. Not that I know anything about sniffing glue, mind you. Well, okay. A little, but it was on a dare so that doesn't count. My friends were equally as infatuated with horror movies, and every day we'd get together to act out our favorites. If any of these activities sound familiar to you, then congratulations. No matter how old you may be, you have officially grown up a monster kid, and J.J. Abrams' new film Super 8 is to a certain extent your autobiography.
Let me get this out of the way first … breathe a sigh of relief, horror heads … Super 8 is very much a monster movie. If the kid-friendly trailers and clips have you thinking that the menace of this flick is anything less than a giant terrifying, pissed-off beast, then they have done their job. The creature itself is just one of many twists and turns that await you at theatres, and that's really the only bit of knowledge that I intend to arm you with in this review.
Welcome to small town America nestled in the heart of Ohio, where youngster and budding special effects artist Joe Lamb (Courtney) and his friends are in the midst of filming a monster movie while their parents are either busy, out, or sleeping. During a late night rendezvous at one of their locations, the crew end up witnessing a horrible train crash that leaves them in a state of fascinated shock. This was no ordinary accident. It was more like a one-in-a-million occurrence that ends up shaking their community to its very core. Almost immediately strange things start happening. Pets run for their lives, people disappear, the army moves in, and no one privy to these extraordinary and horrific events will ever be the same.
And that's all you need to know of the plot because we don't intend on spoiling a single thing for you. While watching Super 8, you'll feel like you have been transported back in time to your childhood with all of your buddies. Everything is instantly familiar. This was a time of magic and splendor. When you weren't entirely positive that the ghastly ghouls haunting your nightmares were one hundred ten percent fictitious. Of course we never had a badass monster chasing us around our hometowns like they do in the movie, but still, I don't think we would have complained too much if we did. That being said, Super 8 fits like the most comfortable horror-knitted sweater you'll ever wear. This is without question one of the best Steven Spielberg movies that J.J. Abrams has ever directed. There's a fine line between imitation and inspiration, and said line is walked here gracefully with little to no missteps worth losing sleep over. Super 8 is one-part E.T., two parts The Goonies, with a dash of Stand by Me, followed by a hard-hitting and frightening Jurassic Park chaser.
Super 8 even works as a period piece. Everything about this era from the "mint" lingo to the clothing to the badass soundtrack will return you to a simpler time before eventually blowing you out the back of your movie theatre with explosions and carnage. Sitting through this flick, only one thing came to mind for this reviewer: "Wow," I said to myself as the monster action heated up. "I feel like it's Christmastime, I'm ten years old, and someone has bought me a pony." It's that damned good. As are each and every one of the kids who play the leads (and even the adults, too). Some may say their characters are clichés, but I say they are more like archetypes. We all know people like each and every one of them in our real lives, and that adds to the empathy, connection, and satisfaction we feel when they are onscreen.
It's hard finding any faults to nitpick, but by the time the credits rolled, we did have a couple. First and foremost, while the action is unfolding, you never get a true monster vs. military payoff. Don't get us wrong; there's plenty of chaos going around, but we never get that destructive exclamation point. Then there's the ending. What we have here, kids, is a throttling experience that will have you slack-jawed and in awe of the spectacle before you topped off with a needlessly sentimental finale that will have some folks weeping while the rest roll their eyes.
*Shakes fist* Spiiiiieeeeellllbeeeerrggggggg!!!!!!!!
Those slight shortcomings aside, Super 8 is the perfect summer movie riddled with the kind of action, heart, and fun that most filmmakers would kill to be able to conjure. There's a new beast in town, and with any luck we haven't seen the last of it. See it. Love it. See it again. Bring your friends. Bring your family. Believe the hype. This flick delivers.
4 1/2 out of 5
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