This weekend, the Beloved and I ended up with a surprisingly unscheduled Saturday so after an early trip to Coronado Dog Beach, we decided to do something we don’t do too often in these busy days: go to the movies.
After a perusal of the last of the pre-Potter theater listings, we opted to go see JJ Abrams’ science fiction film Super 8. I’d been interested in this movie ever since I saw the trailer many months ago. I’m an Abrams fan and Spielberg’s movies shaped a lot of my adolescence –Jaws,Close Encounters, Raiders, and E.T. – man, that’s a lot of influence right there.
The bromance between Abrams and Spielberg has been pretty well publicized and in many ways this film was an homage to Spielberg by Abrams – an attempt to capture the feeling of the Spielbergian alien classics – Close Encounters and E.T.
The film follows a group of filmmaking teen nerds as they attempt to make their zombie movie for a local film festival as they become entangled in a horrific train crash in their small Ohio town – a crash that unleashes something into their midst and begins wreaking havoc on the town.
The teen cast is exceptional and covers the entire gamut of nerds: bossy filmmaking guy, big talking scaredy-cat, firebug, winsome lass, and troubled dreamer. I bought every one of them. Having been 14 years old in 1979 (when the film is set) I felt a strong connection to the kids and could have been one of them, you know if you substituted Dungeons & Dragons for filmmaking.
The film centers on the mysterious happenings after the crash and includes a slew of Spielberg staples: resourceful kids, menacing military men and normal folks dealing with the extraordinary -- I’m pretty sure that a list of the winks and nods to moments from Spielberg's movies could fill some film student's dissertation.
Coupled with this is the personal story of Joe Lamb – the central teen character – as he deals with the accidental death of his mother and discovers love for the first time. Throughout, the personal and SF elements are balanced effectively. The special effects – in particular the train crash – are well done and the anxiety in the film builds effectively without resorting to gore.
Overall, the movie had a chance to be "great" instead of "good", but they sort of family-movied their way to the ending which is okay, because I guess it's supposed to be a family movie. I'm sure I'll watch this one several more times, just because it was fun.