I would imagine that working with (under the shadow of) Steven Speilberg is wonderful, intimidating and terrifying all a the same time. That's what director JJ Abrams (Star Trek, ABC's Lost) did for Super 8 when he asked Steven Speilberg if he'd like to produce the film. I couldn't be happier that he did that however it came at a cost.
Possibly one of the most exciting movies of the summer, Super 8 is a nostalgic sci-fi thriller about how a group of kids in Ohio deal with a mysterious creature that is freed in their town when a train crashes. Super simple story, but it's the way it was executed that made me so excited.
It's not easy to be more than one genre. You see disasters all the time among the ruins of dramatic-comedies. Super 8 isn't a dramatic comedy though. In fact, it chose an even more challenging path for itself that included categories like period piece, coming-of-age, science fiction, action, romance and drama. Yikes! That's a handful. Abrams doesn't pull all of them off well but I give him credit for even trying.
It's no spoiler alert that the train crash scene happens right at the end of the first act, but it's how the train scene goes that should drop the jaw of any unjaded theater goer. I don't care how many bloated 3D pictures you pay for this summer; you won't see a better action sequence than that train crash. The FX are done so masterfully and is performed so well by the kids that it deserves some sort of achievement award for it. Perhaps Super 8 will secure itself an Oscar for Sound for that scene alone.
The cast is full of no-name talents that you may or may not recognize, such as Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Elle Fanning (Dakota's sister). The banter between the children though are one of the most enjoyable things about the film. It reminds me of movies like Stand By Me, The Goonies or (the extremely underrated '80s film) The Explorers. It's a time portal back to what it was like to be 13-years-old and in the throws of summer in a small town. Your first love. Your projects you would attempt with friends. Even feelings of late summer sunsets that seemed to last forever and go on for light years are gorgeously captured in the film. Oh yeah, and there's a blood-thirsty alien too! Ha!
It's easy to forget that Super 8 is an exciting sci-fi movie too while watching it. The downside of the film comes from just that mix up though; it tries to accomplish too much. Super 8 spreads itself a tad too thin and some of the more dramatic scenes fall flat and feel forced because they're not given time to develop. Pitty when you consider that Super 8 is good enough to warrent a three hour film and that would have given it the time it needed to breath.
Although the movie stinks of Speilberg and comes a little too close to E.T. for me to fall in love with it head-over-heels, Super 8 is still one of the best Summer movies so far and makes me look forward to the next Abrams/Speilberg collaboration with sweaty palms!
Super 8 (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-