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USA 2011
Directed by
J J Abrams
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Super 8

Synopsis: Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) has just lost his mother. His father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler) is a local sheriff’s deputy, and isn’t coping well. Joe loses himself in model-making and makeup for the zombie film his friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths) is making. Then one night they film a train crash and the friends are thrown into a strange adventure.

Childhood friends, after-school adventures, your first love, a giant crazy alien that eats people, isn’t nostalgia great? E.T. if it was written by Stephen King and directed by Joe Dante is the best way I can describe Super 8. That’s a compliment but even so it feels a bit like I’m watching someone’s memories of other, better films. Drawing on the things you love is one thing, but imitating them can make for a slightly awkward experience when you’ve already seen the originals. It’s something I could never quite shake as I watched JJ Abrams’ film, even though I was enjoying myself.

Make no mistake, Super 8 is a good film and is worth seeing. The band of friends making their zombie film provides heaps of laughs, the kids are hysterical and totally believable. This isn’t one of those films where kids are wise beyond their years, they’re kids and they carry on like kids. Charles is interesting, a fat kid who is actually the ringleader, an element that’s a welcome departure from the typical depiction of overweight children. And Joe, is spot on as the kid who falls for Alice (Elle Fanning), a slightly older girl cast in Charles’ film whose dad was indirectly responsible for his mother’s death. So there’s a Romeo and Juliet vibe to the whole relationship as the two fathers fight, using their children. But that’s just the character drama. There’s strange goings on in the town, people disappearing, the US Air Force taking over, etc., all pointing to a mystery that the kids have been warned not to investigate, for fear they and their families might be killed. Naturally, circumstance dictates that they must, and the way things play out is really well-handled, especially once the ground troops decide to stop waiting and go to war against the creature.

I kinda wished I was 14 when watching this, because it feels like that’s about the sweet spot for experiencing it. It’s a young teen film with a bit of teeth to it, a bit of wonder and a lot of mystery and adventure. But I got to see those kinds of films when I was a kid, so watching a rehashed version wasn’t as enthralling for me as it might have been. But if I was younger, without those memories, I reckon I’d have had a ripper time with this one. It might have even become one of those great memories. We’ll never know, but I kinda admire Abrams for attempting to create something like that for the youth of today. I have no idea if a film set back in the late '70’s early '80’s will play to those kids the same way, but I guess we’ll find out. And be sure to stick around for the end credits, they’re the highlight of the film, seriously.




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