Monday, March 5, 2012

Super 8

For his film, Super 8, J.J. Abrams claimed to have gathered kids with little acting experience to give a natural demeanor, but I still think he used a time machine to kidnap children from 1979.

***1/2 out of ****

Oh, J.J. Abrams: The king of lens flares and plot holes.

It took me a while to get around to reviewing this, but I am less motivated to review something I like a lot in spite of it's many flaws.  

J.J. Abrams is a force in modern entertainment who places less importance on story and more on emotion. This is also true of Steven Spielberg but I think Abrams represents a new generation that has taken the Spielbergian vision and mutated it into something with a stronger contrast between the emotional and intellectual. His work tends to introduce a smart idea and mix it with characters who have deep passion. Somehow in the end, the two never really fuse, but at least it was a hell of a ride.

I've liked Abrams's directorial features and productions so far. His production standards are very high, he knows how to entertain, and create suspense. He's kind of like Michael Bay... with a soul. Super 8 had me at it's title. It's a monster movie named after a dead home movie format? Sounds like fun and nostalgia. I'm there. 

This movie is set in 1979 and follows a group of kids who are making their own Super 8 horror movie, but encounter a real unworldly event while shooting. It pays constant homage to flicks of the Spielberg age: Close Encounters, E.T, The Goonies, etc. This movie couldn't have been aimed any closer towards me or whatever my demographic is.

I can't say that the movie disappointed me. Abrams knew what was important. He puts entertainment value first. I just wish that he would finish the job. Super 8 is very good but could be better. It's like looking at a beautiful painting where sections of the canvas have been left blank. The movie creates mystery and suspense by having odd things happen that are never followed up. Dogs running away from home, a pickup truck derailing a train -What? If you're going to use story elements as tools for creating mystery, it helps to justify them. I think Abrams believes he can get away with this because he knows that these elements are not the heart of the movie. I suppose it counts that his heart is in the right place, but it is still selling the audience short.

The real heart of this movie is the kids and how the events surrounding them look like the inflated imaginings of juveniles come to life. Their interaction is gold. Like The Goonies, it sounds the way kids actually talk to each other. Abrams's genius stroke on this movie is during the end credits. After a slightly forced E.T. ending that you may or may not like, he plays the entire Super 8 horror movie the kids were working on in all it's natural clumsiness as the credits roll. This worked like a fail-safe device.

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