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Super 8 - Movie Review By A.D.Harris

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(taken from theadamharris.blogspot.com)

If ever any film maker was to write a story of their love for what influence Steven Spielberg has had on the film industry it would look something like this. Super 8 is undoubtedly a tribute from one director to another; from the up-comer to master. J.J.Abrams grew up with movies such as E.T and The Goonies and it is fitting that he seals his place alongside colleagues such as Spielberg with this film.

Super 8 is not an action film. To say what it is this early into the review wouldn't do the film justice. It has action inside its neatly written script, but to begin you should focus on the group of real and relatable characters who all have to go beyond the ordinary call of duty for their families and friends. Every character in Super 8 reminds you of someone you know or have known in your life; the leading group of children are the very definition of what it means to be young and to grow up. The adults meanwhile, are the maturing and realistic influences on those children's lives.

Beginning with a funeral for leading character Joe Lamb's mother, Super 8 teases you in with mysterious melancholy. Amid the sombre scenes and a lonely boy sitting on a swing is a man who is arrested for unknown reasons. This instant suspicion is a fascinating tool that Abrams uses. It leads you to feel uneasy from the start.

Flashing forward a few months and you discover just how lost the Lamb family has become. The father son issues between Joe and Deputy Sheriff Jackson is presented clearly for all to see. This broken relationship is important to Joe's character arc later on, but to begin with it provides a path to the fun that Super 8 has to offer. Trying to escape the gloom of his own house, Joe spends much more time with his friends and it is here that Super 8 hits its stride.

The Super 8 of the title refers in a literal way to the film within the film. Joe and his friends are creating a zombie movie on the 'Super 8' format of film. Abrams finds laughs in this amusing section of the movie; the kids whilst lacking in mature film-making have a lot of passion for their 'work.' It is clear that Abrams sees himself in this group of children, the early passion for creating film and an understanding of what it means to tell a story. The kid actors are evidence of great casting. Too often have younger roles been damaged by immature performances but all keep their characters reigned in and real and it means that you can't help but love the group.

This is when the story changes gear, the moments revealed in the trailers arrive, the mysterious train crash caused by someone purposely driving in front of the speeding locomotive. Amid the spectacular carnage the mystery of the film arrives, a freaky noise within a part of the train revealing that something may just have escaped from one of the carriages.

Surrounded in mystery, the film clearly is best experienced in a "less you know the better" approach. Everything Abrams does with his script and his direction oozes and plays with the audience. Just what lurks behind every corner? Just what awaits inside every door? It is film making that demands applause, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and you can't blink in case you miss a glimpse of what that mystery actually is.

Abrams has been known to toy with audiences in the past. His most famous creation, mystery island television drama LOST lived on the suspense of the unknown. For those who found that annoying over years of new episodes shouldn't worry as the film format means that everything you were wondering is answered within the two hour running time. Never one to spoon feed his audience, Abrams ensures plot elements require you to think about them to truly understand their purpose within the story. Once you break through that wall Super 8 only becomes more enjoyable.

From here onwards, the entire middle section of the film is dripping in suspense. The military arrives but no one can seemingly understand their motives. The animals in the neighbourhood all run away. Various humans begin disappearing into thin air. It is a really enjoyable part of the film and the cast all get their chance here to shine. Abrams packs everything into his script: humor, sadness, love and anger allowing every actor the chance to fully flesh out their character into real people in an extraordinary situation.

Of course, a film so dependent on the mystery element requires the reveal to be fulfilling and worthy of the investment you put into it. It is here that Super 8 comes closest to falling short. It is not necessarily because the reveal doesn't work, I would go so far as to argue that it does work, but it leads into a finale that no one expected and doesn't quite satisfy enough to take your breath away. It heads onto a path that follows a little too much convention and you expect better purely because of the quality of its build up.

When the ending credits arrive, you should be saying how outstanding it was, but in fact you will question why it ended there at all. It is testament to the fact that Abrams left you wanting more but also disappointing in the fact he didn't quite deliver it.

Regardless of this fact, you have fallen in love with every character and the personal and emotional journey that Joe and his friends make to find out the truth is concluded perfectly. It is on this level that Super 8 is a masterpiece. Once you put aside the mystery element of the plot, and you look at where Joe was to begin with and then what his last final and heroic act was it all makes sense. It may not be the traditional heroism we are used to seeing in film, but it is the type of heroism we hope for in our own lives.

Underneath all of the sci-fi and suspense is the heart of the film, the sentimental notion of growing up and facing your fears and setbacks and defeating them. Abrams delivers this aspect in a completely unconventional and heartfelt way. Importantly it never treads close to cheesy or over the top. It is done just right.

I therefore recommend nothing more than watching Super 8 for what it is, not what you may believe it is right up until its final moments.

Just like Spielberg used to do, it is a story about people. Real people. It just so happens that this story also has a little bit of the extraordinary mixed in...

It is a film afterall.

8/10

Adam

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Twitter: @AdDHarris
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