Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 Review

Upon first seeing the initial trailer for this movie, I knew it had something that would interest me.  The stage is set in a small town, probably in the Midwest of the US in the late 1970’s.  The focus falls on a family grieving after the mother is killed in a steel mill accident.  The father and son are estranged somewhat, not really interacting much.  As the story progresses, the intimacy in their relationship increases, but it is apparent that without the mother, there will always be tension.

The young boy and his friends spend their days and nights making movies.  One of the friends, the funny, overweight one, is a self-proclaimed director and writer and has all his friends assist in the creation of his movie.  As you would imagine, at some points while filming the kids are unsupervised and in places that they shouldn’t be in, spending their middle school summer working instead of playing.

On one eventful evening as they filmed at a train station; what started as a simple scene turned into a massive train crash.  The main character, Joe Lamb, was the only one to truly witness the oncoming crash, warning his friends before the impact hit them.  The only other witness was the camera they were using to film the sequence with.

To keep this review spoiler-free, I’ll refrain from giving all the details, but the story does carry the weight of the world on a child’s shoulders, and does so without pretension or pretences.  JJ Abrams is known for his work on Lost and the resurrected Star Trek franchise.  But what fans come to expect from Abrams are sympathetic believable characters and epic story-telling.  He did not disappoint.  Without being too pointed, Abrams stole a page from his iconic hero Steven Spielberg in creating what some may argue is a modern-day ET. 

But I would counter that this story has little to do with aliens, as ET did, as it was a coming of age story of the main character.  The story more closely follows the journey the young man takes as he leaves his old life behind and starts a new one without one of his parents.  I found it ironic that his last name was Lamb, somewhat referencing the scripture of the lamb and lion lying together, as if our main hero was now to be paired with something fearsome and best it.

The acting is spot on.  I was surprised by how well all of the young actors played.  Especially the ‘hero’ of the movie being made within the movie, Martin, played by Gabriel Basso and the director of said movie, Charles, played by Riley Griffiths.  Both had innate comedic timing that made their interactions that much more enjoyable.

Abrams spins a perfect story that keeps the audience guessing.  The protagonists are characters most can identify with, and by that same token, want to see them succeed.  The antagonists are the typical, stereotypical characters that see no reason, and follow unknown, pointless orders.  While the story is ultimately unoriginal, the compelling nature of the characters and circumstances makes this movie memorable and enjoyable.

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