Being a kid is weird. It’s very frustrating and confusing a lot of the time, probably most of the time. You’re pretty much powerless over your life, and yet you’ve got a burgeoning emotional framework with which to react to it, so you’re put in this position of constantly having to just deal with it dot GIF. And then sometimes you play tetherball or whatever. Of course, this is all speculative, because as an adult it is virtually impossible to genuinely remember what it was like to be a kid. You might think you remember, but I bet your memory would not stand up in court. Your memory probably wouldn’t even stand up in Kids Court. Culturally, this makes being a kid even weirder. Because there are lots of books and movies and TV shows and radio plays and avant garde black box performance art pieces (just kidding now) that deal with the experience of being a child, and all of them are made by adults. Adults with these same shoddy, garbage memories that we’ve just been talking about. So all of our pop cultural (mis)interpretations of being a child get shot through this weird filter of nostalgia and half-remembered sensations, combined with the general dramatic exaggeration that is applied to these projects in the first place, and so now children become innocent ciphers of joy and wonder and imagination and terror and love and whatever. It’s inaccurate, but until we start letting children make movies, it’s the best we can do, and also I genuinely hope we never start letting children make movies. The best we can hope for, then, when it comes to movies about childhood is something that can’t possibly get it right, but hopefully resembles something that seems right. And if that were the sole criteria on which to base a movie, J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 would be a very good movie! The kids were good. Very kids. Sure, there was lots of emotional short-hand and some unlikely heroics, but for the most part they were fun to watch, seemed to have pretty kid-like inter-kid relationships, and fun banter that was neither overly-precocious nor overly-precious.

It was the rest of the movie that made it mediocre and unremarkable. Let’s talk about that stuff!

Super 8 is about a group of nerdy friends in small-town Ohio in 1979 who love making homemade zombie movies and setting off firecrackers. One night, while filming a scene for their movie, they witness a horrible train crash caused by their science teacher. The next thing you know, the town is overrun by military police and also by mysterious occurrences. All the dogs are running away! People keep disappearing! The lights are flickering on and off! Rubik’s cubes! Meanwhile, the child detectives are on the case. Naturally, they figure out all the things that no one else could figure out, like why the train crashed, what was on the train, where what was on the train is hiding now, what the what that was on the train wants to accomplish, what will happen if that happens, and all the other mysteries. Kids achieve the nearly impossible darndest things! Oh, also the main kid, Joe, has no mom and is in love with Elle Fanning and his dad is Kyle Chandler who is also a police deputy, but you already know all this, because this is the Videogum Movie Club and we all saw this movie together.

The beginning of the movie is really kind of perfect. The economy of story-telling in the opening scenes is just very economical, very story-telling. The “it’s been this many days since an accident” sign at the steel mill followed by the wake and the unexplained hatred of the two fathers is great. The juxtaposition of the chubby kid’s large and noisy family with Joe’s return home to an empty, dinnerless house is effective (and affective)! Then there is the train sequence, which is big and fun and exciting although also a little hilarious, because whoa, that is SOME train crash. But it is in the aftermath of this mysterious and compelling disaster that things really start to fall apart. Actually, no, wait, sorry, things fall apart from the very beginning for one very simple reason: this movie is set in 1979 for absolutely no reason.

If J.J. Abrams wanted to make a love letter to Steven Spielberg that’s fine but he didn’t need to backdate it. E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (and Jaws) were all great movies, and J.J. Abrams was very careful to match their aesthetic. Except that those movies were made for contemporary audiences. Things looked like that in those movies because things were like that. Reese’s Pieces were not a wink-wink nostalgic throwback in E.T. they were straight up product placement for a new candy (same with the Speak and Spell). That doesn’t mean Super 8 has to be set in 2011, but if it is 1979 then surely there is some kind of contextualized reason? Surely the story depends on this? Nope! Not even a little. There is one moment where the TV is on in the background and a news anchor makes some mention of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, but the monster in the movie is not a nuclear holocaust nightmare monster. He’s from outer-space. J.J. Abrams clearly just thought the cars and flared jeans looked cooler. Also: Walk-Man jokes!

The counter-argument, I’m sure, is that setting the movie in 1979 allowed them to strip the characters of our modern technologies. No one has cell phones to lose signals in a moment of panic. And the movie is called Super 8, after all. The children must wait three days for the film to be developed, if you can even believe it. The problem is that this is not a compelling enough reason. Surely the stakes of a terrifying space spider who kidnaps humans and destroys junkyards are high enough to sustain the complications of modern technology. The homage to the old way of movie-making is cute, but it’s kind of like how journalists are always writing articles about kidnapped journalists. You know we’re not all journalists, right? We kind of don’t care, no offense! These self-reflective things are just never as important to regular people as they are to the members of the industry that is doing the self-reflecting and clearly things they’re the most important. (It is also worth noting that the titular film strip around which this movie’s entire aesthetic essence is based does not even really show very much and does not end up being that important to the plot. And it is also worth nothing that it’s very weird to make a movie that supposedly worships old-timey children’s film cameras that is filled with so much CGI and lens-flares.)

I’m not even going to get into how wasted Kyle Chandler is, but let’s just say he was VERY wasted.

Of course, if J.J. Abrams’s unjustified aesthetic choices were an homage to Steven Spielberg’s early career, then his ridiculously convenient, emotionally-manipulative, and deeply unsatisfying narrative ending is an homage to Steven Spielberg’s later career. Ugh! I’m not saying that a motherless child can’t teach a space alien about the power of hope, or whatever, but maybe a motherless child can’t teach a space alien that EATS HUMANS FOR SNACKS about the power of hope. That is like if a bag of pizza-flavored Combos started crying as it stared you in the face and said “bad things can happen.” Shut up, Combos, I’m hungry! It’s also very weird that all the space alien needed to do in the end was summon all of the magic Rubik’s Cubes to float their way up to the water tower and then he could make his ship and leave. OK, fair enough, why didn’t he just do that in the first place? What was the whole rest of the movie about if that was always an option? The whole thing was like Lost 2. You’ve got an exciting crash, a smoke monster in the trees, a somewhat questionable gunfight, and then crushing disappointment. (Although, to be fair, while a lot of people found the ending of Lost to be frustratingly unsatisfying, I thought it was way better than the ending of Super 8.) Come on, J.J. Abrams! You are not supposed to bite off more than you can chew. Even Augustus Gloop is looking at you and being like, Dude!

It’s not that Super 8 is a bad movie, because it’s not. It’s fine! But it’s definitely no E.T. or Close Encounters. It’s not any of the movies that J.J. Abrams clearly found thrilling and inspiring as a child and made him want to get into movies. Which is too bad. It would be nice to have a movie like that. We could definitely use one. But we won’t get that until people stop constantly trying to recapture what was and start trying to capture what is. These guys know what I’m talking about:

Now Oasis, there is a group of artists who knew what it meant to stop trying to recreate the past and just focus on the now. That’s why they are still the most relevant band ever and so influential and very important. The future of music. A bunch of real Buzz Lightyears. Just kidding.

Comments (86)
  1. If you were in the Cobble Hill Cinemas on Friday night watching this, I apologize for all the times I laughed out loud at how ridiculous parts of this movie were, starting with the train car filled with “explosives”. As if the train crash wasn’t catastrophic enough, there had to be one car filled with explosives…

    The kid acting was great, though. Hard to believe they were all played by German midgets.

    • I love how there was a train car filled with explosives obviously marked Explosives but the Air Force wouldn’t stop saying there was nothing dangerous on the train. Oh you mean besides that car filled with explosives??

    • What about the train car filled with “Daddy Issues”? That went totally unaddressed!

    • If you were four blocks away from Cobble Hill Cinemas watching X-Men at Court Street on Friday night, I’d like to apologize for the bloody rampage I went on after three toddlers started crying because the woman sitting next to me answered her phone for the third time. I hope that with time and therapy the images of one man driven too far, ripping seats out of the concrete floor and hurling them like a gorilla, will one day fade.

    • if you are in to german midgets you should rent herzogs even dwarves started small, one of my all time favorites

  2. Once the action kicked in it was SO MUCH action, to the point where it was ridiculous that these kids were running around unscathed but also suddenly covered in soot like they were Newsies.

    I feel like they didn’t even try with the ending because then they’d have to admit that things got out of hand and their town is basically a crater now so they’re still in big trouble. I’m sure the government is just going to let everyone go back to their lives in Craterville, because they certainly didn’t see too much, nope. But at least they made a hideous alien friend who left forever.

  3. So um I liked this.
    I thought it was really cool that even though it was a monster alien movie that wasn’t the focal point of the movie. Like we barely saw him, and it was really about people, which are more interesting and nuanced than monsters sorry Guillermo Del Toro

  4. I liked it, but those lense flares. Man those lense flares.

  5. My only real problem is I didn’t really get why the kid gave a shit if the monster got home at the end? like sure, it was kind of a cool moment of catharsis letting go of the necklace and everything, and I’m sure that was the payoff the had in mind from the beginning. But didn’t that same alien just try and eat your crush and then chase you thru a subterranean lair?

    You know what I want to happen to that alien if that’s me? I want it to to be shot in it’s weird ass spaghetti strainer of a nose.

    • They tried to get the alien with guns and whatnot and that didn’t seem to work, helping did work and got him far away from his crush/girlfriend

      • well yes, that did work and all, but i am talking more about my personal feelings of how i would have enjoyed standing over the aliens corpse and having pictures taken that were spread around 1979 as i became known as the alien killer and everyone celebrated my mere presence (this is how dirk nowitzki feels right now, i think)

        not about the path that worked because it was smarter and all that stuff.

    • Yeah, that alien was straight up eating people right in front of them not 5 minutes before Joe had a heart to heart with it. It wasn’t just eating the “bad” army dudes, either. It ate the friendly sherriff and some random lady with her hair in curlers! It would have eaten Elle Fanning! Fuck that alien.

      • Also, since that thing ate lots of people but also was said to have an instant psychic link with anyone it touched, are we supposed to believe that kid was the only remotely sympathetic person it ever touched? Everyone else just screamed and mentally hated, didn’t think anything that might inspire mercy sooner? Or maybe the alien is like the Dread Pirate Roberts, it just needed someone to say please.

        • Maybe there was a scene edited out like the one in Unbreakable where Bruce Willis is in the train station, and the alien sees that the random gas station attendant illegally re-records his cassette tapes and the utility worker puts in for overtime he didn’t earn or something.

  6. The reason it was set in 1979 was solely for Ron Eldard sideburns. Those were “mint”. (Did you see what I did there?)

  7. So I had a joke here about “Which character was supposed to be Tom Bodett?” Haha. Very clever, FLW. But I just realized at the last minute that he is the pitchman for Motel 6, not Super 8 Motels.

    In conclusion:

    • Just use my father’s joke “Hope I’m not confused, I haven’t seen Super 7 yet”.

      Yes I saw this in the theatre with my dad, making the emotionally father-son relationship in the movie all the more real.

  8. Abrams wanted to tell the stories of both Chief Brody AND the ET gang. You can’t do that, because then you’re trying to do a odd-man-out-and-on-a-mission story and a rag-tag-kids-surviving-in-an-adult-world story. The story just loses focus.

    I loved it because I can see the care Abrams put into it. My only problem is that he wasn’t patient enough to chose one movie for Super 8 and save the rest for his next movie, and instead made all his future movies at once.

    • I completely agree with this. ET worked so well because we didn’t even see any adults (besides Eliott’s mom) from the waist up for the first half of the movie. It did such a good job of creating a child’s world, which Super 8 seemed to want to do, but never could because it presents the scenes with the children the exact same way as the Deputy Taylor scenes. There’s never any justification for why the child’s perspective is different or more valuable, except that they’re the ones that figure pretty much everything out, almost entirely by accident.

      • I would have also cut the scenes that showed the military dudes interrogating then killing the science guy. There were just too many perspectives. They should have remained ominous and mysterious, because that’s how the kids saw them in ET and that’s how Dreyfus saw them in Close Encounters and that’s how the kids saw them in Super 8. The only difference is Spielberg made sure we saw them that way too.

  9. This movie was worth it solely to see Simon Camden from 7th Heaven stoned out of his mind.

  10. I was totally going along with it until the end. (So SPOILERS, obviously.) The music did so damn much of the heavy lifting in that scene. If they had the exact same sequence of events, but played ominous music and showed people reacting with terror at the floating metal and scary tentacle monster (which would have been a much more appropriate reaction than childlike wonder), then it would have been a straightforward monster movie.

    And then I started thinking… how the hell did Coach Carter and Sideburns end up in the right place, anyway? Why did Coach pick up Sideburns in the first place? Why was the monster grabbing people? I didn’t think that he was eating them- the rollers lady was one of the first one we learned was missing. Why did the dogs leave the town in a neat circumference? Why did he wreck the gas station? How did the truck cause a complete train derailment, and yet leave the driver alive?

    Ugh. I understand how LOST left some threads up in the air- it was on for years, with many writers. But a movie should have been a hell of a lot tighter.

  11. I am glad to see my decision not to go see this movie has now been officially validated. What is funny is my decision was based on the ubiquitous ads and how boring and awful and “fake drama” they looked, without ever realizing this is from the same guy as LOST. Ha ha ha, I have instinctively hated this guy’s stuff without intending to. My instincts are my mutant super power. Snikt, etc.

    • i also refused to see this movie because of the advertising, but more because it was done in the jj abrams “oooo whats going on who knows pay $10 and find out ooooooooh” advertising style a la cloverfield. i think that has to be the cheapest of cheap advertising ploys. except for maybe the most recent miller lite advertising campaign (if you dont drink miller lite you will be emasculated by hot women).

  12. Can people please stop comparing this move to Goonies? Other than a ragtag group of kids, the two movies have nothing in common.

    If you have to compare it to something, please use ET.

    Sincerely,
    A huge Goonies fan

  13. Setting it in ’79 gave all the air force figures a Cold War/campy feel that allowed them to seem plausible. Imagine how completely ridiculous every government person comes off if that movie is set in present day. Also, after the train crash, all the kids would get online, and #aliensinohio would be trending by morning. No more movie

  14. Every once in a while it’s nice to let a film seep under your cynicism. It’s a good feeling to allow yourself emotional investment even while recognizing flaws. I’ve seen thousands of movies in my life and it’s easy to bemoan the current cultural state of cinema. It’s almost become a tired cliche to complain about “all the trash that gets released today” or whatever your phrasing might be. I fall into that trap more than I care to admit and it gets to a point where I ask myself if I even enjoy movies anymore.

    Yes, Super 8 isn’t perfect. Yes, at times it feels like a Girl Talk mashup of films the filmmaker loves. But a welcome side-effect to that seeming lack of original vision is a pure adoration for movies. While Abrams’ reference points here vary wildly from Tarantino, they share an infectious love for cinema that is apparent in every frame.

    Care went into this movie. Passion went into it. It’s just one of those films that makes you feel like a cynical dick for trying to pick it apart. There’s a reason it’s called Super 8 and there’s a reason the kids’ movie plays over the closing credits. At his core, Abrams here is the chubby 12-year-old with his friend’s dad’s camera who just saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    • I kept wondering if the chubby kid was going to be the next Jerry O’Connell and grow up to be a skinny actor who marries a super model.

    • thank you, everything you said here is exactly how I felt. I just sort of let everything go and enjoyed the movie for what it was. I guess my expectations were just for a nostalgic monster movie from the point of view of a bunch of kids.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Something about this comment bugs me. I don’t know if it’s the refusal to empathize with the directors/writers or the assertion that all movies are judged on the same criteria (which would make a significant portion of movies frivolous or melodramatic when context is completely removed), but I would be curious to hear you elaborate on why you think people shouldn’t take the steps required to pregame a movie to understand it better. Especially if that means they will end up enjoying the experience more. Why torture yourself out of spite?

    • Agreed.
      As we left the cinema (who am I, Gabe?) last night, my friends and I began to nitpick and discuss, like we always do. I felt satisfied with the movie watching experience, not disappointed in the least. But one of my buddies bemoaned the Usual JJ Abrams Trickery – A driving plot point that doesn’t get explained, mystery thing in the distance you can almost see repeatedly, and in the end it’s not about the thing in the background at all but rather the people left to deal with oft-discussed thing.
      In My mind, it seems like over explanation (i.e. Alien Took all of the Generators, Engines, Electrical Cables to create a large electromagnet so he could summon all of his rubix cubes to re-create his ship) would have just gotten in the way. I like gaps being left for us to figure out and fill in the blanks. I actually enjoyed this gap filled experience far more than the ending of LOST. But 6 years of investment is something else entirely from ~2 hours.

    • I get what you’re saying, and I didn’t totally dislike the movie, but I’m not JJ Abrams’ mother and therefore don’t need to hang his macaroni art on the fridge.

    • Orson Welles clapping GIF.
      Donna Darko.
      You have my ax.

      Did you see last week’s South Park episode too?

      • yes last weeks south park was so funny. I had a mouth full of whiskey and couldnt swallow because I was laughing so hard during the movie trailer part. “Jim Carey in – Who Cares you’re going to pay to see it any way, fuck you!” hilarious. Jim Carey has turds in his apartment

    • Yes.

      Super 8, for me, fits in this odd category of movies I see as an adult and truly enjoy, but know if I could somehow show them to myself at 12 I would have fallen in love with them entirely. And that makes me happy, because I feel like there’s very few films anymore that try to appeal to and engage with people aged 12 to adult, and this one really went for it!

  15. Can we talk about Ron Eldard’s face?

    I know his character is haunted and sad for the entire movie, but he always looked about 2 sniffs away from out and out weeping. He and Julianne Moore should have a Cry-Face/Off.

  16. But seriously, Coach Taylor had just the perfect amount of chunk in this movie. His hotness was the best part of this filmstrip.

  17. The kids are what makes ‘Super 8′ worthwhile. Their performances are incredibly nuanced (film critic term) and while there is quite a bit of boisterous yelling it never creeps into ‘Goonies’ territory (Jesus those kids were annoying). I’d say the best scene by far was the one in which Joe and Alice watch his old Super 8 home movies. That really got to me for some intangible reason. Unfortunately the last moments fell flat due to the tenuous (at best) explanation of the alien’s motives and its moment with Joe. Why are we expected to assume the alien has a change of heart when it can’t speak and (as Gabe pointed out) he snacks on humans for sustenance? You can’t just throw out a ‘we made him angry’ chestnut and assume we’ll feel bad for the gross spider thing. Eh. Anyway, what WAS with the Three Mile Island reference? That stunk of Shymalan red herring nonsense and it annoyed me greatly. Dumb red herrings.

    • I took it as not a “change of heart” but instead, after making physical contact, the alien knew that Joe had the last cube and knew where to find it. I like to think that the alien wasn’t even listening to this tiny human in his hand running its mouth.

  18. Yes, I think Coach Taylor was underused and the whole movie just paid homage to a lot of other movies. I still liked it, though. It was fun! It actually had character development (sort of)! I jumped a bunch of times! It was a bit ridiculous! I laughed at some stuff! I didn’t cry (I hate crying at movies)! It wasn’t overly long!

    That was way too many punctuations. I’m not really in the mood to be cynical about summer movies. There’s way too much real world stuff to be cynical about. Let’s just leave summer movies as escapist fun.

  19. I loved it. I don’t throw that word around when it comes to movies. But I had a great time almost jumping out of my chair and then laughing at the pyromaniac zombie kid.

    • Also, maybe it’s because I have lady parts and was with other ladies at the time, but I almost cried like 3 times. Those kids are good at emoting!

  20. I think my biggest complaint was just how I felt at the end of the film. I was thoroughly entertained, but I didn’t feel anything beyond that. Had this just been any old summer blockbuster I would’ve been perfectly satisfied with that, but I think what a lot of people are feeling is that because it had been billed so heavily as Abrams’s “Spielberg” film it came up short specifically because it was missing the human touch that Spielberg nailed so perfectly in those films we love.

    Pretty Okay 8

  21. I saw the movie and still thought the dad was played by Ron Livingston this entire time, until today. Thanks Videogum!

  22. I think what hurt this movie for me actually were the “emotional” underpinnings it tried to establish. The dead mother, the fighting fathers, the locket in almost every scene. They really just felt like forced aspects of a movie that already had plenty of authentic feeling (nostalgia for childhood, first crushes, filmmaking) to carry it. I mean, in a kid’s world, isn’t a summer spent sneaking out at night making movies, falling in love, and, uh, out running an alien drama enough?

    Sure, there’s a place for “daddy issues” and “coming to terms with loss” in movies, it just felt like they were half-baked and clumsy compared to the care other areas of the film were given (like the kids’ relationships with each other). Even think of ET, a movie partly about a kid coming to terms with his parent’s divorce. That movie didn’t try to hammer the theme every scene with some overt symbol – it was subtle and there if you wanted it.

  23. I guess I’m a sucker for the type of pathos that JJ Abrams is known for , which, to be fair, is not much different than what genre stories are typically known for (i.e. normal people working out their inner anxieties and insecurities in a supernatural context that acts more as a catalyst than a focal point). This type of narrative is not as favorable as it was in the past. While you can list a myriad of explanation why that is, I tend to stick to the idea that in an age where everything is available and every possible explanation can be uncovered by the means of forums and blogs full of sardonic humor and ironic gifs, our tastes for what is satisfying has changed.

    Long story short: I dug Super 8! Was it ET or Close Encounters? Probably not. Is that a fair assessment to compare it to? No, I don’t think so. Much of what makes a classic is the passing of time and to be fair to JJ and Spielberg, it’s only been a week. Moreover, I don’t think JJ had any other intention other to make a bunch load of money, pay homage to his childhood and use Giacchino’s music to make all of us cry.

  24. So I actually did love this movie, but man that train wreck was straight up Michael Bay shit.

  25. Um. Maybe it was set in the late 1970s because that’s when J.J. Abrams was a child?

  26. This review made me laugh so hard (see: “That is like if a bag of pizza-flavored Combos started crying as it stared you in the face and said “bad things can happen.” Shut up, Combos, I’m hungry!”).

    Good point! But also, relax, Gabe Siskel. I got enough deconstruction in film school. Yes, there are some flaws, but also, yes this is a movie with a space alien monster, so maybe let suspension of disbelief take over for five minutes?

    I’m just worried that you can’t enjoy things anymore. You should enjoy stuff more!

    Sincerely,
    The boss of your enjoyment levels, I guess.

    • Yeah Gabe, don’t analyze things anymore! Movies are so much better when you turn off you’re brain! You’re starting to sound like one those silly film school kids.

  27. I liked the movie a lot. It was fun and often funny. The monster/alien was spooky and felt threatening. I didn’t feel like there was any internal inconsistency, and that really goes a long way. I think the various stolen goods were all taken to make the big magnet thing to summon the parts of the alien’s ship. I feel like everything was actually explicitly (or I guess implicitly with regard to the construction underground) explained. Admittedly, the ending was a little rushed. Too much happened too quickly, in my opinion. But rather than dwell on the speed with which the kids solved all the problems, I was happy about all the stuff that was fun and charming throughout.

    As for the temporal setting of the movie, I just kinda prefer that era, personally. The cars looked cooler and the sexy sister was throwback sexy, like a Halloween costume.

    Also, with regard to the 3-Mile Island disaster? Maybe it was tossed in to provide a feasible explanation for this train accident getting zero out of town press. There was a major disaster going on, allowing this to fly under the radar a bit. That’s me doing work for the movie, though, which means all that is kind of a weakness of the film’s.

  28. I’d like to say that this is the first time I participated in the Videogum Movie Club on the actual designated weekend, and man do I wish I picked a different weekend, at least I got the matinee price.

  29. My favorite part, realizing the stoner-film-developer-guy (that was his name right? Sure) is that kid from 7th Heaven

  30. The thing with Spielberg-associated movies is that they turn everyone into Ebert. For some reason we just get really serious about them and how good of a “film” it is or isnt. I found myself doing this too, looking for symbolism and over-thinking camera angles and all of that annoying crap when I finally just decided to stop and enjoy the damn movie. Of course it doesn’t have the style of something like ET (it is so difficult to use direction like that and not have it come across as pompous), but it’s still a pretty fun movie.

    And the kid with braces was an amazing little actor.

  31. Loved it, so much fun. Kids were hilarious. As a kid who once had aspirations to make movies, it rang true to my childhood fantasies. Now do 2 Star 2 Trek.

  32. I just saw Super 8 abut an hour ago. I enjoyed it very much, in line with what That One said earlier in this comments thread. There’s no such thing as a perfect movie. I stopped looking for it years ago. That’s not the same thing as “turning your brain off” or “dumbing yourself down” before you sit down in the theater. It’s just recognizing that any film is going to have PLENTY of mistakes, and some of those mistakes are absolutely forgivable and others are not, and depending on who YOU are, you decide which ones are which, and THAT is how you decide whether you liked a movie or not. It’s a pretty personal experience. It’s probably not how you decide whether a film is technically good, which is probably done with a scorecard or something. ANYway.

    Overall Super 8 was a fun adventure to go on. It was a good trip to the movies. I enjoyed the kid acting. I, admittedly, mostly went to support Kyle Chandler, and yes, he could’ve used some more screen time but also it wasn’t really his movie but they still tried to make it at least partially his movie with mixed results. The Amblin Entertainment mashup angle this film took was an interesting one, which leads me to this comparison—

    The Town. Ben Affleck’s The Town. I didn’t really care one way or the other for The Town. A lot of people really enjoyed it. My feeling after seeing it was (and bear with me as I know this opinion is SO unique it’s ridiculous), “If you’ve seen Heat, Point Break, and The Departed, then you’ve seen The Town.” I feel that’s what people are saying about Super 8. “If you’ve seen E.T., Close Encounters and JAWS, you’ve seen Super 8.” But whereas the films that The Town made itself up as were more fresh and defined in my memory, Spielberg’s older films are very fuzzy, so I think just now when I walked out of the theater I wasn’t immediately cross-referencing every shot of Super 8 with its supposed source material, or, at least I wasn’t doing it as much. I’m kind of just rambling on about my personal experiences now. I’m not really weighing in on a meaningful debate about the quality of Super 8′s storytelling and filmmaking.

    It did get dusty in the theater towards the end with the alien coming face to face with the kid all the way through to the locket hanging in the air.

    And as mentioned before, the set up at the beginning of this film with the ‘Accident’ sign, the wake, the snow, the arrest- all of it, was really good and interesting and really had my attention. Unfortunately, the movie definitely did fluctuate on how well it held my attention but in the end I still really enjoyed my movie experience. I have plenty of time to pick it apart, but for right now I’m still coming down off my movie high.

  33. In defense of J.J. Lens Flare, Super 8 seems like a totally natural and effective return to formalistic (sure, spielbergian) conventions as an approach to the genre. As of late genre movies like Battle: L.A., Skyline, Monsters, and J.J.’s own Cloverfield have used so called “realistic” techniques like hand-held cameras, choppy editing, etc. etc. presumably to some effect that the action comes off as more intimate, more “personal,” more real. Super 8′s camera movements, lighting, and general style are as calculated, formalistic and hollywood-glossed as they come, but the story still felt intimate and personal and caused me to actually care about the characters. THIS is what Spielberg nailed with his early work and what Abrams has effectively borrowed. Now, let’s get a few less high-powered spotlights aimed at every camera…

    Also, longtime lurker’s first comment on videogum.

  34. In a quickly thrown together and not terribly well thought out defense of why the alien didn’t summon the cubes earlier, it was my understanding that he was stealing tons of machinery to make some sort of electromagnet-like device that would attract the cubes to him. Hence everything sticking to the water tower. Although that doesn’t do such a good job of explaining why the alien itself was a rolling blackout of electromagnetic disturbance. Anyone care to help on this one? Guys? Anyone there? Nobody’s there…

  35. I really wanted to like this movie but it just felt like Cloverfield with less NYC and more Ohio and oh yeah, in 1979….

  36. I actually went to see a Videogum Movie Club movie (timing, y’all) and I didn’t even want to read the post because I felt like this wasn’t going to be everyone’s (monsters mostly) cup of tea. And SURPRISE OF ALL SURPRISES, Gabe/you guys did not care for the movie. Well guess what, buttercup? I did like the movie and maybe it was mostly because it was not a “Michae Bay film” and it was not about superheroes. What’s not to like?

  37. FLW = free lance writing?

  38. I feel like this movie is kind of getting a bad rep here that it doesn’t deserve. It’s not Pirates of the Caribbean 4 or Predators or whatever movie you think is just a parade of idiocies that falls apart in literally one second’s thought.

    You don’t have to be open to stupidity, you just have to be open to the fact that this is J.J. Abrams making a retro Spielberg pastiche.

    I feel like this movie came out, oh, five years too late. The nostalgia trend is getting played out, and so is the J.J. Abrams trend. Some people are so tired of those trends that they can’t enjoy the rest of the movie, which has excellent child actors, playing well-written characters and good direction that keeps up the suspense.

    I can see how the train crash is ridiculous, but at the same time it was really well directed and the fact that it just kept going really made it seem menacing. Every time you think that surely it must almost be over and these kids must be safe, another damn train car falls out of the air and threatens to smush them.

    It does fall apart at the ending. My take is, given that the alien is an empath, and that it clearly realizes we’re sentient because it uses our tools to rebuild its spacecraft, it’s eating people because it has been driven crazy, and as soon as it gets back home it’s going to start eating the other members of its own species.

    But that one wobbly bit isn’t enough to kill the movie. You might think it would be, but the movie’s really about the kids, and none of them eat people.

    People aren’t asking Gabe to turn off his brain, they’re just saying that maybe “just because” IS a good enough reason to set a movie in 1979. That even if making films as a kid isn’t meaningful to him, he can see how it would be to other people and accept it as the premise.

    Anyway, if the thought of J.J. Abrams making a Spielberg pastiche sounds good to you, I bet you’ll really like this film, and if the idea is already giving you hives, Super 8 is probably just not quite good enough to win you over.

  39. I really enjoyed the movie mostly because it was a love letter to the joy of filmmaking. It probably helped that I was close to the same age as those kids in 1979. And the kids were amazing! I would like to see the further adventures of Alfred Hitchcock, Jr. and Braceface.

    The alien part of the plot was pretty much all nonsense, of course, and the ending was weirdly anti-climactic. I think Jimmy J.J. Abrams should have just hired a sci-fi writer to come up with all the alien/government plot details.

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