It’s obvious what director J.J. Abrams hopes to achieve with Super 8: He wants his movie to be Spielbergian, the kind of fantasy that appeals equally to children and adults. Nice try, J.J., but I can’t imagine anyone over the age of 15 really enjoying this film.
For younger kids, this is the type of movie they will see, love, and recall fondly for years to come. And then one day, 10 or 20 years from now, they will rewatch Super 8 on TV (or whatever device we’re using) and wonder what they ever saw in it.
The story begins well. A group of middle-school kids in Lillian, Ohio, circa 1979, are making a zombie movie using the Super 8 film format. A train approaches an old depot where the kids are filming, it crashes, and … something escapes from one of the train cars. Shortly after this incident, animals and objects begin to vanish from Lillian.
Up to this point, Abrams’ script is warm and fuzzy, a nostalgic throwback to movies like Stand by Me or Steven Spielberg’s E.T. But then the plot gets convoluted. And special effects begin to dominate the story. And Super 8 proves, once again, that no one can make a Spielberg fantasy anymore — not even Spielberg, who is one of the film’s producers.
It’s apparent that money was poured into the film, and yet a motion-capture monster is neither convincing nor frightening. At some points, this beast resembles nothing so much as a jerky Ray Harryhausen creation from the early ’60s. Meanwhile, Abrams’s movie goes from sweet and intriguing to frantic and clichéd.
The zombie movie that the kids had been making is more entertaining than the misfire that is Super 8. Unlike the silly alien in this film, Abrams and Spielberg discover that, despite their best efforts, they can’t go home again. Grade: C
Director: J.J. Abrams Cast: Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Kyle Chandler, Jessica Tuck, Amanda Michalka, Ron Eldard, Katie Lowes Release: 2011
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