Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Super 8 Does Not Deserve the Hype

Note: If you're looking for an interpretation, you won't find one here.  This movie is really pretty straightforward and you shouldn't have any trouble following the storyline if you watch it.  The below contains a review and small analysis of the movie.

Yesterday, I caught myself watching the highly acclaimed "Super 8" directed by J.J. Abrams and co-produced by Steven Spielberg.  It hit number one at the box office over the weekend, so I was excited for a thrilling movie.  I wasn't looking for anything deep, like "Black Swan."  I expected a movie that would keep me entertained.  Unfortunately, it looked like a movie crafted by a very young Michael Bay, with lots of guns and pretty explosions.

The movie follows a cute gang of middle-schoolers looking to shoot a short film for the Super 8 contest.  During one of their late-night shootings, they witness a train derailment and all chaos ensues.  They continue to shoot the film even though the small town of Lillian is quickly being destroyed.  There is a monster, the Air Force, and cute love story entangled together in this movie.

All of that being said, the movie wasn't terrible.  The grudge I have with it is that the title is rather misleading and unimportant.  But before I get to that, the good stuff is worth mentioning.

In some ways, this movie was a hit because it was so personal.  The movie takes place in the late seventies/early eighties, so the audience is clearly for the middle-aged.  "Super 8" refers to the type of film camera used during that time period, and the Super 8 Film Festival was a competition for indie movie directors at the time.  J.J. Abrams entered in this competition himself when he was younger, and it was his entry which caught Spielberg's attention in the earlier days.

As for the movie itself, the cast of fresh actors is remarkably good, and for the budget of around $50 million, this is certainly a good flick.

Now for the bad stuff...

The first issue I have with the movie is the title.  In an interview, it was stated that,

"The fact that the title is not a known thing is probably a sign that we're used to being pre-sold. I'm hoping that people see it, like it, and the title becomes what the title is. Certainly films like 'District 9' and 'Inception' had titles that didn't quite make sense but once they became known, people went, 'Oh yeah.'"

 The difference between "Super 8" and the two films he mentions is that "District 9" was about District 9, and "Inception" was about inception.  "Super 8" is NOT about the film.  In fact, the whole notion of the film reel with the rest of the movie seems completely out of place.  The only connection between the two is the accidental recording of the monster during the train crash.  Although it's important, it plays a small role in the movie since the reel is kept hidden for most of the movie.  And once it's presented to the Deputy, it's never seen again.

Seeing as the title really had nothing to do with the core of the movie, it almost makes it seem like there were two separate stories here.  The Super 8 film was definitely a look into Abrams' life, but it almost seems like the rest of the movie is more important.  It is the monster which brings together more elements of life and society, friendship and trust.

This movie would be especially confusing for viewers if they didn't know what a Super 8 was.  Holistically, the movie was quite watchable, but certain elements of the film handicap it, and the attention it's getting isn't really worthy of the quality.  Nevertheless, do watch it, but don't expect anything eye popping.

The movie had its moments, and there were nice elements that made it deeper.

  1. The movie has a sense of "E.T." (which, interestingly enough, was directed by Spielberg).  "Super 8" contains a monster which people inherently assume is bad.
  2. The concept of self-fulfilling prophecy is seen clearly in this movie.  Because humans inherently assume the monster to be destructive, they harm it.  In turn, the monster fights back, thus creating the notion of violence.
  3. The movie says a word about innocence.  The monster is constantly "collecting" people until he meets Joe.  They converse, and all of a sudden, there is a shift in attitude.  Among the chaos, it is the pure heart that overcomes the destruction.
  4. This next one is a bit tricky.  There is a parallel between the movie "Super 8" and the mini film the kids are creating.  Charles, the child director, adds in a love story between the detective and his wife in order to make his film more interesting.  It seems like Alice was the "wife" in Charles' movie, but in real life.  Alice falls in love with Joe, the hero of the disjointed movie.  It seems like this relationship is the only one that has a beginning and continuation in the entire movie.
  5. It was mentioned in an interview that the allusion to the Hunchback of Notre Dame was an intentional look onto the story of "Super 8."  The monster in this movie is comparable to the Hunchback in that people are afraid of what they do not know.
  6. The last scene with the water tower imploding is a cliché ending.  Many movies end with a rainy nighttime to show a change in characters.  This movie was no different.  The water rained over the kids, their parents, and the Air Force.  It was remarkably powerful, because it suggested that the world is really a pretty big society.  Lillian may be relatively unrelated to the Air Force, but guess what, they were all fighting for the same cause.  The water brought peace to the town, and it welded the people together.
If you want to read up on the interviews, they're here:

Final Rating: B+

Thanks for reading,