Super 8

Lame Encounters


09 June 2011| No Comments on Super 8     by Sean Chavel


The advertising is way more intriguing and mature than the movie, and that spells huge disappointment. Super 8 follows a ragtag group of kids in the Ohio summer of 1979 who witness something extra-terrestrial or supernatural while shooting a home movie and these kids don’t do much to serve the plot rather than to play onlooker to it. Writer-director J.J. Abrams (“Mission Impossible: 3,” “Star Trek”), trying to ape Steven Spielberg who executive produced this, thinks in terms of surface elements and familiar clichés. Abrams thinks that you won’t notice if he makes those clichés shiny. The dialogue does not think in big implications in the way that “Close Encounters” (1977) or “E.T.” (1982) did, it’s more “Goonies” (1985) frivolousness but without any cool kids. Joel Courtney as Joe is the heroic and inquisitive kid, Riley Griffiths is the chubby fledgling filmmaker, Elle Fanning is the girl caught in-between. The rest of the kids are like a contest of who is the most useless geek.

The alien is not interesting, it’s just like any other alien in any other alien movie, maybe even less interesting. Abrams also tries to go the same method that Steven Spielberg went with when he made “Jaws” (1975) by not showing us the shark pop out of the water for more than an hour. But it doesn’t work here, because it’s just tomfoolery. We don’t see the alien because of a distorted camera angle, or because of a quick cut, or because of oblique lighting, or due to other manipulative directing tactics. This is deceiving of Abrams, and there’s nothing to do but wait for the next scene where perhaps maybe (or maybe not) he will show it to us. I also have never really gotten into Abrams’ trademark of diffused blue light and lens glare – I look for the shots of where he has conveniently set up lamplights as film props that are pointed directly at the lens.

Also, why would the alien make the night noise to attack and capture people and to hang them upside down, then…? The “victims” don’t really learn a lesson because they are unconscious (uh, why?) the whole time. I think I know why the alien would do that to humans, but it is unclear.

The military, ratifying a quarantine on the whole town, once again in an American adventure movie pitched at audiences that are ages 15 and under, are an incompetent wrecking crew that can’t solve the work that a 12-year old can do. Not that a 12-year old in this movie does anything, not unless finding a lost girl captured in an alien’s lair is something. I call that obligatory plotting, especially in how spuriously it’s directed. The quarantine of the town could have been a neat plot element, but it’s not invested well and the desperation of residents from their town is diminished dramatically too early.

I should be delighted by this group, by I am not. The gang of kids are a throwback to the 80’s adventure movies like “The Goonies,” (1985), “Explorers,” (1985), “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987) and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989). For some reason that I cannot explain, I didn’t connect with them. Perhaps they seem like a self-consciously assembled group of kids, as if Abrams overzealously cast his kids with too keen opposite attributes. I did enjoy their cheesy Super 8 movie played over the end credits, though.

I know, how could I not like a movie that is this expensive with rich production values and instilled with admittedly young teen smart aleck jibing? I think it’s overblown. I imagine “Super 8” could win the Oscar for Best Sound and Sound Editing, but those sound effects during the train wreck were ridiculous to me – it sounded like dinosaur thrashing sounds lifted from “Jurassic Park,” not a train wreck. I think it’s overblown in the parent and child relationships, with parents as manipulative story tools for “domestic” conflict. It’s overblown because the music cues are bombastic in the wrong places. It’s overblown because Abrams will show us clues but not explain them until a dozen scenes later for means of keeping answers away from us for an inordinate amount of time. And it’s overblown because of the lens glare that is supposed to symbolically signify collision of technology and people, or something.

112 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” (1977); “The Goonies” (1985); “The Explorers” (1985); “Signs” (2002).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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