Written by / 6/10/2011 / No comments / , , , ,

SUPER 8

title: SUPER 8
year: 2011
cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths
rating: **1/2

Writer/director J.J. Abrams pays homage to late-seventies, early-to-mid eighties Steven Spielberg science-fiction films, with the living legend himself as producer. Set in 1979, when people had Walk-Mans instead of iPods, and listened to the kind of music today’s parents sing karaoke to on weekends, the story begins with a group of youngsters making a cheesy zombie flick with a Super 8 camera. This is the best part, bringing back memories of the endearingly curious kiddos in Spielberg outings E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL and THE GOONIES... this film-within-a-film is a fun and involving baseline. Unfortunately, this titular device doesn’t last long. For as the kids are shooting at the platform of a train station, a train derails causing a big budget wreck liken to the plane crash on Abram’s television series LOST. The group scatters for their lives and never quite recover. And either does the story at hand, replacing character development with a horror-driven suspense: Following the disaster, something (an Alien, perhaps?) is causing strange and violent things to happen in the small town. Thus Joel Courtney, as the young, vulnerable main protagonist, his dream girl Elle Fanning (cast as the ingĂ©nue of the zombie film), and Joel’s father (Kyle Chandler), a local cop, investigate separately: becoming the only three characters we really get to know. While Cop-Dad deals with the nefarious military, Joel and Elle (their friends subjected to filler roles) are trying to figure out the source of these happenings: imagine "Elliot” from E.T. morphing into Richard Dreyfuss from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. And while those Spielberg classics, which this film borrows from in not only plot-structure and characters but camera and lighting, took their time to reach a conclusion, this one too quickly turns an initially creative coming-of-age suspense yarn into a high-octane monster movie rushing to an inevitable, and somewhat predictable, conclusion. And while Riley Griffiths’ character (think THE GOONIES “Chunk” with bossy bravado), who directs the zombie film, has his moments, he never becomes the capable scene-stealer as obviously intended. Although his completed short (shown during the end credits) is entertaining, serving as a reminder that J.J. Abrams, while making the town itself and the situation at hand seem real, didn't center enough on those kids and the Super 8 camera.
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