“Do not speak of this.”
When the trailer for Super 8 arrived, the trailer that hit enough notes to look like it was from the 80’s, I was happy to see JJ Abrams doing a movie with Steven Spielberg producing.
It has all the hallmarks of an Amblin movie from the 80’s, the families, the town, the idea.
The problem is, it works until the last ten minutes of the movie.
Super 8 is really about the people and not the events around them. The characters themselves are likable.
The movie begins with the loss of Joe Lamb’s mother in a accident we don’t see but see the fall out from it. Four months later, Charles and his motley group of kids in 1978 are making a zombie Super 8 movie in Lillian, OH. Charles is the director while Joe is the make up artist/sound man. Their group is joined by Alice played by Elle Fanning.
Together the group sneak out one night to film a scene at the train station for their movie when a train derailment happens in front of their eyes and brings something mysterious to their little town.
The Air Force arrives en masse and I vaguely remember that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the Government Spook has to lock down Devil’s Tower before the aliens arrive.
Things go from bad to worse as Joe continues to poke around with Charles and Alice in tow much to his father’s disapproval while car engines, microwaves and copper are stolen. Hell, even the dogs are leaving town. Even the Sheriff disappears and it’s up to Joe’s dad, Jackson Lamb, the Deputy Sheriff played by Kyle Chandler to do his best Chief Brody and deal with the shark.
Thankfully, Jackson is smart enough and not the bumbling sheriff at least up until he decides to trust Nelec, the Air Force Officer in charge of the clean up played by Noah Emmerich. Neither scene chewing or evil, Noah plays the character straight and is welcome sight since many times the scenery is completely eaten by Morgan Freeman’s character in Dreamcatcher.
Through out the movie we see bits and pieces of the monster and see more nods to Spielberg movies, the electrical lineman getting a face to face with the alien was a nice touch.
The situation deteriorates enough for the Air Force to call the town a total loss and begins evacuating people. The mini war, complete with tanks, that breaks out in the town for reasons I don’t even remember is one of the better scenes because the heroes are actually in trouble and the Air Force is doing more harm then good.
The problem with all of this is the fact the alien is too dark for the scenes he’s in. It’s one thing to not show the shark not working, it’s another to film scenes at night where you can’t even see it which brings us to the finale where Joe has to find where the alien is hiding and rescue Alice.
And, that’s where the movie falls apart even if our lead moppet, mourning the loss of his mother basically tells the alien: Yes. No, shit. We fucked up. Get over it. Move on!
The next five minutes is laughable because we don’t get a coda for all these characters we get a nice little nod to Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s ending with the alien’s ship looking like a shooting star (as in when you wish upon a star, yes even the Williams soundtrack gets a nod) and we fade to black.
The credits roll and we see the movie the kids shot that was better than the ending of the real movie.
I slightly surprised the movie wasn’t incorporated into the ending: The town being cleaned up, houses and friendships being rebuilt. And then Charles movie comes back from being processed and everyone sits down to get a laugh out of it.
In the end, is it worth seeing in the theater: Yep. It’s a nice nostalgic look back at the movies from the late 70’s and early 80’s that we remember fondly enough.