Super 8 – Missing Mothers, Movies and Monsters
Teenager Joe Lamb and his friends, while shooting a scene for their homemade super 8mm zombie movie, witness a massive train wreck. After the crash, strange things start happening in their hometown of Lillian, Ohio. Soon, the town is flooded with military personnel who seem to be searching for a creature of some kind.
Super 8 is a tribute to earlier Spielberg films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It takes its time letting the audience get to know the main characters before fully jumping into the plot. There are certain shots, such as the first high-angle wide shot overlooking the town, which look almost identical to shots in earlier Spielberg films. In most Spielberg films featuring children, the main child character is raised by a single parent; in Super 8, Joe Lamb’s mother has recently passed away. They even set the film in 1979, setting the events of Super 8 at a time between the releases of two of Spielberg’s most iconic alien films.
Character development is an important part of this movie, and there’s a decent amount of drama going on between the characters before the plot really gets going. Joe misses his mother, his father doesn’t understand him, he enjoys hanging out with his friends and he likes a girl. Fortunately, Joe Lamb and his friends are quirky and fairly easy to like, so getting to know a little about them, their quirks and their personal lives is a reasonably enjoyable experience. On the other hand, the adult characters in the film are pretty much all business and no fun.
The film also takes its time revealing what the creature is, where it came from and what it wants. We are treated to a couple classic off-screen deaths, each time slowly showing more and more hints at what the creature looks like. There are some decent moments intended to make the audience jump. The film can afford to take its time on slowly teasing the audience because it doesn’t really have a whole lot of plot to cover, freeing up plenty of the film’s almost 2 hours of running time for suspense.
The visual effects are usually decent, but vary in quality; the train wreck scene looks a bit fake. The more practical effects in the movie are good. When I finally did see the creature, however, I was a little bit disappointed; it reminded me a little bit of another creature from a certain project that director J.J. Abrams was also involved with.
While the buildup in the first half of the film is pretty decent, the film loses some of its excitement and tension after a while. Once we know everything there is to know about the monster and fully understand the characters and their situation, we already know how things are going to turn out. Movies like this would never kill of their lead characters, so why should we be worried?
Overall, Super 8 is a decent film. It’s a fun ride while it lasts, but it’s not something that sticks with you too long afterwards. Super 8 is a nostalgic retread of a familiar genre of films, not a bold breakthrough of a movie that gives us something new.
If you do watch Super 8, be sure to stay for the credits; there is a fun little bonus that plays during part of the credits.