Saturday, June 11, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

Tonight was the anticipated release of the new J.J. Abrams project, produced by Steven Spielberg, and starring Dakota's lovely sister Elle Fanning - the film titled Super 8. It's rare that I go out to see a movie on opening day (or in the theater at all) - not because I wouldn't like to, but because I can't afford to. But I figured that considering my current obsession with Dakota Fanning, it would be insane to pass up the opportunity to see this exciting new film her sister is starring in. Plus, I've been hearing good things about it.

Having now seen it - and gone to unusual lengths to get to the theater - I can say that it was definitely worth the effort. Hype doesn't tell me anything because every movie gets hyped up, and not every one deserves it. But forget what people are saying, this movie is a lot of fun. It has something that so many films lack - style. It's funny, but not in the way that the comedy is forced. The conversation is natural, and you laugh because the characters are genuinely funny, and also genuinely charming. But this isn't a comedy, and that's why it works. The humor makes watching the film a fun experience, but it's not what you're there for, you're there for the story.

What I didn't realize about this film until the last minute is that it's actually a retro '70s throwback film. And that's where a lot of the style comes into play. It's not over-the-top in the same way that an exploitation film is - like the recent grindhouse throwbacks: Planet Terror, Death Proof, Machete, etc. But it has that same kind of freewheeling love-of-the-cinema atmosphere. And it does go over-the-top in a few humorously ridiculous action scenes. And since the story within the story is about these kids directing a homemade movie of their own (a zombie film), that really drives home the point that this is a movie created by people who really love making movies.

Elle Fanning is really great in this role. But the rest of the cast - especially the main gang of kids - all hold their own in creating a lovable ensemble. I fear this may be a rather strong statement, but I'm tempted to say that Super 8 is The Goonies of the 21st century.

My brother was worried that the movie would turn out to be a lot sappier than the trailers (that I saw) suggest. There is some drama in this movie, but it's sweet, and it doesn't take away from the excitement, or the action. There's room for feelings in a movie like this; if you want a brutal two hours of film with no morals and no sensitivity, there are other titles to suit that bill (many that I've seen, and many that I've liked). But this movie, this movie is about having a good time.

I could say some things about the monster, but I'm hesitant to spoil anything. I'll try to be discreet, but as usual, if you really don't want to be spoiled, skip ahead to the next paragraph now. I'm tempted to call this film sort of a Cloverfield Jr. My standards for monsters in monster films are pretty high. Rarely do you get something as terrifying as H.R. Giger's xenomorph, or as horrific as John Carpenter's The Thing. I would rate the monster in Super 8 as falling short of being truly impressive, but good enough to hold the story. After all, this is less of a horror movie than a sci-fi thriller.

For those concerned about this being one of those shaky-cam found-footage type films, it's not like that at all. The production values throughout the film are solid.

In short, you should definitely go out and see this film. It's not just a good movie, it's a really fun movie to watch. And that's something you don't see every day.

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