{2jtab: Movie Review}

Super 8 - Movie Review


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5 Stars

Super 8 is sci-fi fantasy fulfillment at its most complete.  Like the finest of wine-accompanying meals, J.J. Abrams’ sleek homage to the feel and look of the classic films directed and/or produced Steven Spielberg (the ones from my youth) is extremely satisfying.  The film – each and every morsel – registers for thirty-something-year-olds as an epic middle finger to all those mass-media critics who were left unaffected by E.T., confused by Close Encounters of the Third Kind; those who huffed at Gremlins, pooh-poohed Amazing Stories, decried the heart of *batteries not included or labeled The Goonies as far too noisy for good taste as the film and its director see nothing wrong in celebrating the cinematic heart of the adventurous adolescent.  Indeed, Super 8 is a stunning achievement that takes its viewers back to a time period where adventure - not cell phones – ruled the school.

The year is 1979.  The town: Lillian, Ohio.  An accident at a factory has left Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) without a wife and his soft-spoken son, Joe (Joel Courtney) without a mother.  As the days and months pass, a distance grows between father and son.  Joe finds escape in model trains and make-up effects for his best friend’s Super 8 zombie film, The Case.  Charles (Riley Griffiths) fancies himself as a director and stuffs himself on French fries and George A. Romero films.  He also fancies – as does Joe – Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) and sees her as perfect as the love interest in his film.  The rest of the middle-school aged gang – Carey (Ryan Lee), who likes blowing things up, Preston (Zach Mills), and Martin (Gabriel Basso) – are just content to be a part of the film and sneak off for midnight shoots.

On one of these secret shoots, the Super 8 camera records something it shouldn’t have: a massive train wreck whose mysterious contents the United States Air Force are desperately trying to keep under wraps.  Their presence at the crash only alerts the town that something is wrong; something has escaped.  The boys, while waiting for their film to be processed, puzzle over the final words of Dr, Woodward (Glynn Turman), their teacher who caused the wreck.  Tensions spike as strange things begin to happen at night.

Soon enough, the Air Force – represented here by the stern leadership Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich) - descends upon the town.  Dogs go missing.  People, too.  Power surges plague the town and, one by one, the boys find themselves at the center of a mystery that, deftly enough, reveals all through a hole in a young boy’s wall.  Super 8 is the thrilling throwback its super secret advertising campaign suggests.

Rest assured, simple nostalgia is not Abrams only flexed muscle.  Yes, this movie reads as a certified postage-stamped love letter to the Spielberg films of the past but, due to its narrative and its inherit intelligence, Super 8 hoists a weight of much more.  Compromised of incredible establishing shots of houses and well-timed sequences of destruction, Super 8 earns its clearance as a legitimate film of adventurous science fiction in that it knows it offers what other summer features don’t: an authentic and poignant arc of soul that resonates against its extraterrestrial backdrop.  It’s a sincere blockbuster; the type of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore.

And it’s a film that easily could have failed.  If it was all – even its emotional nuances – patterned as a paint-by-numbers project or solely as a movie mash-up: The Goonies meet Cloverfield, the movie would have folded in on itself.  Abrams, who also wrote the movie, would have been dismissed as a mere mime and not celebrated as the clever director that he apparently is.  He single-handedly saved Mission Impossible III, brought Star Trek back to life and, now, with Super 8 gives fans a moving creature feature that hearkens back to a by-gone era of filmmaking now replaced with a summer season of films aimed to push iPods, iPads, and iPhones, with little care for iNtelligence or iHeart.

Abrams resurrects Walter Cronkite and dusts him off for broadcast news, surrounds us with wood-encased television sets in carpeted living rooms, puts Three-Mile Island back in the headlines, and introduces audiences to a device called The Walkman.  As the script suggests, this is a “slippery slope” and, with the inclusion of a gang of smart-aleck kids that today’s filmmakers and scriptwriters NEVER get right, absolutely nails the era and the comradery without falling victim to its own concept.

Much like The Goonies, Super 8 doesn’t feel completely comfortable being labeled as a kids movie and fights against that label; the language is harsh, there’s (thankfully) extreme and shocking violence, and even moments of pot smoking teenagers.  Everything, alongside a soundtrack full of ELO and The Knack and Blondie songs, is presented with unrefined joy.  Even the score, written by Michael Giacchino, reaches back to the pantheon of John Williams and gives us moments of melody to remember.

Super 8 is proof positive of cinematic inspiration drawn from late 70s and early 80s source material; a rare film that immediately joins the ranks of those it emulates.  Here, at the helm of the film, we have one of the brightest filmmakers in recent years making a statement about the power and journey of film with a new tale told with a giant tipping of the hat toward the work and influence of Steven Spielberg and the films produced by Amblin Entertainment.

Sadly, teenagers and kids don’t seem to devour movies like this anymore.  Cynicism is injected into their bloodstream at too soon an age.  Their concentration powers have been diminished by fancy gadgets and Michael Bay films.  My hope is that this film and its message does well and encourages them to appreciate the artistry of filmmaking – not as one massive explosion of sexuality and fire – but as the emotional journey that it can be when done correctly.  Let them be niave and young and open to the possibility of, dare I suggest it, hope.

Super 8 might be an ode to the space-fueled optimistic films of the once young Steven Spielberg but its heart is firmly grounded in the soil of belief that sometimes – and rather thankfully - you can go back again.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Super 8 - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: G-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.
Director: J.J. Abrams
: J.J. Abrams
Joel Courtney; Jessica Tuck; Joel McKinnon Miller; Ryan Lee; Zach Mills; Riley Griffiths
: Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "We have to help Charles finish his movie"
Next Summer, It Arrives..
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: June 10, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth – something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Super 8 - Blu-ray review Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 22, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy; D-Box

Paramount’s 1080p transfer lives up to its name.  It’s super.  The colors are fairly warm, but the overall palette is consistently beautiful and even.  Flesh tones, representing the warmer side of the palette, are possibly ruddier than they naturally are.  This does not detract from the quality of the transfer, though.  It adds a visual punch to its throwback mentality.  The grain layer is healthy and gives the film a vintage feel without the dating process.  Black levels are consistently inky and wrap the picture in delicious and well-defined bows full of strong shadows and perfect lines.  With a great field of depth and use of the frame, Super 8 is a strong contender for Paramount’s best blu-ray.  The sound – provided by an epic Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack – rocks the rafters and floorboards with great finesse.  It’s a dynamically engaging use of surround sound that will have you in awe of the technology.  Overall, a top notch release.



  • On a high quality commentary track, Director J.J. Abrams, Producer Bryan Burk, and Cinematographer Larry Fong provide the needed information about the shooting of the film.  They are filled with bright recollections and some fun anecdotes about what they wanted from the film.  Deliver, they did.

Special Features:

While Super 8 is a throwback to the films and style of the 1980s, the supplemental material is very modern in its approach to transmitting data.  There are a lot of quality featurettes and they start with a bang as Abrams discusses how the film came to be.  He talks, at great length, about his love for filmmaking and the films Super 8 references.  The casting of the youth characters is addressed in another brief feature.  We also get an in-depth look at Joel Courtney and the process he went through in getting the role for the film.  There is also a great featurette about location in which the town of Weirton, West Virginia (where the film was shot) is celebrated.  Another highlight of the release is an interactive feature that deconstructs the train scene.  With looks at the music and at Fong’s cinematography as well as a Digital Copy of the film, Super 8 is full of great informative treats that will delight its fans to no end.

  • The Dream Behind ‘Super 8’ (17 min)
  • The Search for New Faces (18 min)
  • Meet Joel Courtney (15 min)
  • Rediscovering Steel Town (18 min)
  • The Visitor Lives (13 min)
  • Scoring ‘Super 8’ (6 min)
  • Do You Believe in Magic? (5 min)
  • The 8mm Revolution (9 min)
  • 14 Deleted Scenes (13 min)
  • Deconstructing the Train Crash

{2jtab: Trailer}