Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
As we all very well know, originality has become increasingly and startlingly scarce in Hollywood. I could conceivably rant about said issue for hours; days even, but in light of all the borrowing and recycling, some individuals have actually harnessed the ability to do so intelligently. With this year’s Super 8, writer/director J.J. Abrams has incorporated an intelligible fondness of Speilberg-esque blockbusters from decades past into a mostly engaging if exceedingly cookie-cutter script that rarely fails to entertain. Intended lack of inspiration aside, the film in question certainly stands tall amidst an ongoing barrage of deafening, gaudy 3D-infused nonsense that has since followed in its footsteps.
Familiarity aside, Super 8 doesn’t aim to be anything more than what Abrams intended for it to be which, sadly enough, is probably what most audiences can appreciate nowadays given its narrative simplicity. Overwhelming as Abrams’ homage may be in several regards, certain intricacies associated with the requisite mystery and suspense-driven elements help make the film stand out among its easily recognizable, big-budget precursors. Equally recognizable recurring themes aside, Abrams does aptly incorporate his own signature creative touches to put an innovative spin on an otherwise run-of-the-mill alien invasion action-thriller.
Focusing more on the strength of human relationships as straightforward tragedy leads to disaster and widespread panic, Abrams prides himself on keeping viewers in the dark in terms of revealing what exactly the central characters are up against. Using a mostly amateur cast of young actors a la The Goonies to amp up the tension, we’re treated to a coming of age tale that explores the importance of friendship and togetherness during a time when these individuals need each other the most. This in mind, Super 8 remains terrifically satisfying from an emotional standpoint and, in conjunction with its spot-on if sometimes laborious pacing, exhibits many an instance of some appropriately loud, fast-paced mayhem along with an intelligent, taut and highly intriguing central storyline.
Given the inexperience of the talent Abrams has employed and my chronic disdain exhibited toward most child actors, Fanning very obviously stands out amongst her fellow youngsters yet all involved manage to thoroughly impress during both the film’s more suspense-driven and much lighter moments. Newcomer Joel Courtney first comes to mind as the male lead, with onscreen father Kyle Chandler and a supporting cast comprised of (mostly) recognizable veterans holding their own as the proceedings glide smoothly along toward Super 8‘s appropriately predictable and gratifying conclusion.
Unsubtle an homage as it most certainly is, Super 8 is easily one the more enjoyable theatrical experiences I’ve had this year. It’s not saying much, but J.J. Abrams’ gleeful throwback to those that inspired it is both emotionally satisfying and an appropriately suspenseful, mildly intelligent blockbuster that isn’t quite a masterpiece yet establishes a name for itself nonetheless. All in all, it’ll definitely be a shame when the film’s overshadowed by an oncoming flood of uninspired disasters, but at least I know I’m grateful to have seen this highly anticipated summer release of mine, even if it didn’t at all surpass my expectations.