When the Super 8 trailer first hit, I immediately couldn’t wait to see the film. JJ Abrams patented mysterious marketing and the promise of a film that was reminiscent of Spielberg films of old made Super 8 one of the most anticipated films of the summer. After the dust cleared and I had seen all of Super 8, one thought hit me; I don’t get it. The film seemed disjointed and seemed like it was trying to be too many films at once. First you have the monster film, then you have the coming of age children action film, and then you have nostalgic Stand by Me or E.T. films of old. This would be fine if the film spent time trying to flesh out these elements and bring them all together but it doesn’t. Super 8 seems like it switches paces all the time to the point that when it is over, you really don’t know what to make of it.
One thing that I got from the trailers and early word of mouth is that Abrams new film was highly nostalgic but to me it wasn’t. Maybe it’s because I’m a 90s kid but Super 8 seems to be its own beast. First thing we are introduced to the children of the group that want to complete a short film for a film festival. Are main protagonist Joe Lamb played by Joel Courtney plays the role quietly and remorsefully. We spend much of the film with him but his character never really fully develops. There are shades of character development that seem to break through but at the end of the day his character seems like the quiet kid we meet in the beginning that we know nothing about. I’d like to spend some time talking about the other children apart of his filmmaking crew but they are offer little scene time except the ringleader of the group Charles which spends most of the time being loud and annoying. Joe’s father who is played by Kyle Chandler spends most of the film being grumpy and upset. His redemption is quick and an emotional let down. For the most part the acting is decent but all the characters seem to be one tone. There is rarely any arc to the characters and when there is a change in character their isn’t much character development to justify it.
The best moments of the film are the monster/mystery aspects of the film. The monster is quick and stealthy and some of the best moments of the film come from the monster’s attacks. Like Cloverfield, the film that Abrams produced, the mystery is held up really well and Abrams waits for the right moment to reveal the monster in all of its glory. I honestly wish that Abrams would of made Super 8 a monster film because the film shines during those parts. Even though the look of the monster doesn’t fully satisfy your expectations (I mean could it with all the build up and he kind looks like general grievous) but with out spoiling anything I really like the reasons why and how the monster came to that small town. The monster is the only real thought-out and satisfying arc of the film and surprisingly he doesn’t spend much time on screen.
I may have been a little harsh on Super 8 but maybe its because I had such high expectations for the film. I was excited to see a film that would blend together all of the elements that the trailer seemed to promise. It has those elements but they all seem bunched together and unlike many complaints about running time, I wish that the film had been longer. I wish that Super 8 would of given the characters more time to progress and more time for all of the elements in the film to come together as one. There is a moment at the end of the film where the theme of letting go comes full circle and this moment is excellently shot and captured, but it just doesn’t seem like the film deserves this moment. Super 8 is a good movie, it has many thrills and keeps your attention but that’s just it, it’s just good and it left me feeling disappointed upon leaving. I guess that’s what high expectations will do for you.