Steven Spielberg keeps reminding the world why science fiction is a relevant and important film genre to explore. Teaming up with writer/director J. J. Abrams (Star Trek), the film Super 8 can be regarded as a thank-you note to Spielberg from Abrams, since there are a few narrative parallels between this film and the highly influential E.T. (1982). Similarities such as a misunderstood creature who wants to return home and the young children (apparently the only understanding and empathetic people around) who make a great effort to help this wish come to fruition.
The film definitely lives up to its secrecy and hidden narrative objective, captivating the audience right from the get-go. This movie is what I would consider a two-thirds films, as everything up until the ending is intriguing and entertaining mixed with a few dashes of brilliance. However, the ending is rather lacklustre and uninspired, not to say this affected the overall film because it did not, but I was sort of hoping for a more dramatic conclusion instead of the seemingly simple exit.
Aside from the special effects, which could almost be perceived as authentic, the performances that Abrams got out of his young cast is simply remarkable. Joel Courtney plays Joseph, a talented make-up artist that is very personable and innocent, clinging to every demand his slightly overweight best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) says. Griffiths is a wonderful comic relief in the film as he brilliantly encompasses the angst of youth and the completely selfish mind-set that most young adolescent’s go through. Then there is Elle Fanning, who plays Alice, and if you are not sucked in by her acting capabilities (which are becoming more refined) then you will without a doubt be hypnotized by her beauty. I give credit to the make-up artists who chose to keep her skin refreshingly pale and lips a stark shade of rouge. These three are also joined by Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Cary (Ryan Lee), one silent and shy, the other a pyromaniac who provides the special effects for the film.
The film follows the group of friends in their attempt to film a low-budget zombie movie on a Super 8 camera that Charles can enter into a respected film competition. When a train crashes during their night shoot, everything in their small fictional town of Lillian changes. The narrative is rather predictable so I feel I am not spoiling anything for those who have not seen it, but I will state that the real value of the film lies within the actors performances as I find it to be more of a character piece and vehicle for sublime special effects. I will also say that Charles takes full advantage of the crash scene and the military invading the town. “Production value!” All young filmmakers can only dream of such occurrences to cheaply increase the strength and worth of their film. Also, make sure you watch the credits to see the finished product entered into the film competition. Now that is entertainment!