Movie Review: SUPER 8

*No spoilers*

When I read this article on yesterday that reported J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 is tracking softly because he’s being so secretive about it, I found it ridiculous. Moviegoers are supposedly not eager to see it because the writer/director won’t reveal certain plot points or pictures of the creature? So they’d be more interested if the trailer gives away everything?

I attended an advance screening of Super 8 tonight and let me say: Abrams is doing the right thing. Go see the movie before too much chatter ruins it for you. It was the most fun I had at the cinema in a long time.

From L: Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths

Set in 1979, it took me back to the summer flicks of my childhood, movies that were not in 3D or dominated by green-screen effects, entertainment that contained a good story, character development, and skillful acting—completely foreign concepts to the Michael Bays of the world. It’s reminiscent of E.T., Stand by Me, and Jurassic Park, in that it’s a coming-of-age tale about friendship and family but has lots of moments that made me jump, gasp, then titter as I anticipated the next thrill around the corner. (The big dude sitting next to me jumped so far out of his seat one time, he almost landed on top of me.) The train crash teased in the trailer is spectacular in a disaster-movie way, and Abrams knew exactly where to sprinkle witty lines among all the action and suspense.

The movie is anchored by a group of young thespians so naturally gifted, they don’t appear to be acting at all. Their friendship seems lived-in and their dialogue believable for middle-school kids who have known each other for years. The standouts are Joel Courtney as Joe and Elle Fanning as Alice. It’s astonishing that this is Courtney’s first acting gig. He can make you ache for him without saying anything, he can reveal Joe’s heart without any Method-y business. Fanning should finally be declared a star in her own right. Kyle Chandler provides solid support as Joe’s dad, a harried deputy sheriff trying to hold a small town together in the face of some weird goings on.

Chandler (L) with Abrams

Holding it all together off camera is Abrams, who has obviously learned a thing or two from Steven Spielberg, one of Super 8′s producers. Thematically and stylistically, the movie is old-school Spielbergian (it even has a John Williams-ish score by Michael Giacchino) and is Abrams’s best directorial effort to date. His strength here is in knowing when to hold back and when to reveal. And the place for the reveal is in a dark theater, not a trailer you watch on your Smartphone.

Nerd verdict: A 10 for Super 8

Photos: Paramount Pictures



  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 6:36 am

    I’m looking forward to this, Elyse. Thanks for the review… and further allure.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I have more excitement and anticipation about seeing this movie than any other movie in recent memory. Of course, we all know what my memory is like, but that was meant as high praise. Of course, I love me some Coach, but even aside from that, I can hardly wait to get my behind in a seat. Thanks for the review, E!

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I have been on the fence about this movie since I saw the trailer on my laptop. Abrams has yet to deliver on the big screen and as much as it looks interesting, they have played that trailer to death. Nice to hear your opinion on this and I look forward to a good old fashioned fun time at the movies.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Good to hear! I thought I’d wait to see it when it was on movie channels, if only because 1)Kyle Chandler! and 2)there’s a shot of him looking at a map in the trailer with hometown of Dayton, OH dead center. [Even with JJ Abrams behind it, I was still not all that interested to see it while in theaters.] But with your review, I’m thinking we shouldn’t wait. Thanks, Elyse!

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    June 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I can’t wait until you all see it, too. Some locations are doing sneak previews on Thursday with free popcorn. If you’re interested, go here and click on one of the online ticket sites at the top to check if a theater near you is doing that.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I can’t wait to see this movie. I’ve been expecting it for a while. I’m an Abrams fan… and knowing that Spielberg’s in the credits too only makes me crave for the experience more.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I saw a trailer for this recently (forget which movie it was attached to, but it had to be either Bridesmaids or Midnight in Paris — I suspect the former)and I am totally hooked BECAUSE the trailer reveals all the right images without giving away anything. I feel like a little kid sitting around the campfire on a summer night begging to be told a story. Can’t wait!

  • Reply
    June 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I attended a screening last night in Tampa FL which I almost brushed off after the bad taste Cloverfield left in my mouth. I decided to go and had so much fun…I am glad I gave J J Abrams a second chance, this movie will not disappoint.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    June 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I’m so glad you reviewed this one, PCN. Every time I see the ad on TV, it gives me Spielbergian goosebumps and has me thinking of E.T. {one of my all-time favourite movies}. And J.J. Abrams is a positive for me, not a negative. I think I’ll have to put my nerves to the test and see this in the cinema!

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