J.J. Abrams' Super 8 Not So Super

d 02832r J.J. Abrams' Super 8 Not So Super

Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Ron Eldard.

The summer vacation doldrums are here, providing I.Q. challenges to moviegoers of all ages, but for adolescents with a lot of free time on their hands, Super 8 promises something extra.

It’s the work of  J.J. Abrams, the slam-bam hack writer-director of such junk as Star Trek and Mission Impossible 3 (OK, he also wrote the nifty, nail-biting road thriller Joy Ride, which I liked a lot), but this time the producer is Steven Spielberg, so you have a right to expect something with a bit more quality. Sorry to dash your hopes, but it’s just more of the same junk.  Junk for children, with an estimated $45-million budget. There oughta be a law.

The premise is simplicity itself. In the summer of 1979, six school chums in a small steel-mining town in Ohio decide to make a zombie movie with a hand-held 8-mm. camera to enter in a Cleveland film competition. A smart, imaginative kid named Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), wise beyond his years like Henry Thomas in E.T., does lights, monster makeup and special effects. Joe has recently lost his mother in a mining accident, but despite the  bravery and can-do attitude that make him a leader among the others, he still carries around his late mom’s locket for good luck. He also harbors a secret crush on Alice (Elle Fanning), who objects to working with Joe because his father (Kyle Chandler, who plays the football coach on the popular TV series Friday Night Lights) is the deputy sheriff who arrested her father for drunkenness at Joe’s mother’s funeral. In fact, both Joe and Alice have been forbidden to continue working on their little home movie, which their fathers consider a frivolous waste of time, but secretly continue, disobeying orders and sneaking out at night when their Dads aren’t home. This is easier than it sounds, since zombie movies are all night scenes anyway, right?

But one night while filming at the depot, they accidentally witness a spectacular train crash (and we witness some spectacular special effects that get the movie off to a breathtaking start). Out of the wreckage, a man warns: “Do not speak of this or you and your parents will die.” Good advice. Because, wouldn’t you know, an alien from outer space also emerges. This is no cuddly E.T., but a monolithic monster capable of destroying everything in its path, and it’s hopping mad. Automobile transmissions fail, generators die, all of the pets in town disappear, telephone wires vanish, water and electricity are on the fritz—and the kids caught it all on their Super 8! It’s all the result of some evil plan, natch, cooked up by the U.S. Air Force, in a secret military operation to imprison and study a master race from another planet… but never mind. You needn’t concern yourself about things like plot, character development, and science. Better to just let the charm and resourcefulness of the six kids take over, enjoy the sci-fi effects that appear at the beginning and end of the movie, and be grateful for small favors.

This movie is divided into two halves: the movie within the movie, and the stuff about the monster destroying the town that only the kids can save. The best thing about Super 8, by far, are the kids, all perfectly cast. The script does a much better job making them believable and real than the adults. The funniest parts of the movie center on the process of filming their zombie epic. Cary (Ryan Lee) is the one who likes to set fires and blow things up. Martin (Gabriel Basso) is the dashing leading man who bursts into tears when real danger threatens. Best of all, there is director Charles (Riley  Griffiths), the overweight, tyrannical Orson Welles of the pack, weaned on cheesy B-movie monsters-and-mayhem thrillers, who doesn’t care what calamities occur as long as the camera keeps rolling. Watching these youngsters following their dream against all odds, I found myself getting some of my inner child back and laughing out loud at the same time. The rest of the movie steals shamelessly from Alien, The Thing, and every other space visitor flick ever made, including Spielberg’s own Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It takes forever, but when we finally come face to face with the actual monster, it’s as silly as it is enigmatic—rolling its eyes like Casper the Friendly Ghost while sucking air-conditioners and toaster ovens into a heap like a walking garbage dump! Turns out he’s just homesick, and all it takes to calm him down is Joe’s locket. He’s no E.T. but he still understands “Go home.” By that time, I could hardly wait myself.

rreed@observer.com

SUPER 8

Written and directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, AJ Michalka

2/4

Comments

  1. Really? You think Spielberg means higher quality than Abrams AND you think Star Trek was junk? JJ’s one of the most creative minds working in Hollywood right now, and his direction is generally pretty darn good. 

  2. Really? You think Spielberg means higher quality than Abrams AND you think Star Trek was junk? JJ’s one of the most creative minds working in Hollywood right now, and his direction is generally pretty darn good. 

  3. Wildcatbrass79 says:

    Just because you don’t like a movie doesn’t mean that you have to spoil plot points.  Way to be a hack…

  4. Wildcatbrass79 says:

    Just because you don’t like a movie doesn’t mean that you have to spoil plot points.  Way to be a hack…

  5. Wildcatbrass79 says:

    Just because you don’t like a movie doesn’t mean that you have to spoil plot points.  Way to be a hack…

  6. Wildcatbrass79 says:

    I read your review to get a different viewpoint from someone that did not care for the movie.  Instead, you couldn’t even abide by the standard of not spoiling major points of the movie.  Even internet blogs (you know, the things print media hates) were able to do that with positive and negative reviews.  

  7. JeffR says:

    Star Trek was junk. So was MI3. Abrams is a hack.  He should have stuck to tv. And all the lens flares…when will it stop!!!!

  8. YouSuck says:

    Being a reviewer, you should know this – put SPOILERS somewhere BEFORE you reveal a major plot point! Don’t ruin the experience for people still waiting to see it.

  9. Thanks for COMPLETELY RUINING THE EFFING MOVIE FOR ME, REED. DID YOU SERIOUSLY HAVE TO GIVE AWAY THE ENDING, TOO? YOU NOT ONLY GAVE AWAY THE SECRET OF THE MOVIE, BUT THE ACTUAL ENDING ????? SERIOUSLY????? QUIT, REED. SERIOUSLY – QUIT. NO MOVIE REVIEWER EVER GIVES AWAY THE ENDING OF A MOVIE, ESPECIALLY ONE LOOKED FORWARD TO BY MANY PEOPLE. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU MADE A MOVIE AND A REVIEWER GAVE AWAY THE SPECIFIC ENDING TWO DAYS BEFORE THE MOVIE CAME OUT? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? 

  10. ARE YOU SO IRRELEVANT AND MISERABLE AS A HUMAN BEING NOW THAT YOU FELT THAT YOU HAD TO NOT ONLY REVEAL MAJOR SPECIFIC PLOT POINTS, THE SECRET OF THE FILM – AND THE SPECIFIC ENDING!!!! OF THE FILM – TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF? I READ YOUR REVIEW TO GET A PERSPECTIVE ON IT, NOT TO BE TOLD THE FLIPPING ENDING!!!! WOULD SOMEONE GET THIS HACK’S “REVIEW” OFF THE INTERNET PLEASE, BEFORE HE RUINS A MOVIE EXPERIENCE FOR ANYONE ELSE?

  11. anna says:

    Thanks for ruining the film for my fiance’, who along with myself has been waiting for this movie to come out for a long time and

    DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW THE FREAKIN ENDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. AcePPO says:

    Abrams didn’t write “Star Trek”, you idiot. I stopped reading your review there. If I know more about the movie business than you (the guy being paid to write about it), you fail. Your opinion is probably worth about as much as your flawed knowledge.

  13. Dan B says:

    Thanks for putting spoilers in your worthless review. I should have stopped reading after you called Star Trek , which was one of the best reviewed and received movies of 2008, junk. Instead I read on and was stunned that you gave so much of the film away. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

  14. Dan B says:

    Correction: Star Trek came out in 2009. Unlike you Mr. Reed, I actually care about the integrity of the written statements that I make in public.

  15. Uslamiamet says:

    wow, your a totally stupid  james cameron fan , go to fuck yourself dick head, you suck

  16. Nuncio says:

    LMAO! It’s a good thing I hate JJ Abrams and despise Spielberg… otherwise I would have been pretty pissed off at those spoilers.. but seriously, I’m not as stupid as to continue reading when it is clear that the next sentence contains a spoiler; so, for the people who’s complaining here: Boohoo… learn some reading skills before going into the terrible world of Internet.

  17. Nuncio says:

    LMAO! It’s a good thing I hate JJ Abrams and despise Spielberg… otherwise I would have been pretty pissed off at those spoilers.. but seriously, I’m not as stupid as to continue reading when it is clear that the next sentence contains a spoiler; so, for the people who’s complaining here: Boohoo… learn some reading skills before going into the terrible world of Internet.

  18. SpoilerMan says:

    Don’t read reviews of movies you have already been brainwashed by Hollywood to love based on just a marketing campaign if you don’t want spoilers you Cinegoons.  Just skip the reviews, give hollywood your money, ang go back to kissing JJ Abrams ass.  This movie looks like another worthless Letdown that will have all you morons gushing over it for months.  

    I guess the main problem with the movies right now is THE AUDIENCE.  What a bunch of whiny babies with no good taste in movies.  

    Oh, by the way, the alien is an Arachnid Spider like creature.  There’s your spoiler MOFOS.

    1. Wildcatbrass79 says:

      I was reading his review to get a different viewpoint and see what were some negative about the movie.  

      So…if I don’t listen to negative reviews and blindly go see the movie, I’m brainwashed.  If I read his review…then I should have expected it and gone anyway without reading it…yeah, that makes sense.

      1. SpoilerMan says:

        I’ll assume your final statement “yeah, that makes sense” means that you totally agree with my views.
        Thanks Wildcatysomethin’.  I’m glad to see you validate my statement.  You rock!

      2. Sufjan says:

        Congrats…you have motivated me to leave my very first comment ever, which is this:  It’s very sad that you check these comments every hour to validate your viewpoint.  Good luck to you.

      3. strawberryshortcake says:

        What a bunch of nerds.

    2. JD Shippel says:

      I guess you’re trying to make a point…but you sound so crazy/rediculous that it’s just laughable. Go on hating society, moron. 

      1. SpoilerMan says:

        I love you too JD.  Nice hair.  So Bullcuts must still be big in Toronto.

      2. Not impressed says:

        From the amount of professionalism in the review and in the comments from you it seems like you’re either related to or sleeping with somebody with a lot of pull who managed to give a failure a shot at either money so they can move out of their parents basement, or a shot at their”dream”.

        Well keep dreaming

        Also very big difference between a review and a summary of the plot, if you’re going to continue “reviewing” you should probably look up the difference

        One more thing, I think JD’s hair was cut using a BOWL, not a BULL

    3. You're An Idiot says:

      Good job taking that spolier from Variety’s review – word for word.

      Good job trying to be original ;)

    4. You're An Idiot says:

      Good job taking that spolier from Variety’s review – word for word.

      Good job trying to be original ;)

  19. SpoilerMan says:

    Don’t read reviews of movies you have already been brainwashed by Hollywood to love based on just a marketing campaign if you don’t want spoilers you Cinegoons.  Just skip the reviews, give hollywood your money, ang go back to kissing JJ Abrams ass.  This movie looks like another worthless Letdown that will have all you morons gushing over it for months.  

    I guess the main problem with the movies right now is THE AUDIENCE.  What a bunch of whiny babies with no good taste in movies.  

    Oh, by the way, the alien is an Arachnid Spider like creature.  There’s your spoiler MOFOS.

  20. Dave says:

    thanks for spoiling the fucking plot asshole

  21. horrible reviewer says:

    wow seriously??? how is this hack considered a top critic!? ITS CALLED SPOILER FOR A REASON DUMBASS! thanks for ruining it!!

  22. Will says:

    Don’t spoil plot point and Star Trek was amazing. End

  23. Movie Fan says:

    Never reading another review from the like of Rex Reed.  Go retire or something, but keep your arse out of the movie theatres.  You don’t know what a good movie is anymore.

  24. Mkase6 says:

    Wow, can’t believe it!  Finally a critic that puts his own rotten life’s experience into his review.  My hat goes off to Mr. Reed.   One that could muster up all the negativity from his childhood, then transform that into his work is quite a feat.  I’m not so talented, I’m just the pity soul that escaped my hetic life for 1.45 hours and was captivated by this Amblin style film that I grew up on.  Shame on my parents for giving me a life that would connect to a films like this.   And shame on Mr. Abrams for making us all feel like a boy again.   Sorry we’re not all as lucky as Mr. Reed, where getting old just makes us realize our younger lives weren’t any better.

  25. Zombiesrule says:

    I think you confuse very obvious homages to the films of that era 1970′s and early 80′s to “blatantly steals”. I too read your review for a different perspective. Having said that, I am AMAZED that you are paid for your biased and, I will say, obvious disdain for movies. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and bet you were one of those pretentious film school/art house types that only likes movies that NO ONE has EVER seen. You probably get repulsed by any movie with a Movie Poster that they made more than five copies of. Your violation of the etiquette of warning others that spoilers are present is one thing, but your arrogance and loathing of modern movies is reprehensible. Heck, you basically told everyone who reads your rag that you already hate one of the BIGGEST tentpoles of the summer (Transformers 3) which has not yet been screened by critics. I will take that as evidence that you had your mind make up about this movie prior to you even setting foot into he theater. Way to be objective. 

  26. neverreadingthispostagain says:

    I thought the point of a review was to give a glimpse of the movie and your overall opinion of it….what the he’ll kind of review is this…why don’t u just write every important point and post it. Maybe u should find another calling in life because I do not think u have found yours yet.

  27. Dandn says:

    Wow, did you really have to give away the ending? That just cancelled out your review in my mind because apparently only dicks hate this movie.

  28. Babyu909 says:

    OH! Nice. Now I know the ending. Way to go, Rex. Never be visiting this site again…

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been burned by a Rex Reed review before.  I make it a point to read his venom after I’ve seen the movie, not before.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone who comments on this site know how to read? This review praised the parts of the film that every other critic praised and eviscerated the parts that every other critic derided. The only real difference is Reed puts more humanity into his writing. What a crime. 

  31. Anonymous says:

    God Rex, you are just like a bad fart whose horrible smell won’t leave a room. Oh and you are annoying. 

  32. Anonymous says:

    Oh and by the way, the movie is pretty good. 

  33. As usual, Rex Reed has no idea what the hell he is talking about. I’ve seen Super 8, its phenomenal and Rex could not be more wrong. He was wrong about Inception and he has been dead wrong about countless other films. Seriously, why does the Observer still have this guy on their payroll? 

  34. Mom2allyandty says:

    super8 super sucked the monster looks a spider, cloverfeild, and general grievous from starwars. Had a baby. I wouldn’t waste the twelve bucks to hear some fat ass gulp soda and chew popcorn louder than the movie itself. Wait till it comes out on blue ray but rent it don’t buy it..I followed this movie for a whole year. And can I tell you, what a super waste of time… go see x-men…

  35. Sebognortz says:

    “Steel-mining town…”   What a riot.  They mine steel there?

  36. Ctarneson says:

    I disagree with the reviewer. It was a great movie, and a good throwback to classic Spielberg. It didn’t feel like imitation; it was more like it payed homage while adding in modern day eye-candy and newer, entertaining, and well-acted characters.

    It was miles beyond most movies coming out today because it went back to the basics.

  37. FedUP says:

    It was directed at kids.  Note all the comparisons to E.T.  Yet, they feel compelled to throw in one “F” word!  I asked myself if that was really necessary, or a requirement of today’s Hollywood?  I’m not a prude by any means, but really, do little children expect E.T. to say FUCK!

  38. Anonymous says:

    As an openly gay man, I regret that I feel compelled to say this: but Rex Reed is a fucking faggot!

    He really needs to quit being such a bitchtard. His view on movies are about as reasonable as speaking gibberish backwards.