Super 8 has to be just about the only blockbuster this summer that’s not a sequel, in 3D, or based on a comic book. And that makes it so very special. It’s a reminder that not everyone in the movie industry has forgotten that they can make up their own characters and stories. Not to say that Super 8 is entirely original. In fact, the twist at the end is so typical by now that it would have been more surprising if it hadn’t happened. Still, there’s no denying that this movie is a welcome relief. Maybe a few filmmakers will take the hint and stop desperately resorting to ever more obscure comic book superheroes to fill the summer’s movie quota. Seriously? Thor? You guys are getting pretty desperate.
The movie Super 8 revolves around a group of kids, who, while filming a zombie movie that, chance upon the mother of all train wrecks. Seriously. It’s like train-mageddon. A pick-up hits the train head-on, and ka-boom! CGI everywhere. Somehow out plucky heroes manage to avoid the giant fireballs, tumbling steel trailers, and raining debris without sustaining so much as a scratch. Not only are they unhurt, they go back to witty one-liners and amusing bickering about five seconds later. Until a scary black man (who somehow survived a head-on collision with a military train) tells them not to tell anyone or the baddies will kill them for what they’ve seen. Which turns out not to be true, by the way, since the baddies in question merely capture them later. But I guess kill sounded more foreboding. Anyway, after hearing this proclamation and having the black dude chase them away at gunpoint, the kids get a little nervous. Still, no breaking down, no crying, no PTSD. These are some pretty hardened, badass little kids.
It turns out the train wreck was only the beginning. You see, inside the train was an alien, and when the train crashed, the alien managed to punch its way out through the wall and is running around the town, wreaking havoc. You may wonder why the alien needed to wait until the train was derailed before punching through the wall. I don’t know.
Anyway, since the movie-makers obviously what Super 8 to be as mysterious as possible, I won’t give away any more of the plot. Suffice it to say that the plot is pretty good. Not exceptional, but decent for a monster-thriller.
You will not know what this movie is about until you see it, JJ Abrams has decreed it.
What is exceptional is the character development and the dialogue. Far too many movies centered around children force us to endure characters that, instead of being endearing and comical, come off as obnoxious and cliched. These kids are not. The humor is funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but sort of chuckle-and-grin funny. It’s like if Quentin Tarantino wrote a movie about children.
Like a boatload of disaster thrillers, this movie features a subplot involving an estranged father and son who manage to re-discover their love for each other. It also features a romance. Again, these plot elements are a lot better handled than in a lot of movies. When the character development is taking place, you don’t feel bored. You don’t want to yell at the screen to just get back to the action already. These touching scenes ARE a part of the action, and just as involving as the big scary monster moments.
Unfortunately, this movie commits what I consider the cardinal sin of thrillers and horror films everywehre–it resorts to jump scares. Lots of them. Worse, it resorts to LOUD jump scares.
The thing about jump scares is this: they’re easy. Everyone knows that you can play a supper loud noise after a long quiet pause and people will jump. And wince as their eardrums throb in anguish.
See? It’s easy…
Honestly, though, doing this over and over again–it’s lazy. It’s the cheapest and most obnoxious means possible of scaring people, if you can really call it scaring. I call it startling. And it detracts from the movie when you have to cover your ears to protect them from the next big bang or crash that you just know is coming.
Apart from that, though, the movie s a pretty fun ride. Almost all of it, at least. The climax, as I said before, is a little cheesy and predictable, and it feels a bit like the ending of a Disney movie. Which would be fine, I guess, if this were a kids’ movie, but I can’t help but feel that if it were a kids’ movie they wouldn’t have had all those tedious jump scares.
Gotta give Super 8 props for its ending, though. It wraps everything up, and then–it ends. It just ends. No anti-climactic bullshit, just a nice,clean, fade to black. It’s a bold move, and I respect it. Hey, the story’s done, so do we really need to see a scene of everybody sitting around and talking about what happened? No. No, we most certainly don’t. Super 8 out with a bang, not a fizzle, and that is truly the way to go.
Oh, and during the credits? We finally get to see that zombie movie they were filming.