Wednesday 10 August 2011

Review: Super 8

Year: 2011
Director: JJ Abrams
Screenplay: JJ Abrams
Starring:  Amanda Michalka, Elle Fanning, Gabriel Basso, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Noah Emmerich, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills

Synopsis is here:

Note: A part of my review doesn't reveal any plot points but it does give a slight description of the films creature. Might spoil. Been Warned

Maybe it's the amount of expectation that Super 8 (one of them there original screenplays) brought with it, once people knew of it's conception. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm the kind of Spielberg fan that has no problem with Tom Hanks and his dodgy accent (The Terminal), or the general oddball awkwardness of a grown up Pan (Hook). However something with Super 8 doesn't sit right. The films mixture of JJ Abrams and Spielberg sensibilities don't quite gel completely for me.

I didn't not dislike the film as there's a lot of fun to be had with the films dialogue, the chemistry of the young cast and a bit of the mystery, but Abrams stylistic ticks (think lens flare), a meandering second act (12 minutes shorter than Captain America but strangely feels longer) and the films wish to be a Spielberg movie so much that it almost feels slightly too conscious of the fact, somewhat damage the affair slightly. I am reminded of Paul whose pop culture references to the movie brat are plenty but are utilised in a far more playful matter. Super 8's DNA is almost inherently Spielberg from the Single minded, stubborn, and/or separated father figures to the gang of kids and their Goonie like manner.

And yet something is missing slightly. The family relationships are the same in structure but don't feel as developed in their scenes. The kids (one or two feeling a tad more one-note than even their 80's counterparts)  look the part but seem to be missing that little touch that Spielberg films have. I am definitely in the minority here but these guys over Thud Butt, Rufio and rest of the lost boys? Not so sure.

It's definitely not all bad as the cast that's put in place are certainly fun to be with. Abrams introduces us to these guys well enough and they may not be the most remarkable pre-teens in a Spielberg universe but they have the right amount of energy. It also helps that any time love interest Elle Fanning (also brilliant in Somewhere) is on screen, she shines. The cast help set up the films exciting first act a treat, with Abrams giving us a chaotic train crash that doesn't better the destruction of Hogwarts but does well to show the intent.

It's unfortunate that nothing matches this opening gambit. It's a big way to open the film and the material struggles to to maintain the momentum. The second act is patchy in it's pacing and features the kind of cliffhangers that persuaded me to stop wondering about the those Oceanic guys who crashed on that crazy island. Abrams tries hard to keep us on tenderhooks with some decent enough 12a scares and some neat moments but as we make our way towards the finishing point the end of the mystery and the emotional payoff is weak. When I think of the aliens that have appeared in Spielberg movies, I'm always reminded of how memorable that are, through sound (Close encounters) or look (ET, War of the worlds). The revelation we see here feels much like a left over design of a certain other Abrams involved feature.

But this is the hand we are dealt. The Amblin sign crops up cheerfully at the beginning of the movie but nothing   comes up as strong. Everything is competent and faithful and that seems to be enough here. Super 8's ending belies my main problem with the film that although everything seems to be in the right place, the heart isn't given the emotional twack that you'd get if the executive producer was the director.

Despite my issues with the film there is an innocence within the film that a miserable blogger like I really cannot knock. When asked what he's doing; the wide eyed lead proclaims as clear as day "I'm trying my best to save your life".  When Super 8 falls on those little moments you can feel the 'berg watching over