Super 8 (2011)

Greg Says: It’s E.T. on steroids

Title: Super 8 (2011)
Rating: 7/10
Date: 22 June 2011
Recommendation: See it in theaters
Helpful: 0 out of 0 found this helpful.


I didn’t quite know what to expect from “Super 8.” The running joke is that it’s a movie about a low-cost motel. But in fact, it’s a coming of age movie about teens who make zombie movies in the late 70s (or is it early 80s – the sound track was a bit confusing). Think “E.T.” meets “Stand By Me”.

JJ Abrams is the writer/director. He’s the guy who brought us “Alias” and “Lost” not to mention the new “Star Trek” reboot. (In that last movie he shows off his love for unassociated glare – which he has tamed in this movie).

I once saw a TED video where Abrams lectures about the secret to his success: The Magic Box. When he was a kid, he loved to go to the magic store and buy magic tricks. The one thing he really wanted was the magic box – a box filled with unknown magic tricks. Abrams later learned that the owner would take old, non-selling objects off the shelves and put them in the box and sell them at cost. So, there could be anything in there.

Abrams bought one of these boxes and never opened it. He brought it on- stage to show to the audience. He said that he learned the secret of suspense from the magic box. To keep someone interested in whatever it is that you’re doing, just create a secret, put it in the box, and then not open the box until the last minute.

If you watched “Lost” you can see that play out. There were a lot of secrets in that show right up to the end. And he certainly made us wait. This is also why it can be unclear what this film is about from the ads. Abrams didn’t want anyone to spoil the experience in the trailers.

In Super 8 you can see that philosophy play out again. The whole movie revolves around this secret that is on the train. The boys in the film discover the secret because they were filming near the train and accidentally captured it on Super-8 film. The rest of the movie is all about them trying to convince their deputy-sheriff dad that something is amiss.

Well, it isn’t ALL about the secret. There’s a girl and two buddies who both like her (I mean, like-like, you know). And there is romantic tension. This is the coming-of-age part of the story. If you were a fan of “Lost” you’ll see some familiar themes. There’s a lot of unspecified magnetism. And a lot of stuff being thrown in the air by unseen monsters. And people inexplicably going missing. And dogs running away.

And if you’re a fan of any science fiction movie from about any era, you’ll see the evil government agents doing unspecified unspeakable things to apparently innocent monsters.

The plot resolves unevenly. People reconcile their differences with little more than a sentence to bind them. The monster doesn’t or does eat people and if it does then it is unclear why it hangs on to them. There’s a lot of confusion around the ending. But if you don’t think too much it won’t bother you much.

I gave this a “See it in theaters” because Abrams does a good job of entertaining us along the way, and the special effects are good popcorn theater. You’ll want to see it on the big screen to get the most of it.

Generally I like Abrams’ work and I liked this film as Summer entertainment. But he’s not quite a Spielberg yet (who was the producer). He borrowed a lot from Spielberg’s bag of tricks (slowly zooming on on three kids while the wind blows the hair about their faces, for one). As a writer I think the tries to accomplish too much in one film. The film ran about 2hours 20 minutes and he left a few things dangling and resolved too much too quickly. I think he could have left out a couple subplots and told a more endearing story.