When the credits rolled at the end of Super 8; I wanted to stand up and clap. I wanted to shout for joy in expression of my complete and utter enjoyment of a beautifully made film. The reason is simple. Super 8 captured my heart. After seeing the film, I felt the way I did after seeing E.T. or Goonies–elated and full of wonderment. That is an emotion that very few movies in recent years have been able to cause. There have been numerous entertaining ones, which have earned a place in my personal collection, but none of these match Super 8. What makes this film so different?
In a word, Super 8 is what other critics and film reviewers might call Spielbergian. However, labeling this film as Spielbergian, or saying it is a throwback to E.T., Goonies or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, sells the film short to a degree. Certainly, the J.J. Abrams directed–and Spielberg produced–film has a similar feel as those three movies, but it isn’t a cookie cutter film by any means. This tale has a magic all its own .
I saw a glimmer of this magic when we are first introduced to Joe Lamb( Joel Courtney)and his friends in the somber setting of Joe’s Mother’s funeral. Joe is outside, sitting on a swing staring at a locket and his friends are inside talking. What seemed magical to me was the pacing of the boys’ conversation. It wasn’t hurried or seem to slow the scene down. Instead, it subtly moved the plot forward and complimented the mood of the setting.
Another moment came a little later in the film, not long before the story changes to an adventure ,instead of the average coming of age spin. We arrive at this point in the film after learning that Joe’s friend Charlie (Riley Griffiths) is a budding filmmaker who is making a zombie movie called “The Case” and hopes to enter the film in the local film festival. Seeing the need to have characters that an audience can connect with, Charlie recruits Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) to play the wife of his films hero. Before rehearsing the scene, Charlie instructs Alice that she has to cry. It is that moment in which the magic happens. As Alice recited her lines, I could sense the change in her as she connected with the emotions and feelings of her character, and thought that this is what film making is all about–capturing that moment.
I could write another two pages about the subtleties and nuances of the film, so I will just say that Super 8 is the sort of film that weaves a spell on the audience. It is clever, enticing, bitter-sweet, inspiring; literally igniting the imagination. The young cast are superb in their acting, not wooden as some child actors can be, and the adult actors deliver with dedication and realism.
In the end, Super 8 is a story about how Joe Lamb and his friends set out to make their mark in film history and end up having the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way, Joe finds a way to fill the hole left behind through the loss of his mother, and his Father, Jackson Lamb(Kyle Chandler); learns to forgive and realizes that knowing his son is more important than his job as Deputy. The town of Lillian has an experience they will never forget.
Don’t take my word for it. Experience this magic for yourself, with a loved-one, or a group of friends. Might I also suggest using the restroom before the movie, you’ll thank me later.