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Movie ReviewsRating: 5 of 5 yaps

Super 8

You could argue that no film was salivated over last year more than “Super 8.”

We were all intrigued by that train crash and the mysterious pounding coming from behind the train car door.

And though it might not be the film we thought we were getting from that first teaser, no film lives up to those lofty expectations quite like “Super 8.” I’d go so far as to echo the sentiments of my friend and colleague Nick Rogers, who called it the best movie of the year to date.

And those other oft-shouted comparisons to “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” or “Cloverfield” (a natural and maybe even kind of lazy choice given it was “Super 8″ director JJ Abrams’ other mysterious sci fi project not called “Star Trek”)? Those comparisons are probably apt given the movie’s tone, but you have to look at it as not just a mash of those two in plot, but in tone.

“Super 8″ follows young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a boy on whom much tragedy has befallen. At the film’s outset, we learn his mother was killed in an accident at the factory where she worked. That leaves him in the hands of his father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler of TV’s “Friday Night Lights”), a busy sheriff’s deputy who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with his son.

Joe and his friends seem to fill much of their time making their own zombie movie. They witness the aforementioned train crash and its aftermath, where something large and strong appears to escape from the train. Soon the military shows up, and people start disappearing. Then Joe and his friends get their film developed and find out they have something much more than they’d believed.

A convergence of popcorn filmmaking and character development is what really makes “Super 8″ tick. Abrams doesn’t bother ascribing to the “an explosion every 10″ school of summer-movie filmmaking, though when the fireworks arrive, they are exciting enough. Abrams instead makes the kind of movie Steven Spielberg (who is coincidentally a producer on “Super 8″) tends to make: a big-budget blockbuster that focuses on character development and story.

In fact, you could call this film not so much an homage to Spielberg as Abrams on his knees like Wayne and Garth, chanting “We’re not worthy!” It’s a look at a “more innocent time” that really wasn’t; like another film it tonally emulates, “Stand By Me,” these pre-Xbox (heck, pre-Atari), pre-Internet, pre-Adam Walsh kids let profanities fly from their mouths to a degree most films made by marketing-obsessed studio exects today would never allow from children.

But virtually every beat works. The movie within the movie, which we get to see over the closing credits. The mystery of what this creature is. (Without ruining anything, let’s say that, like Abrams’ “Cloverfield” monster, what it is and what it does is both similar to and completely different than most anything else you tend to see in movies, even those of the sci-fi variety.) The tender, innocent romance between Joe and Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), which propels the latter half of the film. The intense suspense/horror elements, which are real and palpable though not overwhelming for younger audiences. (I didn’t take my 6-year-old son to this one, but if he had a little more a taste for scary situations, I wouldn’t have hesitated.)

The film’s time period is important, taking place in the late 1970s, and I have to note a bit of trivia. One character drives a ’69 Buick Skylark (which the kids hijack at a pivotal moment in the film), which happens to be the very first car owned by yours truly and made me long for the days I cruised around in my old hot rod. It was one additional touch of personal nostalgia that this film so deftly rolls on throughout.

The young gaggle of actors are a find, especially Courtney, whose soulful eyes, yes, evoke memories of a young Henry Thomas (but that’s the last “E.T.” comparison, I promise; “Super 8 deserves to stand on its own) to Fanning, who, in the shadow of her big sis Dakota, has created taken less high-profile roles but built a solid resume all her own.

“Super 8″ is a throwback with all the makings of a modern-day classic.

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45 Responses to “Super 8”

  1. [...] with the kind of youthful exuberance largely lacking in today’s blockbusters, J.J. Abrams’ love letter to Spielberg came as both a warm nostalgic embrace and a breath of fresh air. While the third act is a [...]

  2. [...] characters are real and all ages can enjoy (given those ages are OK with profanity). If you thought “Super 8” had too much focus on trying to be nice to the alien, this is for [...]

  3. Adam vibbert says:

    I really enjoyed the movie. I did not go like I thought it would by the previews. I ended up getting my wife and mother-in-law to go later and they liked it also! I would say a 4.5 out of 5 from me.

  4. Standgo says:

    I have recommended this movie to others. If you have seen Cloverfield……do you think Super 8 is a prequel? Think about it. :O)

  5. Mel Gonzalez says:

    This movie was so good. I loved the character interactions, the subject matter, and the action and mystery was great. I really enjoyed how the movie had a great pace. I never really thought it had any slow part -like so many movies have lately.

    I would def recommend this movie to others. I would give Super 8 4.5 yaps!

  6. Chrissy says:

    My husband I saw Super 8 this past weekend at the Drive in. What a fantastic movie!! I want to go and see it again. I love Kyle Chandler as the dad and really feel for his character. I like how he was sensitive/sad yet totally a get to the bottom of it kind of guy. The little boys in the movie were great! this totally reminded me of my siblings and I making movies with our parents camcorder. I really liked how it all seemed so real.
    Everyone stay till the end to see the final scenes in the credits. A lot of people left missing the BEST part of the movie.

  7. angibarnett says:

    I can’t wait to see it! I LOVE anything by Steven Spielberg!

  8. CortniB says:

    This movie was awesome!!

  9. H. Gordon says:

    I am a big fan of JJ Abrams. Like you, everyone I have talked with has thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I was a bit apprehensive based on the previews but now I will have to bump it to the top of my movies to see this weekend list – well – make that the only one on the list. I am curious to see what the title Super 8 really means.

  10. D.MOODY says:

    I went into this movie with no expectations at all. I had seen the previews and it looked like a movie I would take my 11yr old to see, so when my wife and I had win tix to the preview it was a bonus. I can truely say that I was very satisfied by the movie. It saw well put together and I’m actually going to go see it a second time with my 11yr old.

  11. Kim says:

    I am really excited to check this movie out this upcoming weekend.

  12. Jason says:

    I saw the trailer when it first came out, and I was extremely excited, and I plan on seeing it as soon as possible.

  13. Daniel Gable says:

    I rarely set my expectations as high for a movie as I did for Super 8, and I still managed to come away impressed. They just don’t make movies like Super 8 anymore. I really enjoyed it!

  14. Andi says:

    Also saw this one as a screener and had no clue about the credits. I guess we’ll just wait for the DVD – or some brave soul to Youtube them. :)

  15. Isaac S says:

    I’m really pissed I didn’t stay for the credits. I’m going to have to rent it now when it comes out just to see the extras.

  16. Lee Pugh says:

    This movie sounds really good. My daughter just saw it recently and loved it. I hope to see it while it’s still in theatres.

  17. Stephanie M. says:

    I saw this movie the other night. It was good, however there were a few things that did not make sense. For instance, the people hanging upside down?
    It was an interesting movie though.

  18. glen guerrero says:

    Was a good movie, really enjoyed it

  19. Scott says:

    I enjoyed this movie. I thought there were some "jumps" in some of the story throughout the movie and at the end that didn’t really show complete development. But overall I thought it was an entertaining film and would recommend it to friends.

  20. Monica K. says:

    I enjoyed this movie. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a movie with
    suspense, action, comedy and young romance.

  21. Jason Da Damaja says:

    Looking forward to seeing this movie. I thinking it is going to be ET on crack, with a sprinkle of angel dust. I really enjoyed cloverfield, even though you really cannot duplicate that again. The commercials keep you guessing and wanting to know what is contained in the trailers and what is effecting everyone in town. Hopefully I can see this movie this weekend.

  22. Zac says:

    I went to the screening not sure If I would like this movie, but I thought it was good.

  23. Bernie Ray says:

    Thought this was a really good movie. Highly recommend it. Took 2 grandkids (12 and 16) and they both liked it. But both had the same comment on the way home: "Why was the title SUPER 8?" 8-mm film had no meaning to them.

  24. Nick M. says:

    Great movie, loved the characters, the kids did a really good job in the movie and there was good chemistry between them. The movie is a mix between, ET, Goonies, Stand By Me, and Cloverfield. JJ Abrams did a good job of capturing the Speilburg movies of the 80′s. Highly recommend.

  25. Becky Meredith says:

    What an AWESOME movie. For you older Yappers, it had a touch of the old Alfred Hitchcock mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. My 14 year old granddaughter was very jumpy thru a lot of the scenes ( and yes so was I right beside her)
    Great movie inside a movie too. Loved the sound effects and the visual’s.
    I would say it is the best movie I have seen this year too!

  26. Sarah S. says:

    I saw this movie as a preview showing and we all were super excited. I liked the movie though it was not really what i expected. I definately saw the comparison to Stand by Me- the kids in this movie were alot like those, but they were relatable I think we did stupid things and blew them out off proportion when we were in middle school. Im not sure about finding aliens, but you know… I liked it overall and normally dont like the new alien movies, but i would recommend it. (Ps I loved ET and grew up watching it, but I dont really think this was ETish, but I also used to love the x-files.)

  27. Leslie G says:

    I wasn’t that interested in seeing this movie at first. Then I won passes and really looked into the trailer and it was kinda confusing but intriguing in that I really did not know what was supposed to happen. Unfortunately I had screening passes and was cut off. But now i really want to see this. I’m glad the review is good. Maybe I will still see it in theater. It kinda looks like mixed reviews from other viewers, basically because it isn’t what people expected. I guess I will check back and see what more people think.

  28. Jacqui says:

    I am looking forward to taking my children to see this movie! Thank you for the review!

  29. Alexis says:

    So excited to see this one! We love JJ Abrams.

  30. Jill says:

    I was really excited to see SUPER 8 and I was sadly disappointed. I guess all the hype made me expect a lot more. I loved the train scene and thought the kids were great, but it was way too much like ET for me.

  31. Victor Wakley says:

    This was such a fun movie; loved everything about it, and my son enjoyed it too. Much better than JJ’s first run at movie making.

  32. [...] Joe and Chris yap about Steven Spielberg, producer and quasi-subject of the new J.J. Abrams film, “Super 8.” Where does Spielberg rank among the pantheon of great film directors? Podcast Powered By [...]

  33. Jalise says:

    Thanks for the review. I have been seening the previews on TV and I’m drawn to this movie and can’t wait to see this movie. The suspense and the unknow of what’s happening to the town and what could be causing the havoc is why I’m going to see this movie.

    Thanks,

    Jalise

  34. Beth Hoban says:

    We can not wait to see Super 8, it is going to be super intense!

  35. Autumne says:

    Not exactly what I expected but quite enjoyable nontheless. Great casting of all the children’s roles. I’m sure we’ll be seeing some of them a lot more!

  36. Kevin Brown says:

    I was throughly delighted by the story line of Super 8, although expecting something totally different. Thinking along the lines of Star trek or the X Files. it turned out to me to be an coming of age movie with a sci-fi adventure. Agreeing with your comment, that before x-box or the internet we as kids were outside and adventurous.

  37. Andy says:

    I can agree with this review, and recommend that all of you see it. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I’m sure you will too! You can take that to the bank!!!

  38. Michael M. says:

    After reading all the comments, I really want to see this movie!

  39. Lindsey M. says:

    I agree with the above comments. This was a great movie. And remember to stay for the credits…

  40. Craig says:

    Oh yeah! I totally forgot to say thanks for the passes! Made an amazing movie all the better!

  41. Alyssa Beard says:

    Great review of a great movie, Joe. "Super 8" truly is one of the best movies of the year so far. It lived up to the expectations I had before seeing it, and those were some pretty high expectations. "Super 8" is visually stunning, sweet, funny, suspensful, and will hold your attention throughout. My review of "Super 8" can be summed up by saying, "’Super 8′? More like super GREAT!" Thank you for the passes, Film Yap.

  42. Josh says:

    Agree with the nostalgia and tone of the film. thoroughly enjoyed it. The kids were a great find. A lot of times movies like this that focus primarily on a young cast can turn out poor due to acting ability, but all of them were fantastic. Especially Fanning and Courtney.

  43. Craig says:

    I pretty much agree with everthing you mentioned. It was very Freaks and Geeks meets E.T. type of thing. I can’t think of any short comings in that movie. This is the kind of movie that makes me want to get back behind a camera and make my own stuff again.

  44. Thanks. Good article. i now am interested in seeing Super 8.

  45. Greg Rader says:

    REALLY enjoyed this one, it was sweet without being overly sappy. Very nostalgic, as Joe mentioned, but not so much as to be overwhelming. It’s the type of adventure all 12 year old boys yearn for, but realized on a far larger stage. Make SURE you stick around for the credits, it’s really the icing on an already fantastic cake.