For months, middle-aged hopefuls anticipated the release of Super 8, a movie directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. You could hear the phrases “This generation’s E.T.” and “Finally, a movie that will build the characters of kids these days, like The Goonies did for us!”, coming from anyone between the ages of 28 and 36.
Think about it: a bunch of Generation X-ers and Y-ers talking about the good old days, and how the kids these days have no respect for good movies, but Super 8 is going to shape them up, put some hair on their chests (for the boys) and make them model citizens. Damn, we are getting OLD!
Besides that, how could this movie withstand such heavy hype? Simple: by being a good movie in its own right. Maybe it wasn’t so fun for the kids (I don’t have any to ask), but it was fun for the 12 year old kid in me that had crushes on at least 4 blonde-haired girls and a love of horror movies. Screw the kids.
The movie is structured as a typical, politically poignant adventure story about a group of budding filmmakers who witness a train crash that unleashes some sort of creature onto their town. With the military involved and the safety of their friends, family, and themselves at stake, they must choose who to trust and who to help. With the addition of some complicated emotional sub-plots, we are given a story where we care about the characters more than enough to allow for something as fantastic as the creature to being invited into our viewing.
Elle Fanning literally grew up 4 years in her portrayal of Alice Dainard. While the “movie within a movie” premise of the film never expanded past being a plot device, it became obvious through it that her acting talent was a huge focus.
Joel Courtney came through his acting debut at Joe Lamb unscathed, except for a few scratches he suffered in some tunnels. The rest of the kid cast, bossy director Charles, pyromaniac Cary, the subdued Preston and Martin, all played their parts to keep the movie entertaining as a supporting cast. The adults were even more a supporting cast, which is fine: they’re are just a bunch of old people that don’t know anything anyway.
What is interesting, and what makes this movie so NOT a current generational movie, is the time of the movie. It is set in 1979. The old fogies are watching the young ‘uns as they listen to Blondie on their suspicious “Walk-Men” and mess around with monsters when they should be going All-American things like playing baseball. It’s like The Goonies, sure, but revisited with a creature and a movie camera. The jokes are for my generation, not the kids today. Is this a bad thing? Only if you go into the theater expecting a present day set-up, but with the title of Super 8, you’d have to be pretty young to believe that.
I give this homage to my childhood 4 out of 5 Super-8 cameras.