Release Date: June 10, 2011
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: Bad Robot/Amblin Ent./Paramount Pictures/Viacom
Director: J.J. Abrams
Executive Producer: None
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO, Viacom
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
Adam Goodman, President, Paramount Film Group
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
Set in 1979, the movie opens on a somber note, the after-funeral gathering for 15-year-old Joe Lamb’s recently deceased mother, who died in an accident at work. Joe and his father, Jackson, a sheriff’s deputy, don’t get along. Jackson doesn’t see much in Joe’s friends, especially chubby Charles, who’s roped Joe and two other friends into shooting a zombie movie to enter a film contest.
Charles manages to convince pretty Alice Dainard to act in the movie. They all sneak out at night to shoot some scenes at the local train depot.
Alice turns out to be a very good actress, and every one of the boys are smitten by her. When Charles is ready to film the big scene, however, Joe sees a truck barreling down the train tracks, headed straight for a long freight train. A tremendous train wreck occurs, and the young teenagers barely escape with their lives. Something monstrous has escaped from the train, which turns out to be controlled by the Air Force.
Dogs and people begin disappearing from the town, including the town sheriff. When Joe’s father tries to investigate the train wreck, an Air Force colonel stands in his way. Eventually, Joe’s father must take drastic action to save the town, and Joe must summon enough courage to rescue Alice from a terrifying fate.
Some of the things in SUPER 8 are very effective and spectacular, but it tries to do too much. It carefully evokes the atmosphere of 1980s movies like E.T. and THE GOONIES, but, unlike those two movies, it doesn’t tightly integrate the family dramas into the adventure story as well (which E.T., of course, does extremely well). Also, the young teenagers in SUPER 8 say a lot of dirty words, and this makes it even harder to be sympathetic about their efforts to make a goofy zombie movie. All told, therefore, the number of stories fighting for the viewer’s attention include the story about Joe’s mother, the story about Joe’s relationship with his father, the story about Joe’s father confronting the Air Force colonel, the story about making the zombie movie, the story about Joe’s romantic interest in Alice, and the story about the alien creature on the loose. To top it all off, there’s also a subplot about Alice’s relationship with her own father, who, it turns out, is the reason Joe’s mother happened to be at work at the time the accident occurred that took her life. All these different stories might play well in longer formats like Abrams’ famous TV series ALIAS, LOST and FRINGE, but they don’t help SUPER 8 become a coherent movie with one powerful, dramatic storyline.
Ultimately, why did Abrams decide to put so much foul language into the mouths of these 15-year-olds. In this regard, it’s interesting to note that the young hero and heroine aren’t the ones with the foulest potty mouths, and neither are the adults. Most of the swearing comes from the young hero’s teenage friends.
There’s also a scene where an older high school graduate or senior tries to sell the younger teenagers some marijuana and then later gets high himself. This drug subplot is meant to give a final comical message about the stupidity of smoking pot, but what has that to do with any of the other things happening? It’s just another annoying PG-13 gimmick that adds little to the movie.
SUPER 8 should have skipped all the teenage subplots and focused on the main story in this monster bash. Then, the climactic final scene between the father and son might have been even more effective.
SUPER 8 turns out to be an alien monster movie. Some of it is very effective and spectacular, but there’s too many stories occurring. Also, a lot of obscenities and profanities come out of the mouths of the young hero’s buddies, and an older teenager tries to sell them pot, which develops later into an extraneous and comical, though positive, anti-drug message. SUPER 8 may excite fanboys but turn off media-wise viewers.