"Needs Work"

Content: -2 Discretion advised for adults.

What You Need To Know:

Set in 1979, SUPER 8 hones in on 15-year-old Joe Lamb. Joe’s mother has just died and he doesn’t get along with his father, Jackson, a sheriff’s deputy. Jackson doesn’t see much in Joe’s friends, especially chubby Charles, who’s roped Joe, a girl named Alice and two other friends into shooting a zombie movie for a film contest. While shooting their little movie, Joe and his friends witness a terrifying train wreck. Shortly afterwards, unusual disappearances and strange events start taking place, and the Air Force takes over the train wreck site. 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.

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.


(Pa, Ro, H, B, APAP, LLL, VV, DD, M) Fairly mixed pagan worldview with pagan, Romantic, humanist, moral elements, plus Air Force colonel is the villain so there’s a strong Anti-American, anti-patriotic subtext; at least 44 obscenities (including many “s” words and one “f” word), seven strong profanities using Jesus Christ’s name, and 21 light profanities, such as My God!; strong, often scary violence with some blood includes big train wreck as man deliberately drives car to wreck train, children dive away from train cars, man dragged away by something, something seems to be trying to get out of train car, something seems to be flinging cars and metal objects, alien monster attacks soldiers, weapons mysteriously start firing and tearing up houses, alien monster grabs men, alien chases teenagers, teenage boy stares down alien, and teenagers make zombie movie where blood comes out of zombie mouths when they are killed; no sex scenes but romance brews between two 15-year-olds; no nudity; no alcohol; older teenager smokes marijuana; and, jealousy.

More Detail:

SUPER 8, the mystery production developed by TV writer/producer J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, turns out to be an alien monster movie. It has some wild, entertaining and heartwarming moments, but it needs significant cutting, especially deleting all the obscenities and profanities by the young teenage characters.

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.