Wednesday, June 08, 2011

SUPER 8 - Nostalgic Fun for the 80's Set

SUPER 8 (sci-fi adventure)
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Jessica Tuck, Amanda Michalka, Joel McKinnon Miller, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Garbiel Basso, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich and Glynn Turman
Director: J. J. Abrams
Screenplay by J. J. Abrams
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

The young cast in the movie-within-a-movie (with Riley Griffiths, left, and Elle Fanning, right)

PREAMBLE: Super 8 takes us back to the glorious days of Spielberg treats like The Goonies, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Indeed, written and directed by Jeffrey Jacob Abrams, Super 8 is a collaboration between Abrams and Steven Spielberg who serves as producer.

As a teenager, Abrams' film-making exploits caught Spielberg's eye and it earned him a gig restoring Spielberg's own 8mm movies. And if, after viewing the movie, you thought that this is a homage to Spielberg, Abrams has denied it, saying (in an interview) that "It was never intended as homage to him, but really to that period of my life, which was really the first impulse of this movie."

For many in the audience, Super 8 will also remind them of their own childhood adventures and maybe even their first love.

SYNOPSIS: During the summer of 1979, a group of school friends led by aspiring director Charles (Riley Griffiths) and make-up trainee Joe (Joel Courtney) are making a zombie movie in a small town in Ohio when they witness a catastrophic train crash. The boys, and their volunteer actress Alice (Elle Fanning), soon suspect that there is more to the accident than meets the eye. Soon people and dogs go missing, and violent, inexplicable events begin to take place in town. And as the US military arrive, Joe's dad Jackson (Kyle Chandler), the local Deputy Sheriff, tries to uncover the truth - which turns out to more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney

HITS & MISSES: The first thing I noticed about Super 8 is how the young cast, led by Dakota Fanning's sister Elle, draw us into their movie-within-a-movie. Fanning's Alice may be talented and pretty and the romantic interest of the boys around her, but she is the gutsiest among the kids. Needless to say, she grabs our attention whenever she is on-screen - as do the other youngsters as they strive to make sense of what is happening from the events captured on the Super 8 camera.

As suggested in the Preamble, this one may deal with an alien 'invasion' but it is mainly about that time when adolescents learn about friendship, loyalty, survival and love. Joe, the protagonist, has admired Alice from a distance and boy, does he revel in the chance to touch her face - while doing her make-up. These 'soft' scenes are interspersed with hard-core action sequences like the train crash and the devastation by the alien (which looks quite like the monster from Alien). It is to Abrams' credit that he has resisted the temptation to give audiences a proper view of the 'extra-terrestrial'. Anyway, sustaining curiosity is Abrams' forte, having created TV's Lost and Fringe series.

Among the adult cast are Noah Emmerich, who plays the nasty military commander, and Ron Eldard as Alice's father. They put up credible performances but it is a pity to see them upstaged by the outstanding young cast.

THE LOWDOWN: Nostalgic entertainment for the 80s set and fun for the whole family.


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