Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Super 8

I know this seems like movie week but what can I tell ya? I’ve seen a lot of movies recently.

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t see any Spielberg movie before seeing this one.

SUPER 8 is not so much a film as an exercise. This is J.J. Abrams (cough) homage to Steven Spielberg movies before he was obsessed with winning Oscars. As such, Abrams does a smashing job. The action sequences are well-filmed, the production values are all top notch, and he’s managed to include every single Spielberg touch. Young teenage heroes, bicycles, the suburbs, aliens, mysterious military personnel – the girl (Elle Fanning, Dakota’s more talented sister) even looks like the young Drew Barrymore.

But what’s missing is any originality. There are no new ideas, just variations of plots and themes. Of course the characters work through their emotional issues and all grow as a result of monsters wrecking their homes and scaring their pets. They gain a greater understanding of each other and humanity. No spoiler alert necessary here – you KNOW you’re going to see that from the second the Amblin logo appears on the screen. The only question is – how treacly? (In this case, a little more than necessary, although I'm sure in studio screenings the executives all had olives in their throats by the ninth big hug.)

All that said, I know the movie a big commercial hit, a major summer “tentpole” blockbuster so any review is meaningless, even one by a niche blogger. And I’m sure I’m not in this film’s target audience, so again, who cares what I say? But I think J.J. Abrams is an extraordinary talent and has the potential to create spectacular motion pictures. My guess is, once he finds his own voice and makes movies that personally resonate with him, not just franchises (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, STAR TREK) or examples of films that influenced him growing up, he’s going to look back at SUPER 8 and see it as just a stepping-stone to much better fully-realized work.  

I look forward to seeing those movies. I await the day I can be in awe of the imagination, craft, scope, and emotional depth that J.J. will provide. I’ll also curse the bastard for having so much more talent than me. But even that will be enjoyable.

One final note: My daughter Annie points out that probably 95% of the desired demographic for this movie will have no idea what Super 8 means. There once was a thing called Super 8 mm film. Just like there once was an E.T. before ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT.

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