March 20, 2013

Super 8

By Andrew at 3:20 PM

Two popular filmmakers teamed up a couple of years back to create a much-anticipated summer movie called “Super 8.” Early on, very little was known about the movie, although clever marketing videos were released hinting at some sort of train crash which released a mysterious monster. Given the track records of both Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, many were anticipating a huge hit, something perhaps along the lines of “Cloverfield,” an earlier film by Abrams that involved a monster attacking New York City. What they received was something fairly different, a movie that has more accurately been described as somewhat of a cross between Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Goonies.” And unlike most would have expected, the monster in the movie has a relatively minor role.

The film opens abruptly with the revelation that the lead character’s mother had been killed in a steel mill accident. Masterfully portrayed, the incident itself is never onscreen, but the incident is evident even before a word is uttered. This sets the tone for the underlying conflict of the movie, a look at the challenges and complexity of life rather than exclusively the events of a monster movie. The monster storyline serves as a carrier mechanism, but remembrance and moving forward serve as the message.

Without giving too much away, the movie is about a group of kids in a steel mill town located in Ohio who are filming their own movie on a Super 8 camera for a competition. One night, while they are filming at a local train station, they witness a horrific train crash that causes a secretive military investigation. The events that follow change the town, but more importantly, the experiences change how the characters relate to and understand each other in light of their individual tragedies and flaws.

“Super 8” was set in the fictitious town of Lillian, Ohio, supposedly located between West Alexandria and New Lebanon, Ohio. This personal connection really excited me, as my parents grew up in this area and I grew up in a small town just to the west of there, Eaton, which showed up on the page of an atlas during the movie. Since I am very familiar with the area, I noticed several inconsistencies that made the location somewhat less believable to me as a real place. Minor discrepancies, to be sure, such as the terrain being too hilly for that region of Ohio, the absence of a railroad in the immediate area portrayed by the movie, and the fact that, to my knowledge, there are no steel mills in this area, probably due to the distance from a major river or railway. But considering the other challenges faced in creating a believable world, accurate location of a fictitious town is only marginally distracting, and even then, only to those who are familiar with that specific area.

Overall, “Super 8” is a superbly well-made film. I do wish that the writers had bypassed the language scripted for the kids, as it seemed rather misplaced. Sure, there were points in the movie where the characters were scared or upset, but the addition of such dialogue felt contrived, not at all a natural fit. Beyond that, however, the writing, cinematography, and production design of the movie were well done, and I hope that Spielberg and Abrams collaborate again on future projects. Movies such as these are the ones I tend to enjoy most, presenting a fun, well-planned and executed example of quality cinema.

Comments »

There are currently no comments on this post.

Add to the Conversation