Super 8

It's been almost 30 years since Steven Spielberg brought tears to the eyes of moviegoers with E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. Now, J.J. Abrams tells a very similar story for a new generation in Super 8, which opens today. This movie is being shown in 2D only, and like X-Men: First Class, I didn't miss 3D at all.

In a small Ohio town during the summer of 1979, a group of middle-school chums is shooting a zombie movie on super 8 film when they witness a horrific train crash, inadvertently capturing the catastrophe with their camera. Soon afterward, strange things start to happen in the town, and the footage turns out to be a crucial clue as the kids stop at nothing to uncover the truth about the U.S. Air Force's treatment of an extraterrestrial trying to get home.

The movie opens as the townsfolk mourn the death of the mother of Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a plot device that adds some emotional depth to the characters as they deal with the tragic loss along with the invasion of their town by an alien and the military. Putting aside the central alien premise, however, the story strains credulity now and then, especially when the kids avoid and then escape capture and solve the puzzle before any of the adults. On the other hand, the construction of the alien's spacecraft is an advanced concept posited as plausible by physicist Michio Kaku on his TV show Sci-Fi Science.

Earlier in the day, I heard a radio interview with Abrams, who said his main goal was to make a movie with heart, much like Spielberg did with E.T. In fact, Spielberg is one of the producers of Super 8, so it's no wonder the new movie feels a lot like its progenitor with some Close Encounters thrown in. It's definitely an Amblin movie, complete with kids on bikes—though they don't fly in this case. Unlike E.T., however, we don't see the alien until the very end, and it's a lot bigger and scarier.

The sound levels were quite reasonable, and I actually removed my ear plugs because I couldn't understand much of the dialog while they were in place. The overall average level was 77.7dBA, and the highest 1-minute maximum was 92.0dBA, which occurred during the train crash about 18 minutes in. The level exceeded 82.5dBA 10 percent of the time, 76.0dBA 33 percent of the time, 71.5dBA 50 percent of the time, and 57.5dBA 90 percent of the time.

Overall, I thought the movie was very good, with excellent performances by Courtney (who looks a lot like Elliott in E.T.), Elle Fanning (Dakota's sister), Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, and Gabriel Basso as the budding filmmakers, Kyle Chandler as Joel's grieving father, and Noah Emmerich as Nelec, the hard-nosed Air Force officer in charge of the operation. Super 8 might not be quite the tear-jerker that E.T. was, but it's definitely worth seeing.

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David Vaughn's picture

This movie may actually get me into a theater for the first time this year. Abrams and Spielberg teaming up for a project, what's not to like?

Jarod's picture

Which theater did you see it in Scott? Film or Digital?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Digital Imax in 2D. The aspect ratio was wider than Imax's 16:9, so there were letterbox bars on the screen! And they weren't all that black, either; I was wishing the theater had a masking system. It's a silver screen for 3D, too, which probably didn't help. However, the shadow detail was pretty good, and there are plenty of very dark scenes, so this will be a great Blu-ray for testing shadow detail.
uavAVTheaterGuy's picture

Just saw the 12:45 showing of this last night in Digital IMAX via AMC.

AWESOME picture quality, and the sound was excellent as well. The movie made me feel like a kid again.

Worth every penny I spent on the ticket, and was a MUCH better experience than X-Men First Class.

Big thumbs up to Abrams and Spielberg on knocking this one out of the park.

notabadname's picture

Thanks for reviews! I am planning to see this one soon. Great creative team behind it.

David Vaughn's picture

Had a blast seeing this tonight. Only about 30 people in the theater but one idiot left his/her phone on and it rang once. The movie itself was fantastic and Abrams is one of the best writers/directors in Hollywood.

Jim McGall's picture

Scott I agree, it was a really well made and totally fun summer movie... campy yet believable... and thankfully one that didn't have the Super Hero Du Jour leading the way. Reminded me of the "B" movies of yesteryear, and definitely has that Speielberg feeling but with that little cinematic edge that JJ Abrams brings to the craft.

It was also a bit odd thematically - trying to describe this to friends I settled on "ET" meets "Aliens" dressed in "That 70's Show" affection for the cast, yes odd but for me it all worked. And worked really well IMIO. Prob one of the best train wreck sequences ever crafted. Fabulous kid actors and really well "fleshed out" in their character portrayals.

My highest accolade is that I plan to see it again - a rare treat in this day and age.

Gerald Thompson's picture

Just finished watching this one, and I would say it's good but nothing spectacular.
Solid movie recommendation, though I've recently watched a couple of movies that I thought were better (even movies from this year)

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