June 20, 2011

#131: Super 8 (6/10)

Maybe I pay too much attention to film news, but I feel like I heard about Super 8 coming out a full year ago, and it was one of the most anticipated movies for me this summer. I didn't know anything about it, and I had no reason to be excited about it. I suppose I bought into the hype. Now I have seen it, and the result has been to plunge me deeper into my abyss of film despair. I wanted so badly to be blown away by this film. I was too young to experience the magic of the Amblin films back in the 80's. Super 8 was my chance to have a little piece of that.

The beginning of Super 8 was pretty great. The first shot specifically was wonderful. As we meet the main characters I felt like the groundwork was being laid for a super enjoyable movie going experience. There was a simplicity; almost a familiarity in how it was set up. As we built up to train depot scene everything was still on track. Unfortunately it peaked right there, and much like the chaos that took place in that scene, the movie went off the rails and never managed to get back on. Of course I didn't know that at the time. I was always rooting for it to pull everything together in time for a magical ending. That didn't happen. I left the theater scratching my head.

Super 8 had so much promise. There were parts of a heartfelt drama in there that I wanted to see so badly. However JJ put his mark all over this, and that isn't a good thing. The second half of the film was so frustrating for me to watch. The characters took a backseat to a much less compelling storyline that totally didn't pay off at the end.

It is tough for me to assign a number to this movie. I simultaneously loved and hated it. I enjoyed the experience of watching it, but hated so much of it in retrospect. At the time the over-bearing score was forgivable as long as the story delivered the drama that the musical notes promised. When it was all said and done the loud Gioccino chords merely highlighted how awkward and disappointing the finished product was.

Many have commented on how the film uses nostalgia to its advantage. While I haven't seen a lot of the films it is trying to mimic, I think the style was probably accurately done, and effective. However, the filmmakers were not satisfied with the more subtle methods. At some point I felt like the movie was shouting at me, "Look at me! I'm from the past! I'm super cool." Every little item had to be pointed out. Strangely, two of the main references to products hadn't even come out yet in the spring of 1979, the time in which this story is set. That just seems lazy to me. If you're going to out of your way to point out the dude is listening to a Walkman, wouldn't you at least check your facts?

So many things got on my nerves with Super 8. Still, I can't deny that even though the finished product didn't turn out like I'd hoped, there were quite a few good moments in there. The acting was good, especially by main kids. The younger Fanning does a swell job, even though they totally short-changed her character towards the end. I was never bored in the theater. I am not mad that I spent money go see this. When it is all said and done this film didn't do anything to make me remember it. We are still talking about the Amblin films almost 30 years after they came out. I can guarantee that in another 30 years not many people will be talking about Super 8.

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