Super 8 (movie review)

super-8-movie-posterI don’t have a lot of J. J. Abrams experience, but after two entertaining (though not flawless) Star Trek movies, I might have had unrealistic expectations for Super 8.

Before we move forward, I should say that I think J. J. Abrams has a lot of talent and that Super 8 is entertaining while you’re watching it. The movie has problems and the fact that it’s not boring is a credit to J. J. Abrams’ directing ability… although perhaps not a credit to his writing ability. I’ll drop the score here for those who haven’t seen the movie: I’m giving Super 8 a 7 out of 10.


The movie has a lot of problems – mostly plot threads that go nowhere or are totally uninteresting, unnecessary or unsatisfying. For example, the Zombie Movie thread is really only a plot device and doesn’t have any baring on the film, the characters and who they are as people. By this, I mean that if you’re going to spend a great deal of the first act of your story talking about how these kids are film makers, then those skills should come up again in the third act. Otherwise, it just seems like the sort of thing you put into a screenplay to make your boss happy…

Which brings us to J. J. Abrams pretending to be Steven Spielberg, right down to the film’s aspect ratio, camera and lighting style. I get the impression that Abrams went to Spielberg and said:

“You should make an all new version of E.T., but this time, do it as an action movie!”

and Spielberg replied:

“I love it! But also, I have no interest in doing that as I have a full calendar what with the terrible Indiana Jones sequel I’m making that really isn’t as terrible as everyone says… But you do it. I’ll produce it.”

“Awesome, I’ll do it in your style – it’ll be a homage to the original!”

“Whatever, kid.”

Anyway… Abrams usually makes his movies in that tight scope/letterbox format while Spielberg always makes 16×9 full frame movies, but this movie has a full frame aspect ratio. Abrams always has all of this crazy camera movement and handheld mania going, but this movie is smooth and flowing, like a Spielberg movie. An Abrams movie always has all of this crazy bright lighting and lens flares, but this movie has an almost completely even palette that’s… wait for it… like a Spielberg movie. There’s not much original going on in the story as it’s very similar to E.T. (They switched the protagonist’s parent woes from a single mom to a single dad – whoa! Way to take risks!), so why I expected original film making, I don’t know.

There are lots of other little nit-picking I could do… For example, the conflict between Joe and Charles in the third act is a complete waste of time. It goes nowhere and changes/establishes NOTHING. There’s never a satisfying reveal of the monster – you wait the whole movie to see him, but I never really felt like I got a good look at him, even when they had the camera right on his face. And this leaves out the fact that we never really get to know him – the movie tells us about him, but it shows very little, if you know what I’m saying. We knew he wouldn’t kill the kids because the movie had already told us that. But on the other hand, I don’t really understand why he captured those people in the first place – maybe because he hates humans? But if that’s the reason, why didn’t he just kill them on the spot? And he didn’t let them live so they’d keep their mouth shut about seeing him – he obviously knew the air force was aware of his location because of the train crash (also, why transport him by train and why bring along those things he can control with his mind and why couldn’t he just use those to break out in the first place?) and he was leaving evidence of his presence all over the damn town and over all of those days, he never killed any of the people he captured, so it’s not like he was eating them to survive… yeah, I don’t get it. I also don’t get how there can be two head on collisions in the same movie and neither driver was killed on impact, but by the time you get to the second one, that’s the least of your worries.

The performances were fine – Joel Courtney, and Kyle Chandler weren’t exactly blowing my mind, but Elle Fanning was impressive. She got my attention right away and held it throughout the movie and I was totally annoyed when she disappeared in the second act. The other kids were just annoying and constantly spouting character catch phrases like they’re on the set of Tommy Boy (“Mint!” “Production value!”) – the one kid was all, “Hey, I’m the bossy fat one!” and yet another was like, “I like to burn things!” while the other two boys were completely interchangeable and were probably two characters instead of one so they could 1. fill out the movie crew and 2. tell the dad where the other kids went in the third act.

Still (and I think this bears repeating), this movie is totally watchable and if you haven’t seen Super 8 and you were curious, I would check it out. The ending is disappointing, but it’s a fun little journey that might leave you scratching your head later.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on July 16, 2013, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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