I first saw a trailer for Super 8 during the Super Bowl in February, and I was immediately hooked. Although not a huge fan of Abrams (Alias, Lost), I was excited that Stephen Spielberg was producing and that the film would pay homage to his Sci-Fi classics Close Encounters and E.T. The stage was set for an excellent action thriller.
The film takes place in a small Ohio town where a group of kids, including Courtney and Fanning, are filming a homemade zombie movie with a Super 8 camera. When their camera accidentally captures a horrific train crash, the kids find themselves way in over their heads, as the U.S. military enters town to cover up a frightening secret. Local police deputy Chandler (Early Edition) finds himself in the middle of it all, torn between his duty to the town and his fragile relationship with his son. The kids fight to uncover the truth, young love blossoms, and the film races toward what is sure to be action-packed ending.
If this all sounds a bit cliche, that’s because it is. From the cop dad to the government conspiracies, from a first crush to the moral lesson at the end, it’s all a bit over done. Instead of paying homage to Spielberg, Abrams ripped him off. The only difference is he had permission. One can only assume that the duo thought what worked in the ’80s should work again. And it did, to some extent. The story was compelling, the kids were funny, and the effects were great. But somewhere toward the end I realized that the movie was not going to get any better, that it was not going to rise above the typical, forced, over-dramatic climax that seems to be Abrams forte.
In the end, this film turned out to be everything I didn’t want it to be. Apparently a Spielberg movie remade in Abrams’ style loses something in the translation. Perhaps its heart, perhaps its depth. But whatever it is, Super 8 lost it, and fell short as a result.
My rating: ✰ ✰