Now Playing: Super 8 Sets High Bar for Summer

Expectations are a dangerous thing. The higher they are, the harder they are to meet, let alone exceed. Being a huge J.J. Abrams fan, my expectations for ‘Super 8’ were high – ridiculously high – but much to my surprise, they were met and far surpassed.

J.J. Abrams is a master of mystery. The original teaser trailer for ‘Super 8’ showed nothing more than flashes of a train crash and something huge trying to escape from a sealed boxcar. Story-wise, the movie itself doesn’t give you much more than that. Not knowing exactly what’s going on causes the film’s heightened and drawn-out intensity to relentlessly never let up.

If you made the assumption from the first trailer that ‘Super 8’ seemed to match the nostalgic tone and feel of kid adventure flicks of the ’80s like ‘The Goonies’, ‘E.T’. and ‘Stand By Me’, you were right. For the last few years, Abrams has been called the “young Spielberg,” and none of his films or shows better exemplify this claim than ‘Super 8’. Instead of merely showing you events, ‘Super 8’ allows you to experience them. You never feel like a spectator. You feel like one of the gang.

Much like ‘The Sandlot’, ‘Super 8’ makes you relive your childhood – even more so if you ever made genre movies on the family camcorder. The dialogue between the kids is spot-on with the way I talked with my friends when I was that age. The naïve teenage first-love story will make you feel the emotions you experienced with your first encounter of the opposite gender. Being set in 1979 is not a gimmick. It adds the nostalgia of an era that makes it even easier to connect with its young characters.

Paramount is expecting ‘Super 8’ to only open in the $25-$30 million range. I’ve made it my personal goal to get enough people out to see it this weekend that this prediction is blown out of the water. ‘Super 8’ is what I deem a perfect film. There isn’t a single thing about it that needs tweaking. It’s moving, entertaining and whole lot of fun, and is definitely my favorite film of 2011 so far.

Rating: ★★★★★


  1. It really is a great movie, but Luke I know for a fact that you only have 480 Facebook friends. How are you going to get millions and millions more people to go out and see ‘Super 8’?

    • We each see it a half million times?

      Truthfully, I am expecting to see it at least once this weekend, and if its as good as all the hype, possibly see it multiple times! And I plan to take people with me!

    • I figure if those 480 people go to see it thursday, they will each bring one friend with them. If only one of the two recommends it to another friend, then that’s another 480 people who will see, bringing at least one friend each also. That’s nearly a thousand people in just two rounds. It’ll trickle on. I’m an optimist. Sometimes.

  2. EM

    I’m glad the film surpassed your expectations of J.J. Abrams. What little I know of the film is indeed intriguing enough for me to want to like, even love this movie. But my track record with Abrams has been disappointing: I followed Lost for six years to find it less than the sum of its parts; I didn’t care at all for Cloverfield; I consider his Star Trek, while not terrible, overall a waste. But I think I’m going to give Super 8 the chance to pleasantly surprise me. Maybe it will.

  3. Bryan

    Just got back from the “secret” screening in Atlanta. Paramount plied us with free posters and t-shirts, popcorn and drinks, but the movie itself was pretty underwhelming. I’m generally a fan of Abrams’ work, so I was surprised to find myself unmoved and a bit disappointed in what I saw.

    There’s two stories being told here. One’s a coming-of-age tale in the late ’70s, and it’s excellent. The period detail is incredible, and each of the child actors give marvelous performances. The other story is the sci-fi mystery, and it falls flat in just about every scene. Cardboard-cutout Air Force bad guys with poorly-defined motivations, rote “scare” scenes, dodgy creature effects that never really let the audience get a good look at the thing, and an “emotional” ending that’s completely forced and robs several characters of needed closure.

    The best thing about the film was the mini-movie during the end credits. That alone tells you where Abrams should have focused his storytelling talents.

    Three stars out of five for me, based almost completely on the ’70s set design and the scenes with just the kids in them.

  4. I also saw an early screening of the movie in Portland and I almost completely agree with Bryan. The kids stuff was awesome but the Sci-fi monster part was poorly done and kind of hooky.

    I think J.J. Abrams needs to tone down the lens flares a notch too. There was times were a quarter of the screen was covered with them at night which bugged the hell out of me. It fits better in Star Trek with it adding a futuristic look. I just doesn’t work in a movie set in the past.

    I’m jealous because my screening didn’t get anything for free except the tickets.

  5. From a post I wrote after seeing the 1st trailer….

    “And don’t forget SUPER 8 in theaters June 10th.

    The trailers are giving me the feeling kids today will look back at Super 8 the same way I look back at Back the the future, Goonies, Stand By Me, ET, and the first half of Explorers.”

    Sound like we had the same experience
    Seeing this Saturday morning

  6. I saw it today and LOVED it. I wish all summer movies were like this…it focuses strongly on characterzation in the first half so when the monster shows up in the second half, we actually CARE about these people.

    Rembember, this film only cost about $50 to make, so unlike most other summer movies out there, it doesn’t need to make $300 million to be a huge hit for Paramount.

    EASILY the best summer movie so far.

  7. I think the real screw up with this, was not getting a classic film poster made for it. That would’ve completed the nostalgia trip perfectly. 😉

    I’m really looking forward to this, though I’m not going to get my hopes up too high, as I think Abrams is a mixed bag. Star Trek was fun but flawed, Lost was a boring mess, Fringe is excellent, etc…

    But the 70s setting with teenage kids making home movies, is enough to get the high anticipation factor going!! 🙂 Can’t think of anything else coming out this year that I’m as enthusiastic to see. Maybe Rise of the Apes and The Thing, though they could be terrible…

    Gotta wait till August here in the UK for Super 8! D’oh!

  8. Got out to a midnight show and ‘Super 8’ delivered exactly what I hoped it would. I don’t know about perfect – there were one or two really lazy choices – but it was a damn fine film. I’ll almost certainly be getting out to see it again.

    • Agreed! Won’t say its the best movie I have ever seen, but its deffinately the best I have seen in a LONG time. This movie needs to get nominated for some awards – special effects, set design, art direction, editing, best director, best supporting actor (both dad’s) and best actress (Elle Fanning). Whether or not they win – well, the year is not over yet. But this definately needs to be nominated! I may go and see this again before the weekend is over! Its been a LONG time since I have seen a movie more than once at the theater – I actually think the last one was Prisoner of Azkhaban!

      And yes, I did just write all that in one paragraph. Its been seven hours since I got out of that movie, and still pumped from it! WOW!

  9. TJ Kats

    Thought it was great as well. Only thing I didn’t like was the very end of the movie but that was only two minutes out of all of it so it’s all good.

    • EM

      The last few minutes can really ruin a movie. I would probably want to own a copy of the 1989 thriller Dead Calm if it weren’t for the last couple or so minutes. [MINOR SPOILER] Just when you think the film is over, there’s an implausible last scare, which does not change the outcome. I suppose I could just end the movie before that last scene, but I shouldn’t have to do that. I keep hoping there will be a recut that trims that last scene out.

  10. EM

    Interested but skeptical, I saw Super 8 this afternoon. Did I like it? Let’s put it this way: while leaving the theater I seriously considered turning around and buying a ticket for the very next showing. (What stopped me? 1) I had other obligations. 2) It was the second movie I went to see this afternoon, and my butt needed to stop sitting in theater seats.)

    Super 8 worked for me simply because it was fun. I don’t pretend it’s a groundbreaking classic. It lies within well-trod territory, but it charts a path just different enough from the usual that the seasoned traveler can still feel he’s gone somewhere new even as he sights some familiar landmarks. Put another way:
    It’s derivative, but it’s a well-crafted derivation.

    That craftsmanship is strong in its wealth of detail. I’m referring not to the characterizations or the period setting—though both were excellent—but to the seeming throwaway material that makes the film seem alive. As Luke says, we’re not just shown events; we experience them. We are surrounded by them. There’s a scene in which Charles, the director of the movie the kids are making, details some utterly extraneous business that should go on behind his two principal actors as they play an important scene. The extra’s activity is completely unnecessary to their amateur movie’s plot; but it creates an air of authenticity, as though the kids’ movie were documenting something that was actually happening in a fully realized world. That technique is a hallmark of classic Spielberg, and it’s a hallmark of Super 8.

    I agree with the criticism that the movie’s sci-fi mystery is ultimately unsatisfying. But the characterizations and the palpable world of the characters are so compelling that it almost doesn’t matter. It’s tempting to say that Abrams & co. should have developed the sci-fi a little more thoughtfully, but actually it might have been better to delve into it a tad less. In Hitchcockian terms, the sci-fi mystery is the macguffin, the plot device that provides the excuse for the rest of the movie, without much intrinsic interest. The kids and their relationships and their journeys are what really matter.

  11. Patrick A Crone

    Super 8 did what films rarely do these days, it made me connect on a personally emotional level. J.J. Abrahms has restored my faith in American film making that has been chipped away at by the likes of Michael Bay.