When one thinks of going to the movies in the summer nowadays, they think of superhero movies and endless sequels. There used to be a time when a summer blockbuster featured action, heart, and great special effects. Yes, the special effects are nice, but as the old cliché goes, you need a story behind it along with characters to care about for two hours. Super 8 features all of that and more. It’s the old school blockbuster movie that has been missing from Hollywood for quite some time. J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have brought it back to moviegoers and judging by the reaction of the audience on Friday, they couldn’t be happier.
Super 8 is set in the 70’s and follows a group of young kids working on a zombie movie. As everyone knows, when you are low on money and need a quick, easy movie to make, look no further than a zombie flick. The boys are all unique and different from each other. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is dealing with the loss of his mother and a distant father, played by Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the loud-mouth director of the zombie film. We also have a sensitive, shy kid that is unsure of himself along with a short little runt that loves fire and explosions. Elle Fanning is the only girl in the bunch and she’s also the best actress in the group, both in the zombie movie and in the real movie. Her father is a troubled alcoholic that doesn’t want her hanging out with the boys, especially Joe.
One night while filming their zombie movie, they see a huge explosion on the train tracks caused by a pick-up truck. This crash ends up giving the kids more questions than answers. Before long, the whole city is in a panic, as dogs are running away, microwaves are missing, and chaos is all over. Only the boys were there to witness it, but they are worried that if they reveal too much, they might find themselves in trouble. As far as what unfolds after that, it would be of great disservice to reveal any more details. Half of the fun of this movie is uncovering all of the pieces of the puzzle and putting it together.
The young actors are all solid in this movie, and their chemistry is obvious on screen when watching this movie. A lot of critics have referred to this movie as part Goonies, part E.T., and part Cloverfield. That sounds about right to me. It takes all of the best elements of those films and puts them all together to make a fun, exciting, funny, and even romantic summer blockbuster. The special effects are also exciting, in-your-face, and well-done. They come when you least expect them, and J.J. Abrams is smart not to overdo them. He has plenty of confidence in his story and lets his actors and the story do most of the work. However, when it’s time to throw in the special effects and light up the screen he does not disappoint. The usual Spielberg heart is also present throughout this movie with the deceased mother angle, the broken family, and the budding romance.
The film, however, does suffer from a rather lackluster and abrupt ending. While I understand it in the context of the story and it makes sense, it seemed a tad underwhelming. There is a lot of build-up, suspense, action, excitement, and it just sort of ends. Perhaps I was hoping for a different conclusion, but it left me feeling like there could have been more. All in all, though, this is an exciting big screen blockbuster that is worth seeing with a lively audience in the theater. It will not disappoint you if you have been yearning for this type of blockbuster.
How should you see it? See it on the big screen.