I went to see Super 8 with a good friend. It was expertly crafted and, well, felt a lot like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
Without spoiling the movie, I can’t tell why it reminded me of E.T.. I can say that it had a Stand By Me feel, because it was a throwback to another era — before mobile phones and the internet, but different because it was set in a time when I was about the same age as the main protagonists. The mere fun of feeling I could have been right there with them ruined much chance of my reflecting subjectively on the film’s other elements.
So, it’s a good thing I’m not a film critic.
More than the major thrust of the story, I was engaged by the children’s filmmaking techniques. Need to add authenticity to a scene interviewing a general? Just cleverly position your players in front of a spot where the military are hard at work. There is another great example that any explanation would spoil, so I will refrain.
Prior to seeing the movie, I heard J.J. Abrams in a radio interview. He said that he modeled much of the character development around his friends and himself back when they made their own films. This definitely shows, and helps explain why it was the part that worked best for me. “Write what you know” always is a good foundation.
The rest of the action plays well despite a lack of groundbreaking story, but sometimes comes off as a ragbag of Independence Day, District 9, and, frankly, lots of other sci-fi movies. Oops, did that give away too much?
I left the theater wishing that Abrams had instead made a smaller movie, going more deeply into the children’s lives. I’m a sucker for a polished sci-fi flick, but not when it sacrifices an original, character-driven story for warmed-over plot.
Super 8 is fun, loud, and at points moving. Although it is very close to being a family film, I would not show it to my 8-year-old, but it would give him a glimpse of what things were like when I was that age.