Super 8 was one of summer’s anticipated movies, and it did not disappoint. However, it was not overwhelmingly impressive to me at least, but that is a subjective opinion. Some of the media have described it as this generation’s E.T., but that isn’t entirely accurate. It isn’t this generation’s The Goonies either. It is a movie with its own characteristic, although it does have elements of both of those past movies.
The movie’s focus is on the Lamb’s family of Jackson Lamb and his son Joe Lamb and how they and the community of Lillian, Ohio dealt with the death of Elizabeth Lamb. This movie, written and directed by J.J. Abrams of Star Trek fame, was a very good emotional movie but don’t expect the science fiction element to take a significant part. The alien, for the most part, is peripheral to the actual plot of this movie. Some of the movie trailers were a bit deceptive. Super 8 can be best described as a relationship/dramatic movie inside a science fiction movie shell.
I will begin with the adult cast first. Although the adults play a part in Super 8, they were secondary to the children in the movie. They also showed the differences in how adults view particular situations. The Lambs consist of Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb who is played by Kyle Chandler. Kyle Chandler should be familiar with those who watched the Friday Night Lights television series since he played Coach Eric Taylor of the Dillon High School Panthers. The Dainard’s consist of Louis Dainard and his daughter Alice. Louis Dainard is played by Ron Eldard. Air Force Colonel Nelec is played by Noah Emmerich, and lastly, Dr. Woodward, one of the scientists observing the alien for the Air Force, is played by Glynn Thurman.
Now with the children, and they are the primary protagonists of this film. Joel Courtney plays Joe Lamb, the son of the deputy, and as a side note, he does have a remarkable resemblance to Henry Thomas who played Elliott in E.T. That may have been a coincidence or a slight nod to that movie. Steven Spielberg did produce the movie after all. The children are casting a zombie movie called “The Case” for a school exhibition, and I will list the respective positions. Charles, the director, is played by Riley Griffiths. Cary is played by Ryan Lee, and he is the special effects man. Joe Lamb, as described earlier, does the makeup for the movie. Zach Mills played Preston, the cameraman and boom operator. Martin, played by Gabriel Basso, is the male lead of “The Case.” Alice, played by Elle Fanning, plays the female lead in “The Case.”
The movie begins in 1979 in the industrial town of Lillian, Ohio with the death of Elizabeth Lamb in an unfortunate industrial accident. Joe Lamb was outside the house thinking on swing outside with his mother’s locket while Jackson Lamb was inside dealing with the adult members of the community. Louis Dainard, an alcoholic, was originally scheduled to work on the day of Elizabeth Lamb’s accident, but he called in sick. Louis drove to the house with intentions of apologizing that day, but before he could even speak, Jackson Lamb arrested him.
Fast forward four months later, the tension between the Lambs and the Dainards have increased, and Charles was intending on producing and finishing the 8 mm film “The Case” for a school exhibition. For a scene in the film, it required that the male and female leads go their separate ways, and a train station seemed appropriate. So Alice, driving without a license in his father’s car, took the movie crew of Charles, Martin, Joe and Cary to the train station. At the station, Dr. Woodward, in his truck, drove straight at an incoming military train and left metal carnage in his wake. With this opportunity, the alien escaped, and strange metal cubes laid everywhere. Luckily, all the children survived somehow, and even more amazingly, the 8 mm camera survived. Air force officers, led by Colonel Nelec, arrived on the scene promptly, and ultimately, the children drove away.
The Air Force recover most of the strange metal cubes and Dr. Woodward as well. The military essentially occupy the town eventually, and Deputy Jackson Lamb became Sheriff of the small industrial town. Engines, generators and other things are stolen, as the alien attempt to rebuild his spacecraft. Unfortunately, some people are kidnapped as well as they observe him taking the equipment. Dr. Woodward, strapped in a hospital bed, chose not to cooperate with Colonel Nelec and the Air Force. He told them the alien simply wanted to leave Earth. Since Nelec did not appreciate that answer, he told an officer to kill Dr. Woodward with a lethal injection of some radioactive substance.
As the encroachment of the town of Lillian by the military push further and further, the Air Force implement Operation Walking Distance. This operation consisted of causing an uncontrollable wildfire whereby forces the community to evacuate to military centers outside the town. During this time, unfortunately, Alice is abducted by the alien. Louis Dainard informed Joe Lamb of the incident and with some help, he and his movie friends arrived at the school to attain some research of Dr. Woodward’s. They find out he was one of the scientists that first observed the alien and his spacecraft. The spacecraft was created from the strange metal cubes. However, the Air Force had intentions of studying and keeping the alien here on Earth. Colonel Nelec and his officers invade the school and place the children under arrest as they are transported to the center outside of town. However, the alien had other ideas as he attacked the bus and killed Nelec. Yet again the children escape.
With the town under attack by malfunctioning military equipment, the children run through town in order to get to the cemetery. Martin is injured from an errant tank fire through a wall of a house, and Charles chose to stay by his side. Joe and his special effects friend Cary run to the cemetery and eventually discover the alien’s lair and workshop beneath the town’s water tower. Through some commotion, the alien gave chase to Joe, Cary and Alice, and eventually, as the alien grabbed Joe in his claws, Joe acknowledged his injury and said “bad things happen, and it’s no one’s fault…I’m sorry.” Lastly, the alien completes his spacecraft with the metal parts around town, and Joe departs with his mother’s locket as it is the final part of the spacecraft. The alien and his spacecraft depart into outer space.
There were many good things about this movie. The acting was spectacular by the children however. Joel Courtney, who played Joe Lamb, and Elle Fanning, who played Alice Dainard, both acted phenomenally. However, the cake was Elle Fanning as she seemed engaged in her role in this movie. For the special effects, it was pretty incredible. The train crash and the military equipment malfunctions were dazzling and loud. Lastly, the chatter between the children was quick and humorous, reminiscent of The Goonies.
The movie does have signifcant flaws. First, J.J. Abrams’ trademark lens flare is back again in this movie. It does get annoying, but luckily, it is only restricted to pretty much the first part of the movie. Second, the plot is a bit tacky but otherwise satiable. Lastly, the ending was unbelievable, as everything was wrapped up in a nice little bow. It was somewhat convenient as everything was put in its place.
Verdict (out of 10)
Overall, a very good summer movie, a solid 9 out of 10. It has more emotional depth than intellectual or science-fiction depth.
One final side note that nagged me during much of this movie. I don’t know whether Super 8 was intended to reference the book The Roswell Incident or not during that particular period of time. Although the original supposed crash occurred during 1947, one of the first books regarding the incident was published in 1980. It would make sense, but perhaps J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg will make some commentary in their Blu-ray and DVD.