I went and saw JJ Abram's new movie, "Super 8" tonight. I sprang for the extra dough to see it on the IMAX screen to get the better sound, and because the higher ticket price keeps the riff raff out of the theater. Here's a brief synopsis of the movie:
A group of kids in a small rural town circa 1979 are making a zombie movie by the train tracks when they witness a dramatic train derailment. This derailment brings in the Air Force and the military to cover up whatever was aboard the train. Strange incidents begin to happen all over town including power fluctuations and mysterious disappearances which the kids take it upon themselves to solve.
This is Abram's homage to Steven Spielberg's 80's movies. You know, "E.T.", "Goonies", etc. as well as those 80's coming-of-age stories ("Stand By Me" comes readily to mind). So how does he do? Well, it feels like someone trying to do an 80's Spielberg movie, and pretty much missing the mark. Especially if you're one of those 80's kids, like me, that grew up seeing classic Spielberg movies first run in the theater. You can feel the nostalgia being forced.
That's not to mean that there aren't some fine performances in this movie. Elle Fanning does a good job in quite a few scenes, but does a bit of overacting in a handful of scenes as well. The other five main boy characters come off as kind of a pale imitation of The Goonies, only being film nerds instead of adventurers. And the main boy, Joel Courtney, has a lot riding on his shoulders since the film is mainly seen though his eyes, and he's nearly in every scene.
Abrams' main problem with Courtney and Fanning is that you can tell he's overly enamored with the actors and he tends to linger on them a little too long for comfort. Yes, Spielberg used to do this as well, but he used it sparingly to call attention to certain scenes. Abrams uses it at the drop of a hat.
So how does the movie story hold up? Not that well, really. These kids get into and out of ridiculous situations with ease. With so much ease in fact, that they never really truly feel like they're in any danger. Also, just like in an 80's Spielberg movie, the kids always know more than the adults, and frankly that cliche just doesn't work well anymore.
Then there's the much ballyhooed monster. You really never get a good look at the entire creature. Sure, you get a good look at its face in one scene, but it almost seems like a different creature when it's moving due to the weird movement of its limbs and the use of CGI. Also, the creature's motivation for the destruction it causes is set up well, but you would think it would go about things a little differently so as not to draw as much attention to itself given the circumstances. That's where one of the movie's flaws comes into play, because you see that the creature does have a hiding place, but then it rampages all over parts of town drawing so much attention to itself that it kind of makes no sense as to why it has a hiding place in the first place.
So is this movie worth the hype and your money to see it in the theater? Frankly, no, it's not. It's a nice, extravagant, vanity piece and homage to different time and movie type, but it falls flat in a lot of been-there-done-that archetype that we've seen in films that were made much better long before this one was ever thought up. So don't fall for the false hype.
Rating: Rental. Seriously, this summer and this year are packed with movies coming out, and this one can easily be missed being seen in the theater since it will be out on DVD in the Fall anyway.